Having an educator who’s present, aware, and reflective; one who is able to bring out the ability of mindfulness in children, allowing them to understand how to be focused, calm, and aware of themselves and others, is a big part of a positive education experience.
Chiltern House believes deeply in the benefits of providing a warm and positive environment at each of their preschool centres, giving our children a stress-free learning atmosphere that allows them to build their curiosity and imagination. However, with the speed of the world changing and introducing new technologies, the need to manage distractions and invasive stimuli for our children is of utmost importance.
Kids World contacted Chiltern House to ask them several questions about their mindfulness teaching, and their Group Managing Director, Fiona Walker, was more than happy to answer them:
Kids World: Why is being mindful so important for children to learn?
Fiona Walker: In today’s world, there are plenty of distractions for our children, and even from a very young age they have their attention pulled in a variety of directions. With the increase in mobile media, children are spending more time with devices and less time engaging with other children, an adult or the natural environment. This has been linked to a number of negative outcomes, including delayed developmental milestones, a rise in ADHD, and less social awareness.
There is a rising concern across the world about the wellbeing of our children. There seems to be an ever increasing amount of children suffering from depression and anxiety. By educating young children in the skills of mindfulness, we aim to equip them with the ability to be positive, confident of their own abilities, understand their emotions and be comfortable discussing them. Mindfulness has a direct correlation to a positive mindset, balance, resilience and adaptability.
KW: How does it benefit the children and their parents?
Fiona: The benefits of a mindfulness practice are seemingly endless. Increasingly, people are becoming aware of the physical and emotional benefits of mindfulness. We know that children who can tune out distractions, who can focus and self-regulate, are at an advantage over children who struggle to do that. We believe that mindfulness helps children be present, develop resilience and empathy, and be self-aware.
As parents to young children, we spend a lot of time trying to help our children understand their actions, trying to reason with them and help them express themselves. A child who is better able to balance his emotions, be aware of his actions, and express his feelings will have more time to enjoy positive behaviour. I think that that is a huge benefit for any parent.
KW: How are the teachers taught to be mindful?
Fiona: Julia Gabriel, our Founding Director, runs regular workshops with all Chiltern House staff. The aim is for them to develop their own mindfulness practice and work together to find ways to bring that into the classroom with the children.
KW: How do you teach the skill of being mindful to children? Are there any activities, or do your teachers also practice it in order to both ‘show and tell’ the act of mindfulness?
Fiona: At Chiltern House, a mindful educator is at the heart of our programme – our teachers are encouraged to develop their own mindfulness practice also for their own wellbeing. This enables them to truly guide the children in developing a mindfulness practice that is appropriate for their age.
We believe that even the youngest children can take a few moments to relax and focus on their breathing. This is done with breathing buddies so we can see our bellies go up and down as they fill with breath. In small groups, we talk about how we feel, and this can include discussions on being grateful and ways to be kind. We reflect on our actions and how we impact those around us.
KW: What is the curriculum like at Chiltern House? How does it prepare children for primary school in Singapore?
Fiona: Chiltern House has always believed in preparing children for primary school and for life. The skills our children leave with, which include confidence in two languages, communicating their ideas well verbally and in writing, strong problem solving skills, an inquisitive mind and a desire to learn more.
For over 20 years, Chiltern House children have smoothly made the transition to primary school where they are often noticed for their questioning nature, strong leadership skills, and empathetic manner. We hear from primary schools often that our children are always happy to ask questions or to share ideas, and are very often class leaders or class buddies.
Our Primary One survey that we send out every year assures us that our holistic curriculum is effective and appropriate. The strong emphasis on developing not only academic skills but resilience, confidence and a positive mindset ensures that our children are well prepared for life beyond preschool.
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