Mindfulness is having a moment—from colouring books to yoga, to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The benefits of mindfulness are especially pronounced for children learning to deal with big emotions. Giving kids the tools to calm down and refuse to allow anxiety to control them will reap dividends their whole lives. Read on for our top books to teach mindfulness to kids.
1- Crab & Whale
By Mark Pallis and Christiane Kerr
Ages: two to eight
Crab & Whale is a poignant story that reinforces the value of empathy and love. This gorgeously rendered book follows the adventures of a little crab whose mindfulness techniques are subtly introduced in the book for children to try on their own if they so wish. The crab later goes on to teach a distressed whale these techniques.
2- You Are a Lion! And Other Fun Poses
By Taeeun Yoo
Ages: three to five
This playful book introduces simple yoga poses for the preschool set. Author and illustrator Taeeun Yoo invites children to imitate animals in both stance and voice. They can roar like a lion, float like a butterfly, bark like a dog, or hop like a frog. There is a total of seven different poses for children to learn. So, parents can either read this book as their rowdy toddlers act out the animals or (even better) unfurl a mat to practice them together. While the silly fun is perfect for toddlers, older children will probably be a little too self-conscious for this book.
3- Puppy Mind
By Andrew Jordan Nance
Ages: three to seven
This book uses the extended metaphor of an energetic puppy to help young children understand the concept of mindfulness. The puppy—like the brain—is always rushing around and getting into trouble. And of course, we know that the puppy doesn’t really mean to act the way it does. Likewise, children will come to understand that their own negative, anxious thoughts do not define them (something that adults should appreciate as well). The adorable images in Puppy Mind are by veteran illustrator Jim Durk, who is best known for his work in the popular kids’ series Clifford the Big Red Dog.
4- Breathe Like a Bear
By Kira Willey
Ages: four to eight
This whimsically illustrated book uses wild animals to explore basic concepts of mindfulness. Each spread shares a little thematic story along with mindfulness exercises that demonstrate certain concepts in the text. Your child may not respond to all the suggested activities, but with so many charming activities in the book, they are bound to find a few that resonate. Breathe Like a Bear is a perfect bedtime accessory to help your child settle down and get ready for bed, but the activities within can also be employed to calm your child when out and about.
5- What Does It Mean to Be Present?
By Rana DiOrio
Ages: four to eight
While a lot of children’s books use metaphors or analogies to explain mindfulness, this title takes a more explicit approach to the topic by giving concrete examples. Although some parents may not appreciate the pedagogic tone, it does pinpoint positive behaviours and actions that children can do to be more present in their everyday life. Deceptively simple, even older children and adults can improve their mental health and well-being by taking to heart the message in this book.
6- Zen Shorts
By Jon J Muth
Ages: four to eight
Beautifully illustrated, this contemporary take on classic Zen tales will enchant your child. The framing story narrates how three siblings encounter the panda Stillwater on a rainy afternoon. Each child hears a parable starring a humorous set of animal characters that help each sibling understand their own emotions, while also introducing larger philosophical issues. Zen Shorts chooses not to get bogged down into precise explanations of these stories. Instead, children are given a chance to absorb the tales at many different levels and gain a deeper understanding of them as they mature.
7- The Lemonade Hurricane
By Licia Morelli
Ages: four to nine
We all have a “lemonade hurricane” in our life. For Emma, the protagonist of this book, it happens to be her rambunctious little brother Henry. While Henry is a lovable little boy, his mind (and body!) is never at rest. Emma decides to teach her brother mindfulness techniques to “calm” his inner hurricane. The Lemonade Hurricane is a funny, practical book to help the rowdy kids in your life slow down and pay attention.
8- Sitting Still Like a Frog
By Eline Snel
Ages: five to 12
Despite the cute imagery, this book is not intended to be a book for children to read on their own. Sitting Still Like a Frog gives parents tools and tips on how to help their primary-school-age children regulate their emotions. Straightforward language helps busy parents quickly grasp the material, while the 60-minute CD (remember those?) gives guided meditations for kids on topics that are very much close to their hearts: anxiety at bedtime, managing anger, and dealing with sadness. The author is a mindfulness educator who works with children in Dutch primary schools.