Effects of an unstructured free play and mindfulness intervention on wellbeing in kindergarten students

Regina Lai Tong Lee*, Shelly Jerrine Lane, Anson Chiu Yan Tang, Cynthia Leung, Lobo H T LOUIE, Graeme Browne, Sally Wai Chi Chan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Play is known as the core occupation of young children as it lays a foundation for their early development and physical, emotional and social wellbeing. Literature suggests that unstructured free play and mindfulness interventions may independently promote wellbeing among preschoolers. However, there is no clear evidence of their combination in supporting wellness in early learning environments. We conducted a quasi-experimental study with 42 children aged four to six years, attending two kindergartens in Hong Kong. The intervention included unstructured play with non-directional loose parts (play materials), conducted outdoors for one hour daily followed by a mindfulness intervention for 10 min per day indoors. The intervention lasted for five consecutive days. We examined happiness and aspects of playfulness before and after the intervention, finding a significant increase in all areas. Given greater freedom in play choice, children showed more disruptive behaviors during unstructured play than the control group engaging in recess as usual. We conclude that unstructured play in addition to mindfulness intervention is effective in promoting students’ happiness and playfulness, both of which may help maintain mental health and wellbeing amid stressors such as transition and separation. The increased disruptive behavior requires additional investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5382
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Kindergarten
  • Loose parts play
  • Mindfulness
  • Physical
  • Preschool
  • Social and emotional wellbeing
  • Unstructured play


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