Children's concentration boosted by mindfulness sessions, pioneering study shows
Clinical psychologists from the University of Sheffield have discovered young children's concentration in class can be significantly improved by introducing mindfulness sessions into their school timetable.
Dr Lisa-Marie Berry and Dr Georgina Rowse conducted a pilot project at Broomhill Infant School to see whether a mindfulness-based intervention, which is already proven to have positive effects on secondary school pupils, would have similar outcomes for children between the ages of 4-6 years.
Mindfulness sessions consist of using a combination of imagination exercises, physical group exercises and co-operative games to help raise children's awareness of the here and now. The here and now includes an awareness of their ongoing experience, their senses and the environment around them, in order to help them cope better with their thoughts and emotions.
One example of a mindfulness exercises uses the visual aid of a snow globe. The snow globe is used as a metaphor for the children’s thoughts and feelings. They are encouraged to watch the flakes settle to the bottom of the globe and allow their thoughts and feelings to do the same.
Dr Lisa-Marie Berry, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Psychology, said: "The pilot project was a great success and we are delighted with the outcome. The study demonstrates the potential benefits of introducing mindfulness activities within the classroom as an integrated part of the curriculum.
"These activities could help to improve the concentration and attention abilities of pupils. We are grateful to Broomhill Infant School for their enthusiasm and commitment to the project. We plan to continue this line of promising research and hope to collaborate with more schools within the region."
A total of 55 children took part in the project participating in five, 15 minute mindfulness awareness sessions over a three week period within their classrooms.
Results showed there were significant improvements in the children's concentration and their ability to think before acting and also their teacher's perceptions of the children's ability to attend and concentrate.
Class teacher Miss Sarah Smith said: "The children really enjoyed participating in the sessions. As a result of the project we feel that they further developed their listening and concentration skills. It was an interesting project for staff to be involved in and some of the techniques can be applied in class."
Moira Alfaham, headteacher of Broomhill Infants School, said: "It was fascinating to observe the children in the Mindfulness Assemblies. They were very interested in the initial introduction and quickly grasped the concept of settling their busy minds.
"This was due to the visual aids that Lisa and Georgina, the project leaders, brought in. I have found the children much quicker to settle in assemblies using some of the Mindfulness techniques. During the exit assembly the children spontaneously began to practise some of the techniques which was absolutely lovely to see."
Lisa-Marie and Georgina hope to be able to continue their collaboration with Broomhill Infant School to integrate mindfulness sessions into the school week and that research will continue into the potential of mindfulness in primary schools across the region.
If your school is interested in gaining further information or taking part in this research, please contact the researchers directly: Lisa-Marie Berry on firstname.lastname@example.org or Georgina Rowse on email@example.com
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