There appears to be a real buzz on social media and the news at the moment about mindfulness and meditation for children. Yet, social media does not always provide the full picture and you may be left wondering what the research evidence says about the effectiveness of these activities.
Greenberg & Harris published an article reviewing the research that was available in 2011. At this time, they stated that the enthusiasm for promoting ‘contemplative practices’ (such as mindfulness) outweighed the evidence supporting them. But also stated that “interventions that nurture mindfulness in children and youths may be a feasible, and effective, method of building resilience…” In 2015, Schonert-Reichl and colleagues studied the impact of a mindfulness programme on children’s cognitive and social emotional development using a randomised control trial with ninety nine 9-11 year olds . They found that children who received the mindfulness program improved their scores in cognitive control, stress physiology, empathy, perspective-taking, emotional control, optimism, self-concept and mindfulness as well as decreasing their scores in depression, peer rated aggression measures.
Although the outcomes of this research are positive, an updated review article would appear to be helpful in synthesising all the new research studies carried out since 2011 to better enable teachers, school staff, parents, educational psychologists and other professionals to fully understand the potential impact of mindfulness and meditation based interventions. It does not yet seem clear whether the benefits outweigh the risks and costs, or what the long term impact is for children receiving such an intervention.
Please comment below with your thoughts and links to further research that you may have come across.
Free mindfulness and meditation resources for children:
Fun, interactive games from the Kids Activity Blog:
- Blowing bubbles. Have your children focus on taking in a deep, slow breath, and exhaling steadily to fill the bubble. Encourage them to pay close attention to the bubbles as they form, detach, and pop or float away.
- Pinwheels. Use the same tactics from blowing bubbles to encourage mindful attention on the pinwheels.
- Playing with balloons. Tell your children that the aim of this game is to keep the balloon off the ground, but have them move slowly and gently. You can tell them to pretend the balloon is very fragile if that helps.
- Texture bag. Place several small, interestingly shaped or textured objects in a bag, and have each child reach in to touch an object, one at a time, and describe what they are touching. Make sure they don’t take the object out of the bag, forcing them to use only their sense of touch to explore the object.
- Blindfolded taste tests. Use a blindfold for each child and have them experience eating a small food, like a raisin or a cranberry, as if it was their first time eating it.
Greenberg, T.M. & Harris, R.A (2011) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1750-8606.2011.00215.x/full
Schonert-Reichl. KA et al., (2015)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25546595