As a yoga teacher who works with children and teens, I have found that incorporating mindfulness into my teaching has made a far greater impact than yoga alone. At the risk of aging myself, kids are living in a different world than the one I grew up in, and it is not a world that encourages living mindfully. Between busy schedules, homework, and electronics, young people are just not given the opportunity to learn how to tap into their mind and bodies. Helping children and teens learn to live in the here and now comes with many benefits like improved academic performance, improved behavior, and relief from anxiety.
Before I began teaching mindfulness to children and teens I started by reading up on the subject. I knew how to teach mindfulness for adults, but not for children. Children and teens need it simple, engaging, and relatable. I started off by purchasing dozens of books, most of which were a waste of money. To save you from the same mistake, I have put together a list of the books that I actually use on a regular basis and the ones my children and students actually enjoy.
It is also worth noting that in my experience adults can benefit from mindfulness activities designed for children, but not the other way around.
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Not a book, but these cards provide 50 different mindfulness activities for children. Many are customized for specific events, like when your child is trying something new. More importantly, they are all made for child sized attention spans. Almost all of the activities can be accomplished in under 5 minutes which makes them great for use in a classroom or yoga studio.
This book is one of my favorites, but I recommend it for younger age ranges. I use it mainly with 3-7 year olds when I teach in schools. The illustrations are beautiful, and I have incorporated it into many of the yoga classes I teach with kids.
This is the book I use with the widest age range. I should note, this is not a book like the others that I can simply read aloud to kids. It is intended for parents and teachers who are looking to introduce mindfulness. It has many activities that can be incorporated in school or at home. While the book is designed for children, I use the activities with teens and adults as well. My favorite activity from this book is to have kids learn to associate their emotions with different types of weather and then look at their emotional weather the same way we look at the weather outside. It becomes a quick check in to just ask them to sit quietly for a moment to check what their weather is like. The book also comes with a CD that can be used in classes and in school classrooms.
I chose this book for the list because it is the favorite of my 11 and 7 year olds. My 11 year old has found it helpful with her anxiety, and my 7 year old has found it helpful for his temper. I enjoy the fact that it is broken into different sections based on whether you want to help kids relax, focus, energize or more. To incorporate into a yoga class, I have to add breaths and some fun descriptions, but it is definitely worth the small investment if you plan to teach mindfulness.
Another favorite from my 8 and under students. What I like about this book is that it helps children see that bad days and bad feelings are normal, and helps them learn to cope with those feelings. It also comes with instructions for a fun craft/activity at the end, and my students have really enjoyed making their own “mind jars.” It may be a little long for younger crowds, so with preschool age kids this book may be best after a recess or yoga session when they have had time to get their wiggles out.
While this is not a true mindfulness book, this is my favorite book for teaching children about self-talk. I use this during lessons geared toward anxiety, self-esteem, and self-confidence. Children give their thoughts a lot of power, and I love that this book helps them see that their thoughts are just that, a thought. It provides ideas for eliminating our negative self-talk so that we can feel our power. At the end of the book there is a great list of activities and discussions that parents can use to build their child’s self-esteem. And don’t we all need a reminder that we have some magic in us?
For your students teen through adults, this book has been another favorite. It provides mindfulness activities that you can use in your teaching as well as ideas for how they can incorporate it into their everyday lives. These are all made to be fast activities which seems to be preferred by teens. I also feel like this book helps to dispel some misunderstandings about mindfulness. So often students seem to think they have to wait for me to lead them, or wait until they can find a quiet place where they can just sit. This book shows them that mindfulness can be done anywhere, at any time.
This is the only book that I was hesitant to recommend, so I will make it a bonus on this list. This book has come with mixed reviews from those students whom I have used it with. The ones who found it helpful absolutely loved it, and those who did not absolutely hated it. There was no middle ground. First off, it reads like a text book and is designed for a school counselor or teacher. There are very few exercises that I would offer in a mindfulness class, but this is a common one for students to borrow from me. While many of my teens did not like the activities, I do think the introduction and explanation of mindfulness is valuable. It explains why mindfulness can be beneficial to their lives, and provides mindfulness activities for real life teen events like before an athletic event, driving, or college interview.