Mindfulness Practice helps children
meditation, inspired by Buddhist traditions, really took
root in the United States after 1979, when Jon
Kabat-Zinn founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress
Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts.
The practices, which emphasize attention to breathing
and focusing on the present moment, offer many benefits,
according to the American Psychological Association.
Those include stress and rumination reduction, increased
focus and less emotional reactivity.
While it's easy to understand how that would benefit the
typically harried adult in this country, it's a little
more difficult to picture a child sitting quietly
mindfulness practices are being introduced to children
in school settings, and with good reason.
"I think schools are really stressful for kids," said
Tracey Sparrow, Ed.D., vice president of Children's
Programs at the Milwaukee Center for Independence. "So
are social situations and home situations."
Mindfulness practice, she said, "gives them a tool to
deal with that stress."
At MCFI's School for Early Development and Achievement,
Sparrow said mindfulness practices are taught using the
MindUp™ Curriculum, 15 lessons with activities designed
to help children concentrate, manage their emotions,
better handle conflicts and have less stress.
an evidenced-based, CASEL-accredited social and
emotional literacy program of The Hawn Foundation,
founded by Goldie Hawn. "They go through structured
lessons," Sparrow said. "They do a lot of breathing
But if you're imagining a room filled with children
sitting cross-legged with eyes closed mouthing "Om" in
unison, you're picturing it wrong. Sparrow said students
will place a teddy bear on their stomach and watch as it
goes up and down with each breath. "It's a good way for
them to get focused."
She said mindfulness practices have even greater
implications for children with special needs, who can
learn to self-regulate t heir behaviors.
For instance, she said an active child with a sensory
disorder can be taught to use breathing techniques to
calm down. And once the practice is learned, that child
can, on his or her own, practice it anytime, anywhere.
"Our kids have started, when something upsets them, to
step back and take a breath," said Sparrow.
Research indicates mindfulness practice also enhances
executive function – the ability to plan, organize and
manage time. Academically, that will benefit all
children, said Sparrow.
information on mindfulness applications for children,
contact Tracey Sparrow at MCFI Children's Programs at