In this blog post, pre-kindergarten teacher Tejal Desai explains why practicing mindfulness is so important, especially for younger students, and shares how it can be foundational for boys’ social-emotional development.
In its simplest form, mindfulness is being aware of, and present in, the moment. Our minds are constantly racing. We carry around different emotions, dwell on things of the past, anticipate the future, and often get bogged down with long task lists. Our boys’ minds are the same. There is so much happening in their little worlds, but they may not recognize what emotions they are feeling or where these emotions are coming from. As educators, we are aware of these conflicts within their minds and can recognize moments of internal tension. We know that addressing this tension early on in a boy’s development is key to helping him become a more emotionally aware individual. Through the practice of mindfulness, we’re encouraging our boys to slow down and pay attention to how they feel, both emotionally and physically. We are creating a space where they can better understand themselves, and then better apply themselves.
Our pre-kindergarten boys have been practicing mindfulness to start their mornings and transition between different parts of our day. To begin each mindfulness session, we position our bodies to allow for the best practice. If laying down is best suited for our practice, we find a space in the room to lay flat on our backs with our bodies straight and still. If a seated position is best, we cross our legs and pretend to zip up our torso to help us sit up tall. Once in a comfortable position, we practice mindful listening and/or mindful breathing. During mindful listening, our attention is focused on the sound of a chime. During mindful breathing, we are focused on inhaling and exhaling, and recognizing the pace of our heartbeat. We use this time to recognize how our body is feeling in the moment, and to release any pent up energy. We calm our minds and let go of any lingering thoughts.
To end our session, we rub our hands together to gather mindful energy and release it throughout the room. While we typically practice mindfulness as a whole class, we encourage our boys to take a mindful moment whenever they feel the need from their minds or bodies. Each month, we continue to learn a new technique to build a “tool kit” of practices we can pull from to practice independently.
We know that addressing this tension early on in a boy’s development is key to helping him become a more emotionally aware individual. Through the practice of mindfulness, we’re encouraging our boys to slow down and pay attention to how they feel, both emotionally and physically.
There are two methods we’ve learned so far, and they’re simple to practice with your boys at home:
Shoulder roll breathing: Choose a comfortable sitting position. As you take a slow deep breath in through your nose raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Breathe slowly out through your mouth, lowering your shoulders as you exhale. Repeat slowly, rolling your shoulders up and down in time with your breath.
Tummy Breathing: Lie on the floor and place a small stuffed animal on your stomach. Breathe in deeply through your nose and feel the stuffed animal rise, and then feel it lower as you slowly exhale through your mouth. Rock the stuffed animal to sleep using the rise and fall of your stomach.
Practicing mindfulness, for about five minutes, even once a day, has helped our boys better understand themselves and the signals their body or mind might be sending. It allows them to focus and be more attentive during our lessons, and helps them to practice self-control. Even at such a young age, our boys enjoy, and look forward to, our mindfulness sessions. It puts us all in a positive mindset, ready to tackle whatever comes our way next. We are incredibly proud of the effort they put in for themselves, and are so pleased to see how impactful mindfulness can be for everyone.