Picture a room full of energetic four-to-five year-olds just back from recess. Now picture trying to get that same bunch of kids to settle down and quietly meditate for a couple of minutes. Sounds impossible, right?
Except this is exactly what early learning teacher Radha Babicci does with her class of preschoolers every day.
Better yet, not only has Babicci noticed a significant change the behaviour of her students in the classroom, feedback from parents suggests the children are taking their new-found skills home with them. In fact, the Australian Scholarship Group was so impressed they recently awarded her with the ASG National Excellence in Teaching Award for leadership and development.
So what's the deal with mindfulness and children, and are there real benefits to be seen in the classroom?
"I first came across mindfulness through my own personal practice, in which I saw very clear benefits. You're very busy as a teacher and are often pulled in so many directions, and I just found meditating and breathing techniques really helped me," Babicci told The Huffington Post Australia.
"This then led me to thinking of ways I could help children be more focused and to manage their emotions. I thought if I could simplify the practice of mindfulness down to its essence, and make if a visual thing and make it fun, it could help lay the foundations for them to cope with their surroundings and emotions."
In order to do this, Babicci took some of the key concepts of mindfulness and simplified them down into simple exercises children could learn and enjoy.
"We do belly breathing, or sometimes we call it balloon breathing, which is basically a way to get the children to focus on their breath," Babicci said.
"I get them to put their hand on their belly and breathe deeply, and then they can look down and watch their breath blowing up their belly like a balloon.
"It's important for breath to be visible to them. We also do things like blowing on pinwheels or blowing feathers across the room."
Pinwheels can help with mindfulness. Who knew?
Babicci also lists three-to-five minute daily meditations and a weekly yoga session as useful techniques for introducing children to the practice of mindfulness.
"The sitting mindfulness stuff we do daily. So at our morning meeting, we always start with a belly breath, and then a simple guided meditation of three to five minutes," Babicci told HuffPost Australia.
"There's one meditation we do called 'loving kindness' which is just thinking about love and that feeling of happiness you get when you love someone.
"Another one is 'inner smiles' where we think of something that makes you smile, that brings a smile to your face. Children are actually great at this, whereas adults find it little harder. We don’t have as quick as access to that as children do.
"Or there are listening exercises where I ask them to listen to the sounds inside and outside of the classroom, or I'll ring a bell and ask the kids to raise their hands when the bell has finished ringing. That's particularly good for focus. The whole group gets really quiet."
Babicci has been implementing these practices in her classroom for the past couple of years, and is convinced each year group has benefited from them. She hopes one day to see mindfulness introduced in schools across the nation.
"I have parents telling me their children are using [mindfulness techniques] at times of stress. It is great to see they are using it when they need it to help regulate emotions also," Babicci said. "Say for example if children are having a conflict, another teacher or I will remind them to breathe and calm down. Now at the end of term one you can see they are really doing that.
"I also see an increase in the ability to -- for example during group times -- go from often a heightened state of energy to calm down and focus.
"Teaching them how to focus is actually a pretty big thing. It's something we probably don’t already think of. We just expect children to be able to do it when they start school."