Although the practice of mindfulness has been around for centuries, it, along with a spat of mindfulness books for children, have lately become a wee bit trendy. Such is the way of things. But we won't dwell on that (just be mindful of it, ha ha ha). Clearly teaching mindfulness to kids is trending because, as the research shows, it is effective in helping children learn life-long techniques to control their bodies and brains.
With this list of picture books to teach kids mindfulness, I have taken an expansive view of how children can practice mindfulness. While most of the books focus on being thoughtful and quiet while taking notice of the details in one's surroundings, others approach the idea of mindfulness as being in the moment when sharing an experience with a loved one, learning a new ritual, or figuring out how to deal with big feelings. A few books even offer practical activities that kids can implement on their own or with a trusted grown-up. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
And of course, reading a book, is often a lovely, peaceful moment, too.
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh, illustrated by Wietske Vriezen. A Zen master uses pebbles to teach meditation in this book which contains instructions for practical activities that children and their grown-ups can do to connect with nature and maintain a calm, mindful attitude in a busy, noisy world. Because the activities are hands-on instead of just "sitting still and listening" this book is especially useful for those kids who need to constantly move.
Now by Antoinette Portis. I loved this book, both its simplicity and its exuberance. A young girl experiences the joys of the world, enjoying all the things around her and declaring her favorites, whether they be a puddle of mud or a moment with a loved one. A great reminder about finding joy in the immediate experience.
A Morning with Grandpa by Sylvia Liu, illustrated by Christina Forshay. Mindfulness doesn't have to take place in solitude! I adore this book about how a girl connects with her grandfather over the practice of Tai Chi. Mei Mei joins her grandpa in the morning for his daily ritual but while he is smooth and graceful, Mei Mei puts her own spin on things, reminding us that mindfulness need not always be practiced in the stillness. A wonderful story.
A Boy and a Bear: A Relaxation Story introducing deep breathing to decrease stress and anger while promoting peaceful sleep. by Lori Lite. We've had this book since the boys were young. I would read it to them at bedtime and they would listen and actually relax and try to breathe like the bear in the story! As with everything with kids, encouraging peaceful bedtimes can be hit or miss, but this book definitely helped me a lot.
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandh and Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Evan Turk. The story is narrated by then-12 year old Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. Arun goes to live with his grandfather, which was considered a great honor. One day his grandfather gets angry, a surprise to Arun. Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is a normal human emotion, that people must work to conquer and transform so that it can be used for a good purpose. This is a marvelous, must-read book that will encourage your kids to think about the role emotions play in the choices we make towards peaceful solutions.
What Does it Mean to be Present? by Rana DiOro, illustrated by Eliza Wheeler. This book, with its simple text teaches kids that being "present" is not just being physically present, it is about being mindful of one's surroundings. Listening, seeing, using one's mind in a thoughtful manner. Great for parents, too!
The Other Way to Listen, and The Way to Start the Day by Byrd Baylor, illustrated by Peter Parnall. I wanted to put all of Baylor's books on this list because they all, in some way, address the issue of being mindful of our place in the world. However, I am limiting myself to just these two. The first is about -- you guessed it -- learning how to really listen to the sounds around us (a strong theme in this book list!). The second book is about the joys of greeting a new day and the different ways cultures start the day. And I'm not going to lie, I love the 1970s quality of the illustrations!
Charlotte and the Quiet Place by Deborah Sosin, illustrated by Sara Woolley. I liked this book because you keep expecting Charlotte to find a physical place to escape all the noise of the city. Yet, Charlotte learns she must rely on her inner self to find a quiet place.
I am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Verde is a yoga teacher and in this second collaboration with Reynolds, she takes the reader on a soothing journey of mindfulness, centeredness and compassion for the world. (To be released Sept. 2017)
One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Mannis, illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung. A child’s love of the Japanese Garden is the inspiration behind this collection of haiku poetry which is also a counting book. And what's more meditative that being in a Japanese Garden? Cleverly, the poems follow the girl’s journey through the garden as she discovers and admires its delights. Poetry is great for promoting mindfulness. See more Haiku books for kids here.
The Happiest Tree: A Yoga Story by Uma Krishmaswam, illustrated by . Meena is working on the school play. She works on the sets but is also going to be playing a tree. She is nervous that she is too clumsy. One day she walks by a yoga studio and her aunt encourages her to sign up. Learning yoga techniques is the key to overcoming her nervousness and she becomes "the happiest tree in the whole forest."
Visiting Feelings by Lauren Rubenstein, illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger. Children are invited to notice their feelings without judgement and to give their feelings sensory descriptions such as "smooth" like ice cream or "sharp" like stones. Interestingly, the feelings are not named, allowing children to experience their emotions without preconceived ideas.
Take the Time: Mindfulness for Kids by Maud Rogiers. This French import gently guides children to slow down and teaches them the basic steps towards mindfulness, encouraging them to breath and notice the world around them.
The Lemonade Hurricane: A Story of Mindfulness and Meditation by Licia Morelli, illustrated by Jennifer E. Morris. Emma likes to sit and rest after a busy day at school, but her brother, "the lemonade hurricane," as she calls him, is exactly the opposite. Emma decides Henry could benefit from learning how to meditate. This book also includes meditation exercises the kids can do.
The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, illustrated by Julia Kuo. In noisy Tokyo, a boy searches for his favorite sound: silence. The art in this book is detailed and reveling in the illustrations is an exercise in mindfulness itself! Yoshio searches and searches and then comes to the realization that silence is actually always with us.
The Three Questions [Based on a story by Leo Tolstoy] by Jon J. Muth. I like to recommend this book as much as possible and it is a good stepping stone for a discussion with your kids about what constitutes inner happiness. They will ask, What is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? and reflect on the importance of doing good deeds and paying attention to the immediate moment.
The Listening Walk by Paul Showers, illustrated by Aliki. This gentle story about a girl who takes the time to notice the sounds in the neighborhood has been teaching preschoolers mindfulness since 1961. I particularly like that she notices all kinds of sounds, both quiet and ear-splitting. The young protagonist is white, but the world she sees is somewhat diverse.
When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang. This is a classic book about feelings, and offers up a simple way for kids to face their anger. Sophie gets angry because of a perceived unfairness and she blows her top. Her solution is to run away and climb a tree, looking out into the wide world until she feels calm. The message that a peaceful space will help in times of turmoil is a useful one.
Silence by Lemniscates. You will notice that many of these books ask children to reflect on the sounds they hear. A girl listens, "in the silence" to sounds of nature, to the movement of her own body and to the seasons as she passes through them.
More lists with mindfulness books:
- Books about peace
- Books about happiness
- Books to inspire kids to change the world
- See all my book lists here (more that 200!)