What does it mean to be balanced in this day and age?

There is a vital need more than ever today, to put a sense of balance into our own lives but also to model a sense of balance for our children.  People are more busy nowadays, and the importance of self-regulating ourselves so that we have a sense of balance and calm in our daily lives, is something for everyone to think about!
Do you have a smiling mind? This question is a provocation for children to understand that they can be both balanced, in their body and mind too, which is something as adults, we also need to do. We need to model balance and mindfulness so that young learners can do the same.

What does balance and self-regulation look like for an Early Year’s child?

Self-regulation is an important factor in having balance and when being mindful. To successfully self-regulate there are 3 CRITICAL neurological components that need to be integrated:

• Sensory processing
• Executive functioning
• Emotional regulation  

Sensory processing is how you make sense of information and integrate the information to determine what action you need. For e.g if you hear the fire alarm, you would leave the building and as adults we are able to determine, if it is a major or minor problem. Young children cannot determine if a problem may be major or minor.
The second component, executive functioning focuses on cognitive processes involved in the control of our thoughts and actions. It sends impulses to our brain to command or control actions.
The third component is emotional regulation. The process that is responsible for controlling your emotional reactions in order to meet your goal of motivation, being objective of a problem, perspectives and also the size of the problem you are confronted with.
Children need to understand the connection between their sensory systems, emotions and the ability to relate to the world, that makes others feel comfortable relating to them. When children can do all of these they are able to self-regulate.

Providing provocations and opportunities for children of all ages to self-regulate and be aware of their emotions helps young children to be balanced. When children are balanced they are able to function in their daily lives. Balance and self-regulation are important factors that allow us to function and there are different ways we can use techniques to help us to do this.

One technique is mindfulness. This is a brain training technique based on using your breath to achieve mental clarity. When children practice breathing they are able to be mindful and can self-regulate. If you are being mindful then you are focusing on the present.
Here is a useful exercise you can practice with your child to help you in times of frustration or when you need to be mindful.

When You are Feeling Frustrated

For parents or caregivers who find themselves upset and out of touch with the present moment, a popular mindfulness exercise known as S.T.O.P. can be helpful.

• Stop.
• Take a breath.
• Observe.
• Proceed.

When we are being mindful and fully in the present we can be more mindful of both our physical being but also have an awareness of what is going on around us. To model this for young children, so that they become aware of the present moment, will also help them to be mindful. This also gives them a way to self-regulate and bring themselves back to a focused calm.

Since IICS began their journey into mindfulness, we have looked at sharing mindfulness within the school community and the wider community. Here are some of the mindfulness things that are happening at IICS. We have been lucky to have had the opportunity to have Tim Burns visit the school and work with all teachers at both Marmara and Hisar Campus.

• 2017 Early Years Network Presentation about Mindfulness
• Mindfulness Presentation staff
• CEESA Presentation to CEESA schools at CEESA conference Istanbul
• Mindfulness Presentation in Zagreb
• Tim Burns Teacher workshop
• Use of Zones of Regulation-in some classes
• Mindfulness Assemblies
• Mindfulness in the Classroom-Go-noodle techniques
• After-school Mindfulness Activity
• High School mindfulness practice before exams
• Go noodle/Class mojo apps used in classrooms
• Balancing Body, Brain and Heart Parent Workshop
• PLC Teacher group: Mindfulness in the classroom/Mindfulness online course
• Mindfulness after school activity (Hisar Campus)

The importance of self-regulation, balance and mindfulness is reflective of our school’s practices in the last 5 years. We are also finding nowadays how busy children’s lives have become and that the need for mindfulness to help children in their daily lives is more prevalent.
In school, teachers are using different programmes within the primary school, which look at self-regulation and mindfulness. In some classes we are beginning to use a programme called Zones of Regulation. This incorporates colours with emotions to help young children recognise their feelings and emotions related to colours. Each colour signifies emotions and also different behaviours related to this. When children use these they are able to look at how their emotions can be self-regulated so that they can be balanced and to become more calm and focused, and ready for learning.

Here are some of the resources we use in the classroom and some for more information about Mindfulness:

Belly Breathing song
Breathing and Mindfulness Video
Mindfulness Online Course
Smiling Mind App
Wellness for Children Article NYT
Tim Burns

If children can be balanced and are able to self-regulate then their mind and brain, is in a place where it can be focused to learn, and understand their environment. Children can be safe and keep themselves safe. They are able to be aware of their space, but also respect the space of others. They are able to be organized and plan and carry out and complete activities. They can also be focused to use their fine and gross motor skills to be able to complete tasks that use large and control little movements. If children are balanced and self-regulated they are able to accept responsibility and respect others. They can cooperate and make decisions if they are focused and aware.  If a child is balanced and able to self-regulate, then learning, through curiosity, inquiry and research allows them to learn further and reach their potential. If they are not able to be balanced, mindful and self-regulated then learning is not always occurring.

So if we can be balanced and are able to self-regulate then we can ask ourselves daily:

Do you have a smiling mind?