A mother diagnosed with a life -changing chronic condition that left her and her 2-a-half-year-old son struggling with anxiety has launched a crowdfunding campaign to build a new digital platform for preschoolers to learn the skills that transformed their lives.
The crowd fund aims to raise at least £7,000 to grow Wee Seeds, a mission-led venture designed to plant the seeds of mindfulness and meditation in preschoolers, by funding the build of a new web-based app.
The fundraising bid comes after a prototype was successfully received by parents and children earlier this summer. 75% of participating parents noticed a difference in their children – and themselves – after using the mindfulness and meditation-based games.
Wee Seeds Founder Christina Cran was rushed to hospital in 2015 after being diagnosed with the auto-immune condition Type 1 diabetes. Without manufactured insulin – though either an injection, or an insulin pump – Type 1 diabetics wouldn’t survive.
Initially, this life-changing diagnosis left her very unwell, struggling to work and look after her son Fin, who was then 2-and-a-half. It also had an impact on her mental and emotional wellbeing, and so, realising she had to help herself, she downloaded a mediation app she’d spotted. Within a month she could feel the positive impact.
Christina said: “After just weeks of daily meditation I’d noticed a real shift in me – but then Fin started struggling, asking if “Mummy was going to die”, or “be taken to hospital again?”, clinging to me all the time. Knowing how much childhood experiences can affect your entire life, I wanted to help him overcome the fear and anxiety he was showing but didn’t know how. When I looked for something to help teach him some of the things I was learning I could find nothing for his age group.”
So, she started to think of fun ways to self-teach him some of the breathing and mindfulness techniques she was learning. He soon began to get over the anxiety around his Mum’s health and has gone onto use his skills to learn to focus on tasks, and deal with tricky emotions, for example the transition to school. He even enjoys the occasional morning mediation with his Mum.
Christina added: “I realised so many children could benefit from learning how to cultivate focus, attention, calm and kindness, and in turn how this could help them with their emotional literacy, inner resilience and nurture positive mental wellbeing – and so the idea for Wee Seeds was sown.”
Meditation and mindfulness are now widely used in schools, universities and workplaces – but Wee Seeds exists to bring this to early years children. Early intervention changes lives, as 50% of all mental health problems are established by the age of 14.
Christina added: “The money raised from the crowdfunding will enable us to design and build the first public version of Wee Seeds, a digital platform housing a range of games and exercises for parents, teachers and carers to use with the children they care for to help start to teach them livelong skills for the 21st century.”
The new version of Wee Seeds will be built on a Buy One Give One Away model – allowing Wee Seeds to work in partnership with charities, hospitals and other Third Sector organisations to donate free subscriptions to families that might benefit from Wee Seeds exercises.
Seed funding was used to bring the Wee Seeds prototype to life, with Christina’s vision for the app being brought to life by Scottish designer Emma Chapman, who worked on early designs for leading mediation app Headspace, and a student from Napier University.
The exercises were designed in conjunction with mindfulness and meditation expert Dr Vee Freir, Consultant Clinical Psychologist and Co-ordinator for the NHS Mindfulness Project. Dr Freir was one of the people who has worked to ensure that mindfulness is available throughout the Scottish NHS.
Dr Freir said: “Mindfulness is a wonderful tool and making it available for this young age group will, hopefully, create resilience and help children to remain mentally healthy for the rest of their lives. It has been a joy to work alongside Christina, enabling her to bring this project to life.”
As well as building fun, inspiring and practical tools for parents and carers, Wee Seeds is also spearheading a research programme, working with Lecturer Alexia Barrable from the University of Dundee, and supported by Dr Karen Goodall from the University of Edinburgh, to test the impact of mindfulness practices on preschoolers in nurseries across Scotland.
Christina said: “Research in this area is sparse and we’re keen to address that. We know from studies in America that these types of practices can affect children’s focus, attention, sense of calm and kindness and we want to broaden that research base and look more into the effectiveness of these techniques on preschoolers’ wellbeing. We believe this research would be the first of its kind in Scotland.”
Wee Seeds was part of the Good Ideas incubation programme in 2017.