Most of us go our entire lives without learning to be mindful — to be present and fully aware in the moment. Though it can be a powerful tool for self-regulation in the face of anxiety and other mental health issues, it’s also a challenge to master. To give future generations a leg up, a movement has begun to teach children mindful techniques.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds recently developed a mindfulness-based kindness cirriculum. Building off that, Sesame Workshop came up with its own for use in Sesame Street and apps. Mindful.org shared details:
“I was impressed with the energy, the inquisitiveness, and what appeared to be the real desire to do what they could to bring this topic to the forefront,” says Laura Pinger, a senior outreach specialist for Healthy Minds.
She and associate scientist Lisa Flook shared the center’s 12-week curriculum, which includes songs, literature, and activities that revolve around kindness or sharing, and mindfulness practices such as belly breathing and a “mind jar” filled with water and glitter that helps kids notice how thoughts get agitated and then settle. They also discussed early research results showing higher academic performance and improvements on measures of altruism and gratification delay among students who participated in the training.
A new mobile app called Mindful Powers follows in Sesame Workshops’ footsteps. It’s a “kid-first, holistic approach to building social-emotional learning through the power of play.” Its goal is to teach children to develop healthy relationships with stress and anxiety early in their lives — skills that will help them into the future.
Each user gets their own Flibbertigibbet, a cute, friendly spherical friend. The Flibbertigibbet is easily agitated, so its child needs to learn to help it calm down with gentle, soothing motion. Then it can accompany them for voice-guided mindfulness sessions
The Flibbertigibbet also keeps kids company while they work for set periods of time. If the device is lifted during that focus period, the Flibbertigibbet will gently remind its child to go back to what they were doing.
Smashing Ideas creative director Jessica Barnes recently talked to The Memo about the app, which was developed in consultation with Dr. Roger Vilardaga, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at Duke University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.
“Lessons are served in bite size stories, starting out with easy-to-understand concepts, working towards harder-to-grasp concepts,” Barnes says. “Kids learn how to deal with big emotions and when they come up, how to act on those feelings instead of being reactive.”
Making an app that’s “undeniably cute” helps with this process, adds Barnes.
“We wanted Flibbertigibbet to act as a mirror for kids and the cute factor creates an instant attachment.”
There are a great many apps for adults who want to learn mindfulness, too. But if you think you might benefit from a Flibbertigibbet of your own, Mindful Powers is available on the iOS App Store.