The importance of mindfulness for kids in UAE schools

A great way to help children focus

The importance of mindfulness for kids in UAE schools
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Mindfulness has been proven to optimise health, wellbeing and happiness in children and here in the UAE we are seeing an increase in the number of teachers exploring the benefits of mindful practices for their classes. There is even an annual mindfulness week for UAE schools in November.

“I think there have always been pockets of teachers trying to implement mindfulness in their classrooms in the UAE, and a few years ago they started a group for teachers who practise mindfulness in,” says Ashley Green, a key stage one teacher at JESS Jumeirah.

Green has been instrumental in highlighting the benefits of mindfulness in schools and is the main reason that the primary school she teaches at has embraced the phenomenon. All the students even have a reminder in their diaries asking them if they have practised mindfulness today.

“The UAE is catching up with the rest of the world. Wellbeing in Dubai is massive, and the KHDA is so forward-thinking when it comes to wellbeing, and mindfulness comes under that umbrella,” says Green.

Mindfulness is the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something, and there are many different definitions of mindfulness and various activities, training and practices that fall under it, but when Green explains it to the children she says: “it’s about being aware of the present moment and being non-judgmental of the thoughts that are in your head.”

“It teaches them to recognise their emotions and focuses their minds on the here and now. It’s another way of being kind to themselves.”

Green explains that they have at least one mindful moment every day.

“In this class I ring the bell four times and the children stop, drop everything they are doing, sit on the floor and just breathe.”

“Sometimes I do a guided meditation with them, but the mindfulness practice is just focusing on their breathing, it really is as simple as that. And trying let everything else to drift away. And it’s really only for a minute, and then I ring the bell again and they get up and carry on doing whatever they are doing.”

As well as mindful moments, Green also implements a practice called mindful eating. She asks the children to choose something out of their lunchbox, it could be a raisin or a grape, and she gets them to study it.

“I ask them what they can see – and the language they come out with is really lovely”

“I ask what they can smell and hear when they shake it. The say things like ‘my raisin is squeaking’,” laughs Green.

There are plenty of short-term benefits for kids. It sharpens their focus and helps them to practise self-regulation, allowing them to control their movements so that they aren’t running around bumping into their friends.

“It’s hard to judge here because all the children are so well-behaved anyway, but It’s the awareness point of it that really improves behaviour, focus and attention. It’s learning a real skill”

And later in life, a child who has started practising little mindfulness activities like these at five, will see reduced anxiety and depression.

But do the kids enjoy it? Green says they do.

“I have a wellbeing club here in the afternoon where the kids experience different types of mindfulness and the children all love it,” she says. “I point out how lovely it is to be able to lie down on the floor during school. I mean, if I could lie down on the floor for five minutes during the day, I’d be delighted,”

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