When we hear the word mindful we may have a certain idea of what that means to us. We may have heard people use it to describe an interaction, such as; “Be Mindful of what you say to others” or using it to describe how we utilize our time; “Be Mindful of your time.”
As adults we understand what the word mindful means, but for children it may be a new word in their vocabulary. It may be one that is difficult for them to understand, or use in a sentence or even know if they are experiencing it, even if we try our best to explain it to the child.
For me personally, within my classroom environment, I use the word mindful constantly, starting from day one. I do not directly explain to the students what the word means (though sometimes i may ask them what they think it may mean) but as I use the word more and more, they begin to understand the meaning. I can see this through their interactions with one another or as they begin to add the word to their vocabulary.
Within the classroom environment I may say: “Be mindful as you are colouring,” and then go on to explain to the students that "this means taking our time, staying in the lines and focusing on what we are creating."
Explaining mindfulness to children can be challenging, and can take a lot of time and dedication for the understanding to stick. However, when you use the word daily and give small explanations, it is easier for them to digest and eventually they will get it.
When I am introducing being mindful in my classroom I like to talk about others feelings and emotions. For example, I may say:
“When I am Mindful, I am thinking about others, I am making sure that my actions are not going to make them feel sad or angry.” It is best to then include children in the discussion, "How can you be mindful of others?" Remember to guide the conversation, if they are not fully understanding the concept. Make sure to emphasize the parts they did get correct to build self-esteem and be mindful of their bravery to share.
Slowly, and carefully introduce the word more and more as you interact with one another (again praise when they use it correctly!)
“Were you being mindful of Child A’s feelings when you took her toy? How can we be more mindful of them in the future?”
Overtime, as you continue to use the word, your students (or your children) will begin to use the word as well. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to hear them reminding each other to be mindful when colouring or interacting with others.
Within my classroom, I notice a real shift as the children use the word more consistently. Believe it or not, the students actually slow down! They begin to take their time, they explore the classroom and the environment more mindfully. The best part is when you witness mindful respect, mindfulness seems to increase empathy and creates a new kind of closeness within our environment.
As you implement Mindful Education within your classroom or home, remember to use the word often, and encourage the children to use it as well.
Visit Mindful Little Things for past blogs and other great tips for incorporating Mindfulness and Play Based learning in your classroom, home and in your daily life.