Why mindfulness is important from a young age

Why mindfulness is important from a young age

At Little Forest Folk, we dedicate ourselves to helping our children become the best they can be and to equip them with the key skills they need to be happy and fulfilled in their lives. In these busy times in which we live, a skill we believe is of vital importance for children to master from a young age is mindfulness. 

“We spend far too much time worrying about the future, rehashing the past and not enough time enjoying and experiencing life in the present.”

Mindfulness is all about learning to direct our attention to our experience as it unfolds, moment by moment, with open-minded curiosity, kindness and acceptance. Rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen, it trains us to explore and respond skilfully to whatever is happening right now. 

In essence, mindfulness and the ability to be present in the now is a skill which once mastered and practised will have incredible benefits to children’s emotional wellbeing, ability to manage stress and their ability to listen rather than hear. It will allow them to recognise and identify their own emotions and feelings and teach them how to help themselves feel good inside.
Mindfulness is such a powerful tool for life that it is now being practised in many schools over the UK, however it’s rarely practised with 2-5 year olds. So we are embarking upon a training programme which will be a learning curve and a lesson for us all in how such young children can learn most from this practice. As ever our mindfulness training will take place under the guise of play, with storytelling and props helping to set the scene for the relaxing environment.

Mindfulness role models

Our programme for children’s mindfulness practice begins with a 6 week training in both studying and practising mindfulness for our educators. We base our learning system on excellent role modelling, so in order for our children to embrace mindfulness we believe it’s of paramount importance that our adults are able to demonstrate how they benefit from practising it themselves.

It’s also important to us to help our practitioners continually develop, not only in terms of work based training but also personally and so we are very happy to be offering a course in mindfulness to our practitioners. We hope it will make their world a better place. 

Our staff training encompasses:

  • Puppy training
    Learning the basics of how to aim and sustain attention, with fun and relaxing breathing based exercises we can do at home.
  • The David Attenborough attitude
    Learning how to be curious about our experience, using body based exercises, lying down.
  • A walk in the woods
    It’s easier to be mindful in a quiet room with no distractions, but what about in the middle of everyday life? Learning ways to bring mindfulness to daily activities such as walking outdoors in our forest.
  • Getting off the thought bus
    Learning how to question and step back from our thinking, getting off the bus of stressful thoughts and keeping our equilibrium
  • Keeping our cool
    Learning the difference between responding and reacting, to help us learn to become better facilitators
  • Getting friendly
    Bringing mindfulness into interpersonal relationships – specifically through listening and communication practices. 

During our first training session, we were fascinated to learn more about how the brain works and to consolidate our feelings about the importance of mindfulness.

Our breathing exercises began the basics of teaching us how to control our brains to exploit the feeling of being in the present and being self-aware. It was an incredibly rewarding session in which we had the bonus side effect of feeling relaxed whilst also working on our mental and physical awareness and wellbeing.

 “We can’t wait to learn more and to become regular practitioners of mindfulness.”

We feel each forest site may need to identify a mindfulness tree so we can embed this practice into our day to day lives. 

Mindfulness in the forest

And then the fun with the children begins… mindfully sitting, breathing, listening, mindful movement and stretching, smelling, tasting and eating!

We love being part of such a progressive organisation where we constantly strive to improve and push our educators and children to be the best they can be.

About the author

Leanna Barrett is passionate about giving children the childhood they deserve. She believes that all children deserve a childhood where they are active, inspired, joyful and where they enjoy a deep connection to nature. Leanna believes learning in the early years should be child led and play based, accompanied by deeply engaged and inspiring practitioners. Little Forest Folk believe wisdom begins in wonder and see their role to ignite the flames of passion for learning. 

You can contact Leanna via Twitter @littlforestfolk, website, Facebook or email info@littleforestfolk.com 


How can you help children to learn about contemporary artists?

How can you help children to learn about contemporary artists?

Contemporary art can be thought of as any recent art that follows and extends the trajectory of art history. It can be very confusing, so helping children learn about it is often a daunting prospect. But there are so many contemporary artists and even more ways of producing art, that there is plenty for children to be inspired by. In fact, children’s learning and artists’ practices often include the same distinct phases: questioning, experiencing and repeating.

Contemporary art is so full of mysteries and surprises that there really is something for everyone. Model an inquisitive attitude by asking children the same open-ended questions you would ask yourself of a contemporary artwork: What could it be? What do/don’t you like about it? How did she/he make it? Why do you think they chose that shape/colour/material? What might it feel like?

While there are many fantastic children’s books on the topic,* contemporary art is better experienced in real life. Artists everywhere host open studio events now and then which are a brilliant opportunity to see their workspace, materials and to talk to them about it. Many galleries have education programs that include early years workshops, too.


Children will love making paintings by shooting watery paint at a sheet with water pistols

For children, the best experience of contemporary art is of course a hands-on experience, so if you can’t get to a gallery workshop, nurseries might want to book a visit from an artist educator; a practising artist who can provide learning experiences inspired by their own work or in response to particular themes. You can also get many ideas for designing your own activities by reading about artists’ processes and finding safe ways to do them yourself.

I try to plan art-making sessions in response to repeating patterns in children’s play. Starting with observations of any particular schemas, I then look for artists who work with similar processes. Most artists have a few different ways of making art so there’s often plenty of material to build a whole series of projects around. Here are a few simple examples:

  • Bridget Riley’s wobbly stripes, Gerhard Richter’s checker patterned pieces and Damien Hirst’s spot paintings can be inspirational for children who enjoy shapes or have positioning schemas. Artists use pattern for many different reasons – to make our eyes feel funny, to link ideas, or to present beautiful combinations of colours. You can print spots with lids, make checkered collages with coloured card squares or use colourful insulating tape to make massive stripy patterns directly on the floor.
  • Phyllida Barlow makes colossal sculptures using ordinary DIY materials. If your children demonstrate connecting schemas, have a look at the sculptures she makes by joining things in elaborate frameworks. You could build similar art out of sticks, straws, pipes, planks or tubes held together with sticky tape, blue tack, clay or string.
  • Niki de Saint Phalle’s Shooting Paintings were made by placing bags of paint between layers in her paintings and shooting at them. When the bullets pierced the bags the paint flowed out in streams of colour. Children with an interest in superheroes, “shooters,” “ptchooo-ers,” (and other synonyms for guns) and with trajectory schemas love making paintings by shooting watery paint at a sheet with water pistols. Alternatively, dip scrunched up newspaper in paint to throw instead. The whole-body action of throwing makes this a fun, physical method of painting. If you don’t mind getting really messy, put some paint in balloons and inflate them just till they start to stretch. Lay them out on a sheet then take turns to pop them. The balloons will explode with colour all over the place!

About the author

Matthew Kay is an artist educator specialising in Early Years. Alongside making his own work he facilitates contemporary art inspired learning experiences for nurseries and pre-schools in South West London as Eyes Pie Arts (eyespiearts.com).

* A few of my favourite art books for using with early years groups are:

What is Contemporary Art? by Jacky and Suzy Klein (Thames & Hudson, 2012)

The Art Book For Children; Book One (Phaidon, 2005)

The Art Book For Children; Yellow Book (Phaidon, 2007)

The Usborne Art Treasury by Rosie Dickins (Usborne, 2006)

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Walker Books, 2003)

Ish by Peter H. Reynolds (Walker Books, 2004)

Sometimes the text can be too complex for very young children, but it explains the art so clearly that you can easily summarise it for the children.

Put some paint in balloons and inflate them till they start to stretch

Take turns to pop them… the balloons will explode with colour!













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