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3 Ways to Make Prayer Beads with Children #wholemama

3 Ways to Make Prayer Beads with Children #wholemama

In an age when we have so much–so much entertainment, so much busy-ness, so much noise and bustle–it’s hard to find time for stillness. I know, because I fail at it all the time. Add in even a little bit of internal stress and we find ourselves completely ungrounded. We lose touch with the inner calm that would allow us to weather work stress, family stress or even just the evening news. And the ability to listen to that still, small voice? Completely gone.

Perhaps even more concerning is that our children are also missing out on this. Bombarded with stimulation from all angles, they lose the chance to simply sit in quiet.

Reintroducing children to stillness takes patience and skill. A no-holds-barred approach is likely to lead to rebellion and cries of “I’m booooored.” Luckily, there are many ways to incorporate prayer and quiet that provide guidance and focus. Prayer beads are one of these ways. Beads provide guidance for praying as well as tactile stimulation–great for fidgeters and people with active minds. Even better, children love making them. I’ve done prayer beads with two groups of children and adults in the past few months and all of them have enjoyed them. Here are three examples of prayer beads:

1. These beads are made up of the traditional sets of seven beads.  You can say a different prayer for each set of beads, as the folks at King of Peace suggest or use each set as a reminder to prayer for something in your life.  I like to use the sets to remind me to pray for things I’m grateful for, sorry for, people and a last set for anything else on my mind.  Here’s a version I use with kids and youth. Prayer Beads


2. Over at The Little Ways, there’s a great tutorial for making “Good Deed Beads.”  They recommend using them to keep track of good deeds you’ve done through the day.  Because the beads stay in place once you slide them, they’re a great tool for counting throughout the day.  One teacher I know uses them to teach children to take calming breaths, sliding the bead along the cord with each breath they take.

sacrifice beads2

3. And there’s this set of beads, which is easy to make and features simple prayer reminders.

Prayer beads for protestants - great for Lent:

(Pic only.  The picture links to a private blog but it was too good not to share!  What a fun way to use some special beads and it could easily double as a bracelet.


I’m linking up this week with #wholemama prompt stillness.  Katie Faulk has a great post this week on stillness and loss.  I, on the other hand, am going with a list-style post because it has been a crazy 3 weeks.  Thanksgiving travel followed by starting a new job and getting a major writing assignment–due before Christmas, naturally.  All in all, I’m thrilled by everything but thank heavens I did my Christmas shopping early!


5 Children’s Books to Encourage Mindfulness

5 Children’s Books to Encourage Mindfulness

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:FB status

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.

Listening WalkThis is the first book I ever used to teach mindfulness and I used it with preschoolers.  Read the book, take walks, repeat






SilenceI 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.

Tell Me the Day BackwardsWe 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.”


I'm in chargeBack 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.




The Angry OctopusThere 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!)

5 books to teach mindfulness to children
5 books to teach mindfulness to children
We’re Not Enough

We’re Not Enough

Flowers on potteryIt is in the silence that it comes to me.  There is nothing to do here.  Nothing to be, even.  There is only stillness.  It is enough.


My day is carefully plotted out to maximize production.  This is a discipline.  I’m quite proud of my productiveness.  I recount my day’s accomplishments with glee.  Then the glee turns into frustration as I survey all the things I didn’t accomplish.

The downside of “discipline” is that it is closely related to pressure.  We never get done everything we want to get done.  We never do it as well as we’d like to do it.  No matter how we structure our to-do lists, schedules and other time-management techniques, some things fall through the cracks.

These things happen and we begin to beat ourselves up.  We wonder whether we’ll ever be successful, be meaningful, be beautiful.  We run around like maniacal wind-up toys, trying to accomplish something–whether it’s the perfect job, house, spouse, children or volunteer of the year award.  We are deflated and sometimes even hopeless because we never make the mark.

Look, I’ve read all the books and blogs.  I’ve listened to all the advice.  Heck, I’ve given all the advice.  And still, all this sneaks in.

I am actually tired of hearing about how we have to affirm that we are all good enough just as we are.  Not because it’s not true, not because it’s not needed, but because it just adds to the guilt and pressure.  Now I’m not enough and I’m not even enough of an enough to accept my enoughness.  The quotes about love and acceptance are always inspirational and I always want to print them all out and frame them in the hopes that somehow it will actually sink in but it never does.  I never spend a whole day happy and excited about “living the now!” and “feeling God’s love!” and “knowing I’m enough!”


I have been running this personal experiment with silence and stillness lately.  So far I’m very not good at it.  Sitting in stillness falls off my list quite often because I have all these things to do.  But I have done it more in the past 2 weeks than I did in the 2 weeks before that, and the 2 weeks before that, and so on, so I suppose it is progress.

Yesterday morning I arrived at yoga early.  I went into the studio and sat.  Quietly.  ( I have to admit, this desire to get there early was in part because for the past three weeks, someone has been taking my space.  It’s the one by the window, middle row.  Now you know.  Stop stealing it.)  So I claimed my space, got out my mat and sat.  I began to fidget after about 3 seconds.  I began to think of all the things I could be doing.  I realized this time could be better spent making a to-do list. I tried drawing my attention back to my breath, just like they say to do.

Notice the thoughts, then let them go.

I spent a lot of time noticing thoughts and then trying to let them go.  When that didn’t work, I tried to shove them out the door.  It became a wrestling match.  I lost.  And then…

And then I had a few blissful moments of actual, honest-to-God stillness.  In this moment of stillness it came…the realization that there was real life right here while I did nothing, thought nothing, was nothing.  There is meaning here, in a classroom filled with wanna-be yogis unrolling their mats and chatting about their weekends, right here in the too-loud mind of someone who thinks too much, right here in the very stillness.

I don’t know what all this means or how to put it in words that will help you find your own space for stillness.  I just know that in that space I found rest and grace.  In this silence, all my failures–for that matter, all my accomplishments–didn’t matter.  They would never matter and this a profound relief.  In this stillness, there was Enough.  More importantly, there was enough enoughness to make up for all that I lack.  I am not enough.  I never will be.  But in the quiet stillness there was Enough for me to soak in and soak up, enough to take with me.  Enough to share.

By 2:00 that feeling had faded and I was back to wind-up toy status.  It’s a work in progress.  But it was a nudge I needed.  I know it is there again–for me and for you, rest and grace and Enough, all waiting in the stillness.