When I think of mindfulness, I consider it the brain’s humble secret superpower. One which exists in each of us yet takes awareness and a lifetime of practice to continually cultivate.
Today’s world is a busy world. It can feel unbearably easy to allow distractions to consume our days. Without realizing it, we fill our heads with nonstop mental banter.
Mindfulness is the practice of living in the now without judgment of ourselves or others and without over-thinking.
Benefits of this age-old practice include emotional regulation, reduced reactivity, improvements in concentration, equanimity, empathy and self-acceptance.
A growing body of evidence shows us that that the benefits of mindfulness are not just anecdotal. Studies indicate that practicing mindfulness is an effective nonpharmacologic adjunct to treating ADHD, high blood pressure, sleep disturbance, aggression and anxiety within adulthood and childhood.
Given these benefits, what can we do to create mindful homes and plant these seeds from a young age? One simple way is through books.
Since my own children currently fall within the pre-K age range, my husband and I have grown fond of the following mindfulness books geared towards early childhood.
Sitting Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents) by Eline Snel
Here you’ll find a tangible introduction to mindful meditation. It conceptualizes mindfulness — a topic which can feel abstract at first — in a kid-friendly manner. This book explains the benefits of breathwork, eventually discussing emotional regulation and how mental awareness affects us physically. Included is an audio CD with eleven guided exercises on processing big emotions, improving focus, addressing rest and better understanding the mind-body relationship.
Deep Breaths by Carol Thompson
In this very relatable story, you’ll follow Jack and Dolly. Buddies who find themselves in a huge argument full of giant feelings. Through the use of breathing exercises and mindfulness, the pair figures out how to recognize those feelings, work through their quarrel, and ultimately mend their relationship. It’s an important lesson to all of us, no matter how big or small.
I Am Peace: A Book Of Mindfulness by Susan Verde
I Am Peace begins with a child announcing “there are times when I worry about what might happen next and what happened before.” How familiar! The child then takes a moment to center, grounding himself through breathwork and by focusing on the present. He uses his senses to connect to nature and finds peace in the “here and now.” The entire I Am series is worth diving into, including I Am Yoga, I Am Love and I Am Human. Each offers unique lessons on kindness, self-awareness, and compassion for others.
A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh
Author Thich Nhat Hanh is well known worldwide for his teachings on global ethics, mindfulness, and peaceful activism. This beautiful book introduces pebble meditation, a guided activity to help explain and begin the calming and grounding practice of meditation to young readers (and, again, older readers like myself!). There are four pebbles, each representative of an object and its associated qualities: love, bravery, calmness and freedom. We learn that each of us hold these qualities within ourselves, and as we practice mindfulness each grows stronger.
Reading can help establish the foundation and life-long practice of mindfulness. Truth be told, every member of my own family has benefited from the lessons and gentle reminders within these books. After all, stories help shape our values, perceptions of ourselves and that of the world around us.