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Mindfulness and tea improving school transitions

Goodstart centres

Starting the day with a cup of tea is an age-old custom and one which Goodstart Red Hill use regularly as a way to help children, educators and families connect and make a relaxing start to the day.

The centre introduced their 'culture of tea’ earlier this year and have found that it’s contributed positively to the wellbeing of the centre’s community, as well as helping children settle.

“We’ve noticed that children find both peace and calm, joy and laughter while they are having a cuppa – be it in the morning, or in the afternoon,” Centre Director, Renee Mitchell said.

“It seems that they find comfort in the idea of sitting and being with others.”

Building on this concept further has seen Renee and her educators introduce the ritual of tea to their school transition program.

“We’ve invited local prep teachers to come along to the centre for a cup of tea, to give them the opportunity to observe children in an environment where they are settled and confident,” Renee said.

“It helps the prep teachers form a positive image of the incoming children, and also provides our educators with an opportunity to discuss the children’s strengths and needs with the teachers.

“We’ve only just begun this but already we’ve had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the families and teachers involved.”

The practice of using a cup of tea for settling and school transitions is an extension of the centre’s mindfulness practices which they started in early 2016 to help children build on their emotional regulation skills.

“Being able to calm down after a busy day or an emotional episode is an important life skill which we invest our time and energy into helping children develop.

“We support children to slow down, breathe, and focus on the moment. We embrace ‘the art of slow’ and take mindful moments to sit together and enjoy conversations about life.

“We find that when the energy gets too high, we are able to bring it back down by engaging groups of children in deep breathing. It is fast and very effective.”

How can mindfulness benefit children?
It’s still early days for mindfulness research with young children, but findings like this these from the University of Exeter shows promising indications that mindfulness can benefit young children in several ways, like:
  • Improving mental, emotional, social and physical health and wellbeing
  • Reducing stress and anxiety
  • Improving sleep, self-esteem and a sense of empathy
  • Providing greater calmness and the ability to manage emotions
  • Contributing to cognitive performance, concentration skills and memory retention
The research also indicates that practicing mindfulness with young children can have longer term benefits, with adolescents who are mindful tending to experience greater wellbeing and less anxiety, among other benefits.

Can parents help children be mindful at home?
Mindfulness is all about being in the present, focussing on a task or activity without distractions and bringing the mind back when it takes flight.

Some things to try with children include:
  • The bell listening exercise is great for brief periods of quiet and focus. Ring a bell and ask your child to listen to it quietly until they can no longer hear any sound. Then extend the activity by having them listen to the other sounds they can hear for the next minute, and talk about these sounds with them afterwards.
  • Mindful play can involve most types of play where you and your child are ‘in the moment’ and without distractions. Turn off the television and your phone and try things like puzzles, drawing or colouring, basic crafts, blowing bubbles, exploring nature or sensory games that involve smells and textures.
  • Cooking can be a wonderful mindful activity to do with young children, so long as you’re comfortable with the mess! Talk about the different ingredients, amounts, smells, tastes and methods. And then enjoy the fruits of your labour later together.
  • Squish and relax meditation involves asking your child to focus on their toes by squeezing and relaxing them, and slowly working up the body to their head and shoulders.
  • The heartbeat game can be a good idea to try if your child still has some energy to burn. Have them jump up and down for a minute and then sit with their hands over their hearts, focussing on their heartbeats and their breathing. Extend this by asking them about other things they notice with their bodies.
A quick online search reveals dozens of ways to practice mindfulness with children, so don’t be afraid to be creative!
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