Bells and belly buddies: kindness curriculum

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- If your preschooler struggles with sharing toys or sitting still, a new curriculum could offer a surprising solution.

A new mindfulness-based "kindness curriculum" created at the UW Center for Healthy Minds shows promising results in early research. Studies indicate that incorporating social and emotional learning into preschool classrooms may improve attention and grades, along with helping kids develop empathy.

"We believe that the beginning of this research is encouraging and certainly much more is needed, and our aspiration is that this will help to facilitate greater interest in this kind of program," says Richard Davidson, founder of the Center For Healthy Minds.

Davidson says researchers were seeking a solution for problems like drug use, depression and bullying that often manifest in the teen years -- problems they believed might be prevented by focusing on emotional health early on.

"If we can develop an intervention that can be widely disseminated, that can be deployed in this age, it can potentially have multiplicative effects throughout childhood," says Davidson.

The curriculum was first tested in a randomized control trial in Madison Metropolitan School District. On Monday, the Cente released the free 12-week curriculum online for anyone to download. So far, they say more than 2,000 teachers have requested a copy.

With practices like belly buddies -- placing stuffed animals on the stomach to understand healthy breathing -- and using a bell to practice focus, researchers believe kids can benefit in all aspects of their education. And emotional intelligence, Davidson says, is worth nurturing for more reasons than just classroom performance.

"I think most people would agree," Davidson says, "that the world today could use a little more kindness and compassion."

Copyright: WMTV 2017