These are, um, WEIRD times we are living in right now — filled with uncertainty, anxiety, and very little we can control. A lot of us are going to be home with our little m̶o̶n̶s̶t̶e̶r̶s̶ darlings. This is a great time to get acquainted or re-acquainted with incredibly grounding and helpful mindfulness techniques and programs.
This resource guide is based on my own research in helping my kid learn mindfulness, and it’s the kind of thing we librarians like to make. I am also heavily influenced by my own success after getting involved with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) classes. None of the links below are affiliate links, and I am only giving props to any particular resource for no reason other than it has worked well for me and my family and/or our friends. In fact, all book links are to a wonderful global online catalog to help you find it in your local library, which may be closed. So, consider supporting your town’s local indie bookstore instead.
What Is Mindfulness, and Why Do Kids Need It?
Mindfulness is simply the act of being present and aware. Mindfulness practice is any activity that helps a person find this state of present awareness, without judgment. Being mindful allows us to take in what we are experiencing, sit with that experience and determine best what is needed. It can help us de-escalate conflict, become better negotiators, and it can help build tolerance, empathy, and perspective.
- Decreases stress & anxiety.
- Builds resilience & emotional intelligence.
- It helps us all be better communicators.
- Starting young makes it easier to be a lifelong habit and practice.
- It can make you a better parent, too!
Our family has used mindfulness techniques to stop spiraling-out-of-control anxiety, talk about and cultivate gratitude, and find compassion for others that we might be having a tough time with. We are still crazy, but these techniques are helping us build a toolkit, and I’d love to share it with you!
Kids do not need mindfulness activities to be lengthy, fully resting meditation or next-level yogi stuff. It’s best to model the practice for and with them, never make them do it. Find a resource that works for you and easily fits into your routine and style.
- Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn- The guy who started it all with Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR.) This book is for parents and teens. It sets the stage, and it is based on Kabat-Zinn’s finely honed, evidence-based program that provides guidance for learning mindfulness and improving quality of life.
- Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla Kabat-Zinn and her husband Jon, the founder of MBSR, this is a comprehensive guide to mindful parenting.
- The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate by Susan Kaiser Greenland, this is a helpful guide for parents that includes techniques to help children develop mindfulness. (She is on the board of the app Stop, Breathe & Think, and how I came to choose this app for my family.)
- Mindful Games by Greenland and Harris, this book and activity card set pairs well with the book and is a great idea if the thought of apps and more screen time is freaking you out.
- Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel, features exercises that can help children deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions. Reading through this one really helped me, too.
- A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh, a famous Zen monk, wrote this beautiful guide for parents who want to introduce their children to mindfulness and meditation.
- Breathe Like a Bear: 30 Mindful Moments for Kids to Feel Calm and Focused Anytime, Anywhere- by Kira Willey is an adorable book, based on a CD, that is also a DVD/sometimes free streaming video through the library.
- Practices for Growing up Mindful: Guided Meditations and Simple Exercises for Children, Teens, and Families (audiobook) by Christopher Willard. This guide has 75 exercises and practices to try with your kids- great for older kids and adults, too.
- Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids by Whitney Stewart and Sally Rippin. My pre-reader-aged son loves to flip through the pages, and we usually try to do one or two exercises when we get this title from our local library.
- Ready, Set, Breathe : Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family by Carla Naumburg. This book is filled with parenting ideas, and it also contains a lengthy bibliography and citations if you are still on the hunt for more.
Videos & Audio
- Cosmic Kids Yoga & Mindfulness (The Zen Den)- on Youtube, Amazon Prime. I really appreciate how early you can get kids into yoga and basic mindfulness concepts as well as healthy breathing with this program. My son was enthralled by it as a two-year-old, and he still loves it four years later. (Also available in their app, which we have not tried.)
- Go Noodle- By FAR the most used in classrooms across the country. Devoted to movement as a means to connect to mindfulness, my educator friends use and love it. Chances are highly likely your school-aged kids are doing this with their teachers. Free sign up, apps too.
- Stop, Breathe & Think Youtube channel (Great, free teen and grown people programs, too!)My son absolutely loves Bulldog and his trip with the Martian butterflies.
- Breathe Like a Bear (Book & DVD) author Kira Wiley’s CDs. We love Kira’s work. It’s sweet, thoughtful, and fun.
- Audio resources on Susan Kaiser Greenland’s site. The collection of work created and supported by this author is clearly a labor of love and her true calling. You can probably learn everything you’d ever need to know bout mindful parenting here.
- Podcast — Mindful Parenting in a Messy World with Michelle Gale
- Podcast — Unruffled with Janet Lansbury. Janet is one of my favorite authors and a champion of respectful parenting. Although her podcast isn’t about mindfulness for kids, per se, she gives real-world examples and solutions for parents seeking a present, calm way to provide boundaries and support to their young children.
- Stop, Breathe & Think. Our absolute favorite, meet bulldog: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkY8_WlDexQ
- Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame. Adorable monster de-stresses kids with Sesame Street style. This one seems great if you're really trying to get going with a younger kid like a toddler.
- Meditations for Kids Calming, kid-friendly exercises and a nice, easy interface.
- Three Good Things — A Happiness Journal this might be a great fit for someone who is more of a journaler than a meditator.
More to peruse on Common Sense Media, constantly updated: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/lists/meditation-apps-for-kids
Make a calm down jar. This activity is especially great for pinteresting parents losing their minds, toddlers, and very little people that might not be ready for the other mindfulness exercises.
Do you have a favorite resource I’m missing here? I’d love to add it.