Are any of you nearing the end of school? You know, with the field days and the field trips and the teacher appreciation and the volunteer appreciation combined with the “I’m so ready for summer I can’t stand it?” This is what it’s looking like at my house:
I’ve got the beginnings of 7 different writing projects and a few more blog posts but none of them are readable yet. (However, the laundry is done and we haven’t had popcorn for dinner yet this week. Small victories.) With all that, it seems like a good week to share some of my favorite books for working on mindfulness with children. Mindfulness is one of those deceptively simple ideas…it is exactly what it sounds like: paying attention to what’s going on in you and around you. Easy, yes? Except when it’s not, as is so often the case these rushed, crazy days
This is probably why I like the idea of introducing it to children. First, there are benefits. Children who learn mindfulness techniques are happier and less anxious. More than that, though, I think that with all the distractions in our lives, the sooner we can start working on inner stillness the better. I’m a big believer in the science behind mindfulness and love that it’s being incorporated into everything from school to therapy but for me it is primarily a spiritual practice. (Take a look at Sharon Salzberg’s post for a look at benefits and limits of measuring meditation scientifically.)
No matter how much we might like the idea of teaching mindfulness to children, it can be a challenge. “Sit still and listen to your breathing” sounds like a punishment to most children and some adults. This is where books come in. I use books to introduce all kinds of ideas, at home and in the classroom. Reading a story about something is often the quickest way to engage a child’s attention and introduce a complicated idea. From there, we can build to personal practice.
I checked this book out from the library with high hopes. Then my daughter said it was boring. I’m including it anyway because I think it has huge potential, the words are simple and the illustrations are lovely. Plus it’s hard to tell whether it was actually boring or just more boring than Selena the Sleepover Fairy, which is what she was reading when I tried to get her to read this with me. That’s probably a lesson in choosing your timing.
We love this book! It’s not mindfulness in the sit-and-breathe way but it’s definitely mindfulness in the paying-attention-to-your-life way. It’s also been a whole new way to asking about her day. “Tell me the day backwards” gets answers and giggles. When I say “What did you do today?” She helpfully answers, “Stuff.”
Back to the nature theme. This is a classic, for good reason. There is so much here! It’s wordy so take it a little at a time with young kids but it’s an amazing meditation on simple pleasures and mindful attention.
There are talking sea animals, a mermaid and an octopus who is angry about others ruining his toys, what’s not to love? I borrowed this on CD from the library and renewed it so much we ended up buying our own copy. The story is actually interesting and relatable for young kids plus it introduces breathing techniques that can be used to deepen relaxation and improve focus anytime.
I’m always on the lookout for kids books that tie into Deep Ideas. I’d love to hear from you if you’ve found some good ones! (And seriously, if you’re feeling the end of the year pressure and this post hit you more like a to-do list than an inspiration, come back to it later. Have courage…summer is around the corner!)