School-Based Mindfulness Intervention Improves Executive Functions and Self-Regulation in Preschoolers at Risk

Main Article Content

Kanda Lertladaluck
Warabud Suppalarkbunlue
Yusuke Moriguchi
Nuanchan Chutabhakdikul


In recent years, the mindfulness concept is increasingly applied to the education sector to promote executive functions (EFs) in young children. However, the evidence for benefits of mindfulness training on EFs in preschool children with initially poor EFs is still limited. In this study, a school-based mindfulness (SM) program was designed based on a universal concept of mindfulness, in which the activities were adapted to fit with the context in Thailand. The impact of the SM program on EFs and self-regulation was investigated in preschoolers at risk. Children were assessed their EF development using teacher reporting measures and they were then randomly assigned to either the SM group (n=15) or the control group (n=15). The SM program was delivered over the course of 8 weeks. Various methods were used to assess EFs for both behavioral and cognitive performance levels prior to and after the program. The results indicate that SM training improved children’s behavior related to EF skill (F(1,25) = 4.38, p = .05) when compared to the control group. For performance levels, the SM group also showed greater development in working memory (t(28) = 2.36, p = .03) and inhibition (bear-lion, t(28) = 2.35, p = .03; peg tapping, t(28) = 2.19, p = .04), but not cognitive flexibility (t(28) = 1.04, p = .31). The findings suggest that the SM program could enhance EFs, self-regulation development, and improve classroom behavior in preschoolers with initially poor EFs. Policy implications must consider the use of an embedded SM program in early childhood education. Besides, the SM program can be further adjusted by teachers or caregivers to meet the needs of individual child.

Article Details

How to Cite
Lertladaluck, K., Suppalarkbunlue, W., Moriguchi, Y., & Chutabhakdikul, N. (2021). School-Based Mindfulness Intervention Improves Executive Functions and Self-Regulation in Preschoolers at Risk. The Journal of Behavioral Science, 16(2), 58-72. Retrieved from
Research Articles


Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2014). Closing the achievement gap through modification of neurocognitive and neuroendocrine function: results from a cluster randomized controlled trial of an innovative approach to the education of children in kindergarten. PLoS ONE, 9(11), e112393.
Blair, C., & Raver, C. C. (2015). School readiness and self-regulation: A developmental psychobiological approach. Annual Review of Psychology, 66, 711-731.
Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. J. (2007). Tools of the Mind: The Vygotskian Approach to Early Childhood Education (2nd ed.). Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.
Chutabhakdikul, N., Thanasetkorn, P., Lertawasdatrakul, O., & Ruksee, N. (2017). Tool Development and Evaluation Criteria for Assessment of Executive Function in Early Childhood. Health System Research Institute and the Institute of Molecular Biosciences, Mahidol University.
Crane, R. S., Brewer, J., Feldman, C., Kabat-Zinn, J., Santorelli, S., Williams, J. M., & Kuyken, W. (2017). What defines mindfulness-based programs? The warp and the weft. Psychological Medicine, 47(6), 990-999.
Diamond, A. (2002). Normal development of prefrontal cortex from birth to young adulthood: Cognitive functions, anatomy, and biochemistry. In D. T. Stuss & R. T. Knight (Eds.), Principles of Frontal Lobe Function (pp. 466–503). Oxford University Press.
Diamond, A. (2013). Executive functions. Annual Review of Psychology, 64, 135-168.
Diamond, A., & Lee, K. (2011). Interventions shown to aid executive function development in children 4 to 12 years old. Science, 333(6045), 959-964.
Diamond, A., & Ling, D. S. (2016). Conclusions about interventions, programs, and approaches for improving executive functions that appear justified and those that, despite much hype, do not. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 34-48.
Diamond, A., & Taylor, C. (1996). Development of an aspect of executive control: Development of the abilities to remember what I said and to "do as I say, not as I do". Developmental Psychobiology, 29(4), 315-334.;2-T
Eisenberg, N., Valiente, C., & Eggum, N. D. (2010). Self-regulation and school readiness. Early education and development, 21(5), 681-698.
Flook, L., Goldberg, S. B., Pinger, L., & Davidson, R. J. (2015). Promoting prosocial behavior and self-regulatory skills in preschool children through a mindfulness-based Kindness Curriculum. Developmental Psychology, 51(1), 44-51.
Flook, L., Smalley, S. L., Kitil, J. M., Galla, B. M., Kaiser-Greenland, S., Locke, J., Kasari, C. (2010). Effects of mindful awareness practices on executive functions in elementary school children. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 26(1), 70-95.
Fresco, D. M., Moore, M. T., van Dulmen, M. H., Segal, Z. V., Ma, S. H., Teasdale, J. D., & Williams, J. M. (2007). Initial psychometric properties of the experiences questionnaire: validation of a self-report measure of decentering. Behavior Therapy, 38(3), 234-246. Epub 2007 Apr 24. PMID: 17697849
Garon, N., Bryson, S. E., & Smith, I. M. (2008). Executive function in preschoolers: A review using an integrative framework. Psychological Bulletin, 134(1), 31-60.
Grabovac, A. D., Lau, M. A., & Willett, B. R. (2011). Mechanisms of mindfulness: A buddhist psychological model. Mindfulness, 2(3), 154-166.
Hofmann, W., Schmeichel, B. J., & Baddeley, A. D. (2012). Executive functions and self-regulation. Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(3), 174-180.
Hölzel, B. K., Lazar, S. W., Gard, T., Schuman-Olivier, Z., Vago, D. R., & Ott, U. (2011). How does mindfulness meditation work? Proposing mechanisms of action from a conceptual and neural perspective. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(6), 537-559.
Howard, S. J., & Vasseleu, E. (2020). Self-regulation and executive function longitudinally predict advanced learning in preschool. Frontiers in psychology, 11, Article 49.
Janz, P., Dawe, S., & Wyllie, M. (2019). Mindfulness-based program embedded within the existing curriculum improves executive functioning and behavior in young children: A waitlist controlled trial. Frontiers in Psychology, 10, Article 2052.
Jha, A. P., Krompinger, J., & Baime, M. J. (2007). Mindfulness training modifies subsystems of attention. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 7(2), 109-119.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness‐based interventions in context: Past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.
Klingberg, T., Fernell, E., Olesen, P. J., Johnson, M., Gustafsson, P., Dahlström, K., Gillberg, C. G., Forssberg, H., & Westerberg, H. (2005). Computerized training of working memory in children with ADHD--a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(2), 177–186.
Kochanska, G., Murray, K., Jacques, T. Y., Koenig, A. L., & Vandegeest, K. A. (1996). Inhibitory control in young children and its role in emerging internalization. Child Development, 67(2), 490-507.
Kuhn, M., Boise, C., Marvin, C. A., & Knoche, L. L. (2021). Challenging Behaviors and Executive Function in Preschool-Aged Children: Relationships and Implications for Practice. Infants & Young Children, 34(1), 45-65.
Kuppako, D. (2016). Buddhism in Thai life: Thai model for ASEAN. Mahachula Academic Journal, 3(1), 138-158.
Lim, X., & Qu, L. (2017). The effect of single-session mindfulness training on preschool children’s attentional control. Mindfulness, 8(2), 300-310.
Maynard, B. R., Solis, M., Miller, V., & Brendel, K. E. (2017). Mindfulness-Based
Interventions for Improving Cognition, Academic Achievement, Behavior and
Socio-Emotional Functioning of Primary and Secondary Students. The Campbell Collaboration.
Meiklejohn, J., Phillips, C., Freedman, M. L., Griffin, M. L., Biegel, G., Roach, A., Frank, J., Burke, J., Pinger, L., Soloway, G., Isberg, R., Sibinga, E., Grossman, L. & Saltzman, A. (2012). Integrating mindfulness training into K-12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students. Mindfulness, 3(4), 291-307.
Miyake, A., Friedman, N. P., Emerson, M. J., Witzki, A. H., Howerter, A., & Wager, T. D. (2000). The unity and diversity of executive functions and their contributions to complex "Frontal Lobe" tasks: A latent variable analysis. Cognitive Psychology, 41(1), 49-100.
Moriguchi, Y., & Hiraki, K. (2013). Prefrontal cortex and executive function in young children: a review of NIRS studies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 7, Article 867.
Morrison, A. B., & Jha, A. P. (2015). Mindfulness, attention, and working memory. In B. D. Ostafin, M. D. Robinson, & B. P. Meier (Eds.), Handbook of Mindfulness and Self-Regulation (pp. 33-45). Springer.
Mrazek, M. D., Franklin, M. S., Phillips, D. T., Baird, B., & Schooler, J. W. (2013). Mindfulness training improves working memory capacity and GRE performance while reducing mind wandering. Psychological Science, 24(5), 776-781.
Nārada, T. (2013). A Manual of Abhidhamma: Being Abhidhammattha Saṅgaha of Bhadanta Anuruddhācariya (Revised edition). Maha Bodhi Book Agency.
National Statistical Office. (2018). 4 Religion Arts and Cultural Branch.
Nigg, J. T. (2017). Annual Research Review: On the relations among self-regulation, self-control, executive functioning, effortful control, cognitive control, impulsivity, risk-taking, and inhibition for developmental psycho-pathology. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 58(4), 361-383.
Poehlmann-Tynan, J., Vigna, A. B., Weymouth, L. A., Gerstein, E. D., Burnson, C., Zabransky, M., Lee, P., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2016). A pilot study of contemplative practices with economically disadvantaged preschoolers: Children’s empathic and self-regulatory behaviors. Mindfulness, 7(1), 46-58.
Roman, A. S., Pisoni, D. B., & Kronenberger, W. G. (2014). Assessment of working memory capacity in preschool children using the Missing Scan Task. Infant and Child Development, 23(6), 575-587.
Shapiro, S. L., Carlson, L. E., Astin, J. A., & Freedman, B. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 62(3), 373-386.
Simpson, A., & Riggs, K. J. (2005). Inhibitory and working memory demands of the day-night task in children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 23(3), 471-486.
Tang, Y. Y., Hölzel, B. K., & Posner, M. I. (2015). The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation. Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, 16(4), 213-225.
Thierry, K. L., Bryant, H. L., Nobles, S. S., & Norris, K. S. (2016). Two-year impact of a mindfulness-based program on preschoolers’ self-regulation and academic performance. Early Education and Development, 27(6), 805-821.
Thorell, L. B., Lindqvist, S., Bergman Nutley, S., Bohlin, G., & Klingberg, T. (2009). Training and transfer effects of executive functions in preschool children. Developmental Science, 12(1), 106-113.
Tiego, J., Bellgrove, M. A., Whittle, S., Pantelis, C., & Testa, R. (2020). Common mechanisms of executive attention underlie executive function and effortful control in children. Developmental Science, 23(3), e12918.
Volckaert, A. M. S., & Noel, M.-P. (2015). Training executive function in preschoolers reduce externalizing behaviors. Trends in Neuroscience and Education, 4(1), 37-47.
Woltering, S., Lishak, V., Hodgson, N., Granic, I., & Zelazo, P. D. (2016). Executive function in children with externalizing and comorbid internalizing behavior problems. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 57(1), 30-38.
Wood, L., Roach, A. T., Kearney, M. A., & Zabek, F. (2018). Enhancing executive function skills in preschoolers through a mindfulness‐based intervention: A randomized, controlled pilot study. Psychology in the Schools, 55, 644–660.
Zelazo, P. D. (2006). The Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS): A method of assessing executive function in children. Nature Protocols, 1(1), 297-301.
Zelazo, P. D., & Müller, U. (2002). Executive function in typical and atypical development. In Blackwell Handbook of Childhood Cognitive Development (pp. 445-469). Blackwell Publishers Ltd.
Zelazo, P. D., Forston, J. L., Masten, A. S., & Carlson, S. M. (2018). Mindfulness plus reflection Training: Effects on executive function in early childhood. Frontiers in Psychology, 9, 208.