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How mindfulness can help children improve their standards at school

By Joseph Pond

Recently I went to Whitehouse Primary School to teach mindfulness as part of their 'New Year, New You' programme. Whitehouse is an excellent school and the children were very receptive to 'playing' a mindfulness game.

Mindfulness within schools makes a lot of sense. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the claims that mindfulness improves working memory, attention, academic skills, social skills, emotional balance and self-esteem.

I’m originally from the deserts of Southern Arizona where I’d just spent Christmas. During my holiday, I was lucky enough to see a wild Sonoran Horned Toad. Really a lizard, the spiky reptile has a striking appearance, looking both serene and dangerous. It occurred to me one could learn a lot from creatures, like the horned toad, which have the ability to sit calmly, scan the landscape and preserve energy.

So I had the children imagine that they were horned toads. The following is a meditation that you could use with children, substituting your own favourite animal. 

“The horned toad just sits still and observes. It’s alert. It doesn’t run around like crazy, although it can run very fast when it needs to. It doesn’t waste energy. It just watches, alert and peaceful.

“The horned toad breathes naturally and when it does, its belly moves out and in, in and out. When you breathe your belly also moves in and out. It raises and falls. Put your hand on your tummy and feel it moving. You can pay attention to your breathing because it’s fun to be aware of everything, like a lizard wizard. It’s great fun to watch and to see.

“The horned toad also focuses on all the sounds that it can hear. I wonder what sounds you can hear when you sit quietly breathing? You can be like a desert animal, watching the sunset, seeing everything you can see and listening to everything you can hear.”

Talk to your child like this, making sure to leave gaps between your sentences. If you email me, I’ll send you a copy of my ‘Horned Toad Lizard’ meditation which I guarantee your children will love.

Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and conducts workshops in hypnosis with PowerTrance. Reach him at or at

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