Youth Mindfulness Course
16 One-hour Lessons
The Youth Mindfulness Kids programme is a 16-lesson introduction to mindfulness for 7 to 11 year olds, with a strong emphasis on experiential learning. It’s 16 one-hour lessons build up sequentially, introducing and exploring new facets of mindfulness with each lesson. The first six lessons focus on cultivating the foundational axioms of mindfulness: intention, attention and attitude. As the course progresses, children then learn to cultivate gratitude, handle difficult thoughts and emotions, and finally develop kindness towards themselves and others. Importantly, the key foundations of mindfulness - i.e. paying attention to the present moment with openness, curiosity and warmth - are continually strengthened throughout all 16 lessons.
What the Kids Say
“When I was nervous at an athletics tournament being mindful helped me.”
“My brother was annoying me and I was getting really angry but then I realized that I was angry and I focused on my breath.”
“I am more confident when learning new things, and I have learned to be grateful for life.“
“When I got angry I nearly punched someone then I did mindfulness, calmed down and everything was better.“
“It has helped me to grow my confidence and to be more calm when hard times come.”
Themes Of The Curriculum
refers to the inner decision to be mindful. This relies on motivation. In the first lesson the children learn how the brain can change and grow and why paying attention to the present moment can be of benefit to them.
refers to the practice of bringing the attention back to the present moment. In lessons 2 and 3 the children learn about attention, how it’s key to our experience and how it tends to wander. They also begin training their attention to be present.
refers to the way we pay attention. In lesson 4 the children learn the value of non-reactivity; in lesson 5 the children learn how to cultivate the freshness of the beginner’s mind and in lesson 6 the children learn to develop their willpower and diligence.
refers to the practice of recognizing and appreciating the conditions of health and happiness that are available for us in the present moment. This is the focus of lessons 7 and 8.
refers to the art of handling difficult emotions, thoughts and mind-states with wisdom, courage and awareness. In lesson 9 we explore the natural reaction to turn away from difficulty and instead cultivate the capacity to “be-with” the difficult. In lesson 10 we explore the idea that thoughts are not facts.
KINDNESS TO SELF
By the time we get to lessons 11 and 12 the children have become quite familiar with their own minds and are ready to begin cultivating an attitude of kindness and warmth towards themselves. We explore what is meant by kindness conceptually, and also how we can be kind to ourselves in practical ways.
KINDNESS TO OTHERS
Building on the understanding that everybody wants to be happy and nobody wants to suffer the children then practice cultivating kindness towards others, beginning with friends and extending the practice to classmates and others. The children also have the opportunity to engage in acts of kindness.
In lesson 15 the children reflect on all they have learned over the course of the preceding 14 lessons and in lesson 16 they develop a personal mission statement, articulating a vision for integrating their learning and acting in a way they can be proud of.
What’s The Research?
A study conducted at the University of Edinburgh in 2014, exploring children’s experiences of the Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme found that:
98% of children report benefits from participating in the Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme.
92% of children reported an enhanced ability to regulate their emotions and tolerate strong affect.
72% of children reported that mindfulness helps them to focus, pay attention, and concentrate.
72% of children report an enhanced ability to be less reactive towards others, being less aggressive and engaging less frequently in physical and verbal confrontation.
77% of children report improvements in peer and family relationships.
Over 55% of children report that mindfulness helps them to enjoy life more, demonstrating enhanced gratitude, happiness, optimism and quality of life.
What Makes The Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme Unique?
As the Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme progresses, more and more time is devoted to mindfulness practice as opposed to talking about or conceptualising mindfulness. In the early lessons the children will be invited to practise for 1, 2 or 3 minutes at a time, whereas in the later lessons 10 and 11 year-old children are often able to practice for as much as 13, 14 or 15 minutes. Each Youth Mindfulness Kids lesson usually consists of a sitting practice, a movement practice and a lying down practice.
Enquiry refers to exploring in dialogue with the children their experience of practising mindfulness. Rather than explaining or teaching, enquiry offers the teacher the opportunity to take the role of non-expert and explore the childrens’ experience of practising mindfulness with enthusiasm and curiosity. This is a wonderful way to develop a method of communicating that is based on openness, kindness and non-judgment. The enquiry process is a powerful way for the children to develop a sense of cohesion as a group and ‘experience’ the essential attitudinal components of mindfulness.
Children spend a lot of time at school sitting behind desks and being asked to be still. This at a time when they are biologically programmed to move, explore and adventure into the world. As such, mindful movement is a great way to release some of this energy and often the children are very happy to be still after moving a lot. What’s more, mindful movement offers new avenues for the children to deepen their understanding and application of mindfulness in daily life.
Mindfulness is not something you can make somebody do. For mindfulness to be mindfulness it has to come from within. If children are to be mindful, they have to decide of their own volition to bring their mind to the present moment and practise being aware of what is happening. As such it is crucial to engage children and for them to decide that mindfulness is something they want to do. If it’s boring they simply won’t engage, so the most powerful way to do this is to make it fun and interesting! The Youth Mindfulness Kids Programme is packed full of fun activities, games and videos, all designed to illustrate different aspects of mindfulness and encourage the children’s engagement.