It makes sense that mindfulness – “the simple practice of bringing a gentle, accepting attitude to the present moment” (according to the New York Times) – is having a big moment now. We’re in a stressful world with smartphones and tablets and computers available to distract us at any moment. We’re in a scary world with heartbreaking stories of mass shootings that seem to pile, one on top of the other, in an endless, awful cycle. We’re in an uncertain world where even my kids know about North Korean nuclear testing and political unrest.
I find myself looking for anything that will help calm our minds and hearts. There are things I can control, like putting away my phone and be present with my family, and there are things beyond my control like sending my them off to school and work and praying desperately for their safety.
The New York Times has a great introduction to teaching mindfulness to children, beginning when they’re babies, and teaching us to be mindful parents as well. I’ve been inspired to share several books to read with your children to help them practice being in the moment, celebrating their feelings (all their feelings, even the uncomfortable ones), and being still and appreciating the world and all the blessings that do still exist in it.
11 books that encourage mindfulness in children
–Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel – This book features simple mindfulness exercises that help kids from 5-12 years old to deal with anxiety, handle emotions, manage anger, and become more patient and aware. It includes a CD of guided exercises read by Myla Kabat-Zinn.
–The Circle of Days by Reeve Lindbergh and Cathie Felstead – In 1225, St. Francis of Assisi wrote the Canticle of the Sun, a hymn of praise for all creation. This book blends the author’s words with those of St. Francis to honor the beauty of this natural world. The illustrations are vibrant and colorful, and the poetry is lovely and calming.
–Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wake Up Story by Mariam Gates and Sarah Jane Hinder – With suggestions for yoga poses and proclamations to greet each day, this book shows kids how to start their day with joy. I’m loving the illustrations in this book as well.
–A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh – This book explains one of the best-known meditation practices developed by Thich Nhat Hanh – pebble meditation. All you need to get started is a quiet spot…and four small, ordinary pebbles. Also be sure to check out his book “Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children,” which includes activities that teach mindfulness and compassion to parents and children, relieve stress, nourish gratitude, and improve communication. The book comes with a companion CD of songs.
–Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin and Sara Woolley – Although Charlotte likes quiet, it’s hard to come by in her noisy world. Her dog yips, the swings creak, the sirens wail…even the library is chaotic. But when her dog leads her on a wild chase through a city park, Charlotte discovers peace and quiet in the last place she could have imagined.
–The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito and Julia Kuo – When Yoshio asks a musician what her favorite sound is, she responds “The most beautiful sound is the sound of ma, of silence.” But in the bustling city of Tokyo, where is Yoshio going to find that? Follow him on his quest to find the most beautiful sound of all.
–All Creatures Great and Small illustrated by Naoko Stoop – A board book with sweet drawings of animals and a little girl which capture the spirit of the original hymn and its praise for nature, beauty, and the glory of creation. This is a beautiful book with lush illustrations of animals, birds, and butterflies.
–Moody Cow Meditates by Kerry Lee MacLean – Peter the cow is having a bad day. He misses the bus, he falls off his bike, and finally – he loses his temper. Fortunately, his grandfather visits and teaches him how to let go of his frustration with a simple, mindful exercise.
–Puppy Mind by Andrew Jordan Nance and Jim Durk – A little boy discovers his mind wanders like a puppy…into the past or the future. But how to train his puppy mind to be in the present? Through mindful breathing, the boy is able to keep his puppy mind more engaged in the present. The pictures are by the same illustrator who brought to life “Clifford the Big Red Dog” and “Thomas the Steam Engine.”
–Apple by Nikki McClure – Although the book isn’t specifically about mindfulness, “Apple” follows the cycle of an apple as it is picked, eaten, recycled, composted, and gives life to a new tree the next spring. With one word on each page, and beautiful black, white, and red cut-paper illustrations, the book is a calming reflection on the rhythms of the natural world.
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Images by Laura Falin.