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Meditation for kids has proven benefits. In fact, practising for just five minutes a day has been shown to improve focus, mood and concentration and to help children manage the stress and ups and downs which are an inevitable part of life.
Yoga has been an important part of my life for quite a few years now and I was introduced to mindfulness meditation about two years ago. Both are now an essential part of keeping me physically and mentally well and happy.
So what is mindfulness?
The terms mindfulness and meditation are sometimes used interchangeably and that's OK because they're pretty much the same thing.
Mindfulness is basically paying attention to what is happening in the present moment. That means this moment, right now, and it means paying attention to what you are doing right now, to what you are feeling in your body, to what you are thinking and to what is going on around you. Mindfulness is about noticing all these things but not making judgments about them.
The benefits of mindfulness are amazing. Mindfulness helps us calm down and deal with difficult things, avoid distractions and enjoy the world around us. Practising mindfulness leads to happier relationships with others and with ourselves, increased confidence and better health. And that's really just the beginning of the benefits of mindfulness.
Because I am a mum and teacher, I have been very interested to read the recent research about the wonderful benefits which flow from teaching mindfulness meditation and yoga to children.
Over and over again, research is confirming the benefits and I am loving the
fact that more and more teachers are incorporating a few minutes of
daily meditation into their daily classroom routines.
So what exactly does the research show?
In a nutshell, it shows that children who practise meditation or yoga (which is a type of meditation) regularly do better at school, have more positive relationships and enjoy better physical and psychological well-being. So it's worth looking into.
The books on this page are my favourite books for introducing children to these life-enhancing practices. It is my hope that you will enjoy reading them with your little ones and practise the exercises together. By doing so you will be giving them a wonderful gift which will help them develop resilience,focus and a peaceful attitude to life.
1. The ABCs of Yoga for Kids. This is a lovely book for introducing young children to yoga. Each pose is linked to a letter of the alphabet as in accompanied by a rhyming verse describing the pose and an illustration of a child practising it. Some of the poses are described using the usual English translation of their name (Cobra, Downward Dog, etc) while others are renamed to fit in the alphabet theme. Snuggle up together to read the book aloud or read the rhyme and do the pose.
Recommended for ages: 3-10 years
2. A Handful of Quiet. This book introduces Thich Nhat Hanh's pebble meditation and provides ideas about how to teach it to children. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk, scholar and human rights activist who helped to develop the Pebble Meditation as part of
the Plum Village community's practice with children. Pebble meditation
is a fun, hands-on activity that parents and teachers can do with children to introduce them to meditation. It touches on our connection to nature and can help children manage stress, practise gratitude and manage difficult emotions.
3. Mindful Movements. This wonderful little book includes a DVD which demonstrates the ten 'meditations in motion'. Meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh guides you through a series of gentle exercises specifically designed to cultivate a joyful awareness of body and breath. This easy-to-learn practice is suitable for children and for adults of any age. It combines simple stretches and graceful gestures with mindfulness meditations.
4. Little Yoga. This book is designed to be a fun and gentle introduction to yoga for little ones aged from about 12 months up. A few basic poses are shown, some of which have been renamed for the animals they resemble. The illustrations and text are simple and photos of children practising the poses are included in the back of the book, along with tips for parents.
5. I Am Yoga. Yoga strengthens bodies and calms minds but it is also very empowering, strengthening creativity and showing us that anything is possible. This delightful book encourages children to explore the world of yoga and to make room in their hearts for the world beyond it. It includes a child-friendly guide to 17 yoga poses.
6. Little Flower Yoga for Kids. This book is for parents, teachers and other adults keen to introduce yoga to children or simply to read the growing body of evidence that demonstrates that yoga and mindfulness practices can help children develop focus and concentration. The simple yoga exercises are designed to be easily integrated into the child’s daily routine, improving health, behavior, and even school achievement. A brilliant, comprehensive book about the benefits of mindfulness and yoga for children.
7. Sitting Still Like a Frog. I know a number of teachers who use this book in their classrooms and their kiddos love it. The book is basically an introduction to mindfulness meditation for parents and teachers keen to teach this to their children or students. The accompanying CD includes practices for children that can help them calm themselves down, become more
focused, fall asleep more easily, manage stress, worries and anger and become more patient and aware.
8. Buddha at Bedtime. This book contains 20 beautifully-illustrated short stories for children which are based on ancient Buddhist tales. The stories are each 1.5-2.5 pages long so they're perfect for reading at bedtime. Each story highlights a moral or ethical dilemma that echoes problems children face in their own lives. The stories are a great intro into discussing all sorts of issues with your children and how they might tackle them in their own lives. At the end of each story, the relevant Buddhist principles are discussed however you can, of course, skip these if that's not your thing.
Recommended for ages: 4-10 years
9. Sleepy Little Yoga. This bright, colourful book features a sequence of nine simple yoga poses designed to help young children relax and wind down before nap or bedtime. The poses mimic the movements of night-time animals: bats, owls, tired bunnies and sleepy bees. The book also includes useful information for parents and teachers and photos showing each pose.
Recommended for ages: 2 years and up
10. Peaceful Piggy Meditation. This is an excellent introductory book on
meditation that can be used to teach the practice to children. It discusses finding a quiet spot, a special place with a few simple things, and
focusing on breathing, using cute illustrations of Peaceful Piggy. The book also guides children through the
reasons why meditation is necessary, using a great, hands-on demonstration.
Recommended for ages: 4-9 years
11. Good Night Yoga. This lovely book is both a bedtime story and a series of simple poses which follow the natural world as it comes to rest at day's end. The text is lyrical and gentle, yet the book is also a very practical, user-friendly way to introduce children to yoga and a calming bedtime routine.
Recommended for ages: 2-12 years
12. Master of Mindfulness. This book has a slightly different focus to the others on this page. It was written by a Year 5 teacher and his class with the goal of helping children become more confident, focused and calm and to help them tap into their own inner strength. The book helps children learn skills such as mindful breathing which can help them calm down and deal with things differently. The book presents mindful activities proven to make it easier to pay attention, accept yourself and others, manage anger and even get to sleep at night. It covers some of the brain science behind why mindfulness helps people to feel better, stay in the present moment, be kind, and make good decisions and includes easy and fun practices like mindful breathing, noticing your feelings, paying attention to your body, and mindful eating.
I haven't yet used this book with a class but I think it would be a wonderful way to introduce the idea of mindfulness to children aged from about nine. The illustrations and text are designed to be very practical and appealing to older kids and it's a very engaging book.
Recommended for ages: 9-15 years
13. Yoga Babies
This delightful rhyming picture book is a new publication and it's a wonderful addition to the growing collection of yoga picture books for little ones. Each double-page spread features a simple yoga pose with a lovely verse which encourages children to try it for themselves. Here's an example:
"We're the Yoga Babies, look what we can do:
Rex can make the downward dog. Can you do it too?"
This book is a terrific introduction to yoga for very small people. It would be great to read it aloud to your baby from birth.
Recommended for ages: 0-3 years