Preschool curricula often include social emotional learning (SEL) competencies, such as self-awareness and self-management. Emerging programs also include mindfulness-based practices that develop preschool children’s awareness of the effects of their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions on their behaviors and ways by which they can make skillful choices through discernment. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of the OpenMind (OM) program that combines mindfulness-based practices with SEL competencies for preschool children.
Preschools in a Head Start program were randomly assigned to either the OM program or a comparison group. A total of 262 children (3 to 5-year-old), 27 teachers, and 281 parents completed the study. Teachers in the OM program were provided training in the use of the program together with the existing preschool curriculum, and teachers in the Comparison group were provided an equivalent amount of training on relationship building and child bonding activities. At the end of the preschool year, the teachers in both groups responded to feasibility and acceptability questionnaires. In addition, child, teacher, and parent outcomes were assessed.
The teachers reported the OM program was feasible as an adjunctive program that could be integrated with the existing preschool curriculum, but finding enough time meditate during school hours was only partially feasible. The teachers perceived benefits for the children in terms of improved self-regulation, increased body and emotional awareness, improved self-calming, and increased empathy and awareness of the feelings of others. They rated the OM program as very acceptable, and which they would recommend to other preschool teachers. The outcome data indicated positive child outcomes for both groups, with some added advantage for the children in the OM program.
The OM program offers a promising approach to enhancing preschool children’s social, emotional, and academic development.