Apple Montessori Blog
Mindfulness in Montessori Education
In Montessori education, daily mindfulness practice and concentrated attention are important tools in creating a conducive classroom environment for learning. At Apple Montessori Schools, we understand the need to give children moments to breathe quietly and focus their energy in a positive way during mindfulness lessons to help nurture the mind and body.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which we focus on being intensely aware of what we’re feeling and sensing in the moment, without interpretation or judgment. Mindfulness means being aware and accepting of your present mental state and taking control of your feelings, thoughts, environment, and actions in a calm, thoughtful manner. Being present in the moment gives you time to acknowledge your feelings, relax and act appropriately to best serve yourself and the needs of others peacefully.
This mindset in the classroom, allows both teachers and students to focus attention on the present moment, allowing the child’s naturally “absorbent mind” to fully engage in their learning experience for better outcomes.
The Montessori method is founded on the assumption that children absorb knowledge about the world through the senses of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting, and feeling. When we foster a conducive, peaceful environment for learning, we allow children to become naturally mindful.
Dr. Maria Montessori, founder of the Montessori philosophy, believed that the purpose of education is to work towards a more peaceful world as part of social-emotional learning through empathy and compassion for ourselves and others. This starts with the ability to identify our own emotions and how to engage respectfully with others. Again, mindfulness brings us to the present moment, both within and outside of ourselves, without any interpretation or judgment.
Removing judgment from our communications with students is part of teaching and guiding children respectfully. Mindfulness helps us communicate what we observe about our children’s work, actions, or words, without telling them that these things are “bad” or “good.”
Mindfulness also helps children refrain from judging their own academic or artistic performance or accomplishments. When a child presents their activities, we take a moment to observe and study them quietly and listen mindfully as the child describes what they have accomplished without judgment.
Mindfulness originated from Buddhist meditation philosophy. Its inventor, Jon Kabat Zinn, a biologist and doctor, researched Zen meditation and applied it to hospital patients who were ailing from chronic diseases and pain. Research in mindfulness over the last decade in the U.S.has proven the powerful physical and emotional benefits of practicing mindfulness. Staying present without reliving past events or worrying about future incidents helps contain negative feelings and actions. By focusing on the present, we can help children better understand and experience their current situations and feelings, reduce conflict, and solve problems calmly.
Benefitting from Mindfulness
Studies show numerous benefits from mindfulness for children including:
- Increased focus, attention, self-control, classroom participation, and compassion.
- Improved academic performance, ability to resolve conflict, and overall well-being.
- Decreased levels of stress, depression, anxiety, and disruptive behavior.
Mindfulness can positively affect our body, mind, and psychological well-being. It can improve our mood and concentration, strengthen brain function, increase positive emotions, and reduce anxiety and stress. With this in mind over a century ago, Dr. Maria Montessori wrote about the need for a child to be ready to learn, and Montessori teachers continue to look at the physical and emotional factors that will support that readiness.
How do you teach mindfulness to a child?
- Deep breathing
One of the best ways to keep control of emotions and avoid anxiety is to take deep breaths and purposely focus on breathing. The exercise helps calm emotions and nurture patience. Those few moments of reflection are grounding and can help children avoid an upsetting, unnecessary situation. The goal is to help children avoid reacting quickly in an angry or disruptive manner.
- Maintaining a positive attitude and supportive environment
When conflicts arise in the classroom or at home, it is important to stay calm and avoid further tension. The goal is to identify the root of the problem in a kind and thoughtful way, and then find a constructive solution that creates a peaceful environment for everyone. For example, at Apple Montessori, we encourage children to be respectful of others by taking responsibility for their activities and belongings by cleaning up after themselves.
We maintain a neat, prepared, safe and supportive classroom to help teach children the importance of a peaceful, orderly environment that they can navigate independently. This exercise helps build a child’s self-esteem and sense of belonging and responsibility within a community.
Encouraging quiet time
Children need a little time out each day, free from busy schedules and screen time. Finding a quiet, calm place to spend some time alone provides the opportunity for children to explore their imagination and pursue their ideas and activities. In an Apple Montessori classroom, children are granted freedom and autonomy, where they learn to listen to their intuition and follow their individual passions and interests freely.
- Exercising daily
One of the best ways to practice mindfulness is to exercise—whether it’s walking, running, dancing, swimming, tossing a ball, or doing yoga.Yogateaches self-care and regulation techniques that nurture emotional stability and promote learning readiness. Daily exercise stimulates the mind and body and relieves stress.
Taking time to reflect on the day and acknowledging the people and activities that bring joy and happiness gives children the opportunity to appreciate what they have and the good things they experience. Gratitude goes a long way in building healthy minds and attitudes.
Dr. Maria Montessori believed that guiding children in their spiritual development was as important as guiding them intellectually and academically. Montessori’s writings and practices were revolutionary at the time. However, recent research has focused on the mind-body connection and the impact it can have on children’s brains and their ability to absorb new learnings. Teaching mindfulness is a specific approach coming out of this research that integrates well with Dr. Maria Montessori’s beliefs of over a century ago.
Building Emotional Intelligence
In the Apple Montessori Schools classroom, children are shown how to build emotional intelligence through mindfulness by identifying their emotions and learning that they can choose their reactions appropriately. They are taught to slow down, notice what they are feeling, name their emotion, create distance from that emotion, and learn how to choose a healthy, constructive response.
Without mindfulness, children often react to emotions without thoughts about the consequences of their actions. With mindfulness, we help children learn how to reflect on their present circumstances and feelings and how best to react respectfully and peacefully for their well-being.