The last 20 months have been challenging for everyone—especially our youngest learners who have dealt with the repercussions of the pandemic: remote learning, isolation and more. As a result, practicing mindfulness in the classroom has become an essential component of daily routines. Defined by the Oxford dictionary, mindfulness is “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” At Big Blue Marble Academy, it’s essential that children are taught the act of mindfulness at an early age, so they are well-positioned to become better citizens of the world.
Why is mindfulness important for child development?
By leveraging character education, incorporating character values and ethics into everyday activities helps children develop the necessary social and emotional skills needed to succeed in school and life in a nurturing classroom environment. Teaching children the act of mindfulness at a young age helps them control their emotions, such as avoiding overreaction, getting along better with others, and staying calm under stress—all critical traits to master early in life. On an academic level, practicing mindfulness also allows them to learn, process, and synthesize more information as they slow down to absorb the small details. This inherently improves their attention spans and listening skills that will aid success in school and beyond.
Big Blue Marble Academy’s approach to mindfulness is at the core.
As a leader in early childcare and education, mindfulness stands at the core of Big Blue Marble Academy’s curriculum. They are committed to providing children from infancy to five years the skills needed to evaluate their feelings, the feelings of others, and how actions affect others. Big Blue Marble Academy’s innovative approach to mindfulness is implemented at all 44 of its schools, including a convenient Central New Jersey location in Edison.
Infant, toddler, and two-year-old mindfulness and character traits
The words love, kind, gentle, friend, and help are developmentally appropriate and used easily and often with children in the first few years of life. Providing teachers with mindfulness guides for each trait allows them to demonstrate these characteristics through experiences using age-appropriate examples of how to incorporate the traits in authentic moments throughout each day. For example, teachers use sign language in context as they tell children they love them or do an “I love you” ritual.
Preschool and school-age mindfulness and character traits
Since children under the age of seven typically think in pictures, it’s critical to give them concrete examples of what words like respect, responsibility, persistence, collaboration, patience, initiative, helpfulness, compassion, generosity, gratitude, and joyfulness look like in action to encourage a higher order of thinking. For example, as children work together on a floor puzzle, teachers comment on how they are collaborating.
The takeaway for students
As a result of incorporating mindfulness into the curriculum and daily routines, children become mindful of the feelings generated around the character traits they use in their classroom, home, community and later in the world. Academics, combined with skills developed from practicing mindfulness, will help children succeed in school and life.
Donna Whittaker is Vice President of Curriculum and Education at Big Blue Marble Academy. With over 40 years in early childhood education, her expertise brings focus to the quality of education for all of our children and enables teachers to heighten their skills and professional development in classroom instruction. Whittaker has delivered tremendous results over the past two-and-a-half years by developing a new curriculum structure and improving the content and cohesiveness of BBMA’s infant, toddler, twos, and preschool curriculum. She also led the development of the Mindfulness and Character program.