2nd February 2022

Supporting Children’s Mental Health in Early Years 

Yoginis Yoga and Mindfulness Training 

Supporting Children’s Mental Health in Early Years 

Leading up to Mental Health week as we reflect on the current state of children’s mental health we’ve discovered there has been a huge shift in perspective as to how and why we should now focus on our children’s mental health and wellbeing, but why? According to the mental health of children and young people in England statistics from 2017 and 2020, the number of pre-school children experiencing a mental disorder has risen from 1 in 18 in 2017 to 1 in 6 during 2020. We will not know the full impact of the pandemic until it is completely over and we can see within our own environments what impact events have had and are having on children’s mental health. 

There are many things to consider when we look at how these last couple of years have affected the socio-economic disadvantage, those who may have been made homeless and lack of access to support services during the pandemic for those who need them, other factors such as no access to outside space, opportunities to socialise or pursue a range of activities, are just some of the issues that could be affecting our children’s mental health and wellbeing today. 

In the face of what’s been happening in the world, we can help children develop resilience. Practitioners play a vital role in developing self-esteem, growth mindset, communication and self-reflection on their success and achievements and creating secure attachments. When children see they have the ability to affect change, this creates protective factors. Although we cannot control what happens in a child’s life, we know early intervention, having attachment to a key worker that makes them feel safe can support them to develop key skills to aid resilience and help them manage difficult feelings in constructive ways. 

What are some of these ways we need to help the children in our care? 

Social awareness – the ability to be aware of the thoughts and feelings of others feelings and how their behaviour can have an impact. The Yoginis Yoga Training programme has the attribute kindness running throughout its programme to encourage children to think, feel and speak in kind ways to themselves and others. 

Self-regulation – the ability to manage our thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In the Yoginis programme, there are opportunities to ask the children to describe what animal expresses how they are feeling or how their bodies are feeling. 

Relationship skills – forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others. Children are encouraged to support each other during yoga sessions, celebrate others achievements, take turns and demonstrate kindness as being an attribute of a good friend. The yoga sessions develop a sense of belonging and create a safe space for learning.

Self-belief – a set of beliefs we hold about our self-identity, including our skills, abilities and sense of value and worth. Everything within the Yoginis yoga session is achievable and focuses on fun not form, the sessions are inclusive of all children and everyone is capable of doing something in yoga. Children who have English as a second language are able to follow along and join in because of the routine, repetition and structure of the sessions. Children can see how they have the capacity to bring about their own outcomes and develop a growth mindset by expressing their own creative flair. 

Our emotional health is not fixed but is affected by our social environment. Emotionally healthy settings that support and promote good emotional health create a climate and culture by establishing and modelling good emotional health amongst staff who in turn affect the children in their care. As practitioners playing key roles in supporting children, you can increase their capacity to manage their feelings in beneficial ways which can have a positive influence on their emotional and mental wellbeing. 

One of the ways of implementing a positive approach and providing a solution to support the children’s mental health in your care is through the ancient art of yoga and mindfulness, which has risen in popularity over the years and the demand has become greater since the pandemic. The benefits of yoga and mindfulness have been long since recognised and used in other therapies such as chiropractors, physiotherapists, cognitive therapy and other well known alternative therapies. 

Some of yoga’s benefits are

● Improved strength, flexibility, balance and coordination. 

● Breathing techniques to cope with moments of stress and anxiety to build resilience helps develop a healthy central nervous system 

● Body awareness for effective brain functioning, learning and memory ● Mindfulness improves attention, emotional control, creating a technique for making good choices 

● Promotes ethical interaction with others, empathy and acceptance 

It’s important that early years settings choose a yoga programme that helps children learn ways to wellbeing, happiness and good mental health because this leads to well-adjusted adults living their best life able to cope with pressure. Just like other life skills and subjects for the child to gain an understanding of these functional skills they need to be delivered and taught in a way a child learns; through repetition, routine and structure with clear learning objectives to have a long-lasting outcome and effect. This is how the Yoginis yoga training scheme of work has been designed to reduce the workload of practitioners, easy delivery of sessions, sustainable and maintains the upskilling of staff and learning of children. 

Yoginis have not forgotten the importance of parents and have written a book ‘Let’s Go Yoginis’. We provide free resources which complement the yoga programme for parents to use at home.

The book was produced at the request of the children because they wanted their own parents to be able to practice alongside them in this wonderful activity. 

Early year settings can engage with parents and provide support to families by signposting them to other relevant support services and resources locally and running parenting programmes to support their mental health and wellbeing. Yoginis have a complete CPD certified wellbeing pack including instructions on facilitation and resources, it’s based on the 5 steps to wellbeing by the NHS that can be purchased and delivered to the parent community supporting the mental health and wellbeing of the whole family. 

Susan Hartley and Katie Brennan are the founding directors of Yoginis Yoga Training Ltd. They have been delivering yoga sessions and training since 2006 are 500hr+ British Wheel of Yoga teachers, the largest yoga organization approved by Sports England. Their training spans across the country, including working with universities, early year settings, schools, sports companies and UK charities. They have appeared on Early Years TV, Innovation stage Nursery World, workshops at Childcare and Education Expo, local authority, universities and private companies, and delivered keynote speeches in their subject. 

Yoginis website has free resources and courses for you to begin implementing strategies straight away, blogs on relevant mental health and wellbeing topics and their mission and values. Yoginis post daily affirmations to set an intention for the day across their social media platforms and videos on their Youtube channel. They can be contacted via the enquiry form on their website. https://www.yoginisyoga.uk/enquiry-form

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About the Author

Campaign and Content Manager at Connect Childcare