Thanks to Do-BeMindful for being a Virtual College Expo23 headline sponsor. Do-BeMindful empowers staff, parents/carers, children and young people to care for their own mental and emotional wellbeing.
Louise Smith is a curriculum designer, speaker, educational consultant, Mindfulness Teacher and Founder and Director of Do-BeMindful, a mindfulness-based education provider for early years through to secondary. Louise has designed programmes to help strengthen the health and wellbeing of adults, children and young people. She believes that there’s never been a more important time to develop healthy habits of mind and emotional resilience in our youngest children and the practitioners charged with helping them to learn and grow. Here she tells us how her evidence-based, whole-school approach does just that.
There have always been challenges for practitioners in early years, but the fall-out from the pandemic has taken its toll on the wellbeing and mental health of children and educators in an unprecedented way. In their own ways, with their young minds, many children have taken on so much of the stress and trauma experienced by the adults around them. The pandemic has had a significant negative impact on children’s personal and socio-emotional development. With mounting demands the mental and emotional wellbeing of our early years staff is at an all time low. As a result, our early years settings are brimming with toxic stress.
Whole-school problems require whole-school solutions
The knock-on effect is that exhaustion and burn-out is fast becoming a whole-school phenomenon among young children and their educators. While there is real cause for concern, it’s encouraging to see that more local authorities and individual schools and settings are taking steps to improve the situation. Focusing on a whole-school approach, hundreds of settings are currently working with Do-BeMindful to nurture positive mental health, emotional well-being and develop key skills like attention, self-regulation and resilience in staff, children, parents and carers.
Children in the UK spend more than 17 hours watching TV and 20+ hours a week online. The programme offers practitioners everything they need to deliver fun and engaging activities that foster a deeper connection with nature and develop healthy coping strategies.
Exposure to blue light, combined with isolated play, means children can struggle with hyper-arousal, stress, sleep problems, anxiety, and self-destructive behaviours. For years, researchers have highlighted the importance of connecting to nature and learning through play outdoors. There is now mounting evidence that practising nature-based mindfulness can improve children’s confidence, emotional regulation and resilience.
The Do-BeMindful Outdoors programme offers practitioners everything they need to deliver fun and engaging activities that foster a deeper connection with nature and develop healthy coping strategies.
Not another box ticking exercise
To make it as easy to implement as possible, the Do-BeMindful approach comes with supportive lesson plans, 35 weeks of daily breathing practices and weekly wellbeing activities, measuring tools and other resources, saving hours of planning time. Activities include cloud gazing, building cairns, emotion hopscotch and mindful scavenger hunts.
Practitioners have described the effects of the programmes as ‘transformational’. Educators who
have taken part in the Do-BeMindful whole-school approach experience benefit professionally and personally. They report sleeping better, feeling less stressed and anxious, and more confident in helping learners to understand and regulate their emotions.
‘I can’t recommend Do-BeMindful enough. I knew that it was important that we had a whole-school approach – this wasn’t going to be someone’s ‘thing’ that they did to the children sometimes. This had to be ‘how we are, how we teach’. Mindfulness has become our whole ethos.’ Head Teacher, Bonnybroom Nursery, Glasgow
Do-BeMindful offers a free online programme for parents and carers to help encourage a positive bridge between settings and home and encourage a sustainable community approach. They have delivered measurable impacts in over 400 schools and nurseries in the UK and are currently working with Local Authorities in Scotland and Wales to improve the wellbeing of educators, children and families.
Over the past two years, North Lanarkshire Council has been piloting the Do-BeMindful 3 Year ‘Develop, Embed and Sustain Wellbeing’ approach, which has built capacity in ELC practitioners, giving them crucial tools and strategies to develop emotional resilience. This approach is having a positive impact on children’s emotional and social skills, self-regulation and kindness.’ Early Learning and Childcare Quality Officer, North Lanarkshire Council.
Louise Smith who launched Do-BeMindful in 2017 after finding that practising Mindfulness helped improve her own anxiety and depression, proudly said ‘What makes our programmes so valuable is that they are preventative and taught to every child in the school – not just children at the point of need. Our activities and lessons are evidence-based and ready made which cuts down preparation and planning. We provide schools with everything they need to bring learning to life and embed wellbeing at the heart of the curriculum.