Mindfulness at Every Age

Published by Kristin Rahn-Tiemeyer on

Mindfulness at Every Age

“Breathe in and smell the pizza, then breathe out and cool it off.”

If you visit the Child Development Center at UMCH, don’t be surprised if you hear this refrain once or twice. But that doesn’t mean it’s lunchtime! “Pizza breathing” is just one of the mindfulness skills that teachers are putting into practice in our classrooms.

Self-regulating emotions and behaviors can be challenging for a young child, especially if they have had difficult experiences early in life. But our students are at a perfect age to begin learning socio-emotional skills and empathy for others. That’s why all UMCH teachers participate in training about mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and other trauma-informed skills.

All our preschool students know about pizza breathing. In a difficult moment, a teacher might remind them to “smell the pizza”—take a big, deep breath in, and “cool it off”—blow a slow, calming breath out. Each student has a paper slice of pizza that they keep. When they need it, their favorite hand-drawn toppings remind them to breathe until they feel calm again.

These skills aren’t often taught in formal education settings, but research demonstrates their importance. Schools that implement mindfulness skills in the classroom see a significant decrease in disciplinary actions and suspensions. Children learning these skills early in life makes a big difference in their academic future.

And because they’re very young, they have the mental flexibility to apply these skills throughout their lives and even teach coping skills to their peers. 

“When you celebrate those moments and teach them those skills, you can see their eyes and their hearts light up with pride,” said Family Engagement Specialist, Mackenzie Vilmont. “They’re so excited that they have the tools and know what to do. And even when they don’t, they know the adults around them can help them through.”

We think that sounds even better than pizza.