Posted: 12.15.2014 | by AMRA

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Young children’s capacity to self-regulate attention and emotion contributes to their scholastic success and predicts their academic attainment. There is a need for programs that enhance children’s self-regulation skills, and mindfulness-based interventions that promote sustained attention, self-monitoring, and cognitive flexibility may be good candidates. Flook et al. [Developmental Psychology] developed a mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum (KC) for preschool-aged children and tested its ability to improve their executive functioning, self-regulation, and academic and social development.

Sixty-eight ethnically-diverse children in 6 urban Midwestern preschools were randomly assigned to either KC or a wait-list control condition. KC was administered in two 20-30 minute weekly sessions over 12 weeks, and emphasized mindfulness, empathy, gratitude and sharing through multiple modalities including music, children’s literature, and movement. The children were tested immediately before and after the program on behavioral tasks of willingness to share and willingness to delay gratification, and computerized tasks of cognitive flexibility and freedom from distraction. Their teachers rated their social competence before and after the intervention and assigned routine report card grades three months after program completion.

The KC children showed significantly greater improvement in their teacher-rated prosocial behavior (Cohen’s d = 0.29) and emotional regulation (d = 0.25), than did the control children. The KC children also showed significantly greater report card improvement on Approaches to Learning (d = 0.54), Health and Physical Development (d = 0.56), and Social and Emotional Development (d = 0.97).

On the willingness-to-share task (a task involving the children dividing up ten stickers between themselves and their peers), control children displayed significantly more selfish behavior over time, reserving more of the stickers for themselves, while the KC children did not display more selfish behavior. The KC children with poorer baseline levels of executive functioning and social competence improved the most in social competence over time relative to the controls.

While the study is supportive of using mindfulness to enhance preschool-aged children’s self-regulation skills, especially for children with lower levels of baseline functioning, the study is limited by its short duration of follow-up and the teachers’ awareness of the children’s assigned interventions.

Reference:

Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J. (2014). Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based kindness curriculum. Developmental Psychology.

[Link to abstract]