Mindfulness: Is it too quiet or too serious for kids? Think again. Animals, loving-kindness, and the power of imagination can all play their part in making mindfulness kid-friendly, as these authors and mindfulness teachers have explored. Here are five of our current favorites.
1. The Breathing Book by Christopher Willard and Olivia Weisser, illustrated by Alison Oliver
Chris Willard and Olivia Weisser have published a growing number of educational, yet playful children’s books on mindfulness, of which The Breathing Book is a recent one. Like all the best children’s books, it doesn’t preach at kids, but allows them the direct opportunity to explore mindful awareness through noticing their breath. Each page offers different activities, such as tracing shapes on the page in rhythm with their inhale and exhale, or trying out some mindful body movement. Parents who want to help young kids bring in a bit of focus and calm will appreciate that after a couple of reads, the directions will be straightforward enough for many kids to do on their own.
2. I Am Love: A Book of Compassion by Susan Verde, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Perceiving strong emotions in others can be quite vivid and stressful for children, especially when they don’t know what to do next. When I see someone who’s hurting, what can I do to help?, wonders a child at the start of this book. The following pages illustrate all the different ways that we can respond to upset feelings by expressing compassion. As kids will see, caring about friends can take many forms, from showing understanding and talking about how they feel, to simply being present and listening. Susan Verde, who also teaches yoga and meditation to children, offers several stretches and a Heart (loving-kindness) Meditation at the end of the book to help kids embody the message of compassion for themselves and others.
3. Any Time Yoga by Ulrika Dezé, illustrated by Simon Kroug
Any Time Yoga follows the journey of young Kika and her monkey-friend Yazoo as they eagerly guide us through a whole day infused with a variety of yoga stretches and meditation. There are four sections—I am Awake, I am Focused, I am Full of Energy, and I am Resting—all with vibrant illustrations that help kids dive into the imaginative potential of various yoga poses. Ulrika Dezé’s bright, enthusiastic narration in the voice of Kika makes this book pretty irresistible. (And really, what kid doesn’t want to pretend they’re a lion, a cobra, the moon?) Next, a section of guided visualization-meditations, intended to be read aloud, lets kids further explore their inner world. Dezé gives notes at the very end to guide adults in teaching children the fundamentals of yoga, as a tool to enjoy being in their body and recognize how they’re feeling.
4. Munchy and Jumpy Tales by Noah Teitelbaum, illustrated by Julia Gootzeit
For those who fondly remember Beatrix Potter’s tales of talking bunnies, ducks, and mice, or Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows, Munchy and Jumpy Tales falls nicely in line with the same tradition, with added lessons about mindfulness. The book is comprised of four stories, which loosely explore getting over a bad day, making friends, shifting a negative mood, and asking questions instead of assuming. There is more text on each page than some of the other books here, making it perfect for a longer read-aloud session. As an optional way to engage kids in the story, Teitelbaum put lots of mindful activity and reflection prompts interspersed with each narrative, letting kids stretch around for a minute or asking them how they imagine a certain character must be feeling. Another plus is that the book is also available in Spanish.
5. Emily’s Idea by Christine Evans, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns
As a former kid who was always crafting (including handmade paper dolls), trust me: This is the mindfulness book for kids who learn best through making. It’s not just about the power and joy of creativity, though. It also offers a beautiful reminder that one act of kindness and acceptance can inspire a whole movement, as Emily discovers when she starts making chains of paper dolls: “Each different, but the same.” If the whole world accepted this sameness, Evans seems to ask, what could we create together? Celebrating the human connectedness that all of us share, no matter what we look like or where we call home, Emily’s Idea will be a great conversation-starter for parents and teachers to talk with kids about the value of diversity—as well as a call to paper-and-scissors fun.