To some, the thought of preschoolers doing yoga and meditation might sound far-fetched.
But for Maitland’s Kylie Humphreys it’s not only possible, it’s vital to improve their mental health and wellbeing.
Ms Humphreys has founded Head and Heart Mindfulness – a program for kids aged 3-12, teachers and parents to reduce anxiety, improve behaviour, build resilience and improve concentration and memory. It involves things such as yoga, games, massage, positive thinking and visualisation.
“Mindfulness means paying attention to the present moment, what is happening right now, on purpose and in a non-judgmental way,” Ms Humphreys said.
The idea came about after Ms Humphreys attended a mindfulness workshop while working as a teacher at Bolwarra Public, which she took back to her students.
But she enjoyed the training so much, she realised she wanted to take it further.
“I thought, I need to be able to share this with other children,” she said. “As a child I was really anxious. I want to be able to help kids who are like me.”
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So she left her job and took up teaching mindfulness in Hunter schools last year.
Two of her colleagues, Brooke Vitnell and Erin Visser, are also former teachers who left their jobs to become mindfulness educators, having seen first-hand the difficulties many children face in the classroom.
According to the Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2017, mental health was the top issue of national concern for young people. About one in seven young Australians experience a mental health condition.
“Mindfulness is such a valuable tool for children. It enables them to be present, stop, calm down and make positive choices and decisions,” Ms Vitnell said. “As a teacher, I can see the benefits related to focus, attention, memory, behaviour and students’ overall wellbeing.”
And schools are coming on board. Ms Humphreys started with a preschool and a primary school last year, but now has 25 schools booked in this year.
She said feedback had been incredible, with teachers saying students are more responsive and parents saying their kids practice methods in real-life situations.
“One of the parents said her daughter used the techniques in a bullying incident. I value it so much but it’s so good to see the community value it too.”