While there is increasing interest in mindfulness-informed programs to support preschooler social, emotional, and cognitive development, evaluation of feasibility and efficacy is required prior to implementing such programs within the early education setting. This study evaluated the feasibility of an 8-week, app-based, educator-delivered, mindfulness-informed program, Early Minds by Smiling Mind. An established framework was used to assess demand, acceptability, implementation, practicality, (adequate) adaptation, integration, and limited efficacy testing. Limited efficacy testing explored program use on preschoolers’ internalizing, externalizing, prosocial behaviors, and executive function.
A pilot cluster-randomized-controlled trial (CRCT) was conducted with 25 early learning educators and 188 preschoolers from six early learning centres (ELCs) in Melbourne, Australia. Post baseline data collection, ELC rooms were randomly allocated to the program (n = 5 rooms, 111 children) or usual care (n = 5 rooms, 77 children) group. Data was collected at baseline, 3-month, and 12-month post-randomization.
The Early Minds program did not meet feasibility on four of the seven educator-reported domains (implementation, practicality, adaptation, and limited efficacy testing) and showed mixed results for two of the seven domains (acceptability and integration). Parent-reported feasibility has not been established as too few parents used the program. Educators provided rich feedback and specific suggestions to improve the program content to be more suitable and engaging for the preschool context and to work within the challenges of the early education setting.
The Early Minds program requires modification to address educator needs and improve child suitability and engagement. Following modification, re-assessment of feasibility is required.