Do you sometimes feel like you are running around from one thing to the next? And do you sometimes feel your little one’s social life is even busier than yours? When there is no break for anyone and everyone’s in a rush, you can expect break-downs of various kinds, from temper tantrums (in younger children) all the way to panic attacks (in older ones). It’s a terrible thing to witness and, as the responsible grown-up, you often end up feeling powerless.
In our round-up this month, we focus on books that can help you and your child slow down, focus and take a breath. There are lots of benefits in practising yoga and mindfulness with even very young kids. It’s good for their flexibility, their overall motor skills, their balance, but also their mental well-being, since it can be used as either a release of pent-up energy or as an opportunity to calm down. Any story time can be turned into yoga time as long as the story features some animals (lion pose! downward dog pose! cat pose! You name it!), and you can always add in the odd tree or mountain. Of course, you’ll have to get down on the floor yourself and strike those poses too. For a brilliant guide to doing yoga with kids of various ages, try Yoga Fun for Toddlers, Children and You by Juliet Pegrum. The website Flow and Grow Kids Yoga (https://www.flowandgrowkidsyoga.com/kids-yoga-poses/) also has some great pose breakdowns to help you along.
Little ones will love ‘doing’ the Yoga Babies (Ferne Cotton and Sheena Dempsey) with you, and the now-classic My Daddy is a Pretzel (Baron Baptiste and Sophie Fatus) should also be a hit. If you are feeling more philosophical than physical, give ABC Mindful Me a go. Christiane Engel’s simple rhyme and bright illustrations will take you and your kid on an alphabetical journey from ‘Awareness’ to ‘Zen’ and give you lots of food for thought.
Knowing your feelings and being able to correctly identify them is the first step towards mental wellbeing, and books such as Making Faces: A First Book of Emotions (for babies and toddlers), Todd Parr’s The Feelings Book (from age 3+) or Mary Hoffman and Ros Asquith’s Great Big Book of Feelings is a good place to start, before moving on to more focussed titles such as Calm, Mindfulness for Kids by Wynne Kinder (from age 6) or The Unworry Book by Alice James and Stephen Moncrieff (9+). In those last two books, you will find plenty of explanations on how anxiety works and plenty of tips on what you can do about it, from mindful eating to creating mandalas. Finally, Sitting Still Like a Frog (Eline Snel and Marc Boutavant) is a brilliant resource for parents, with guided meditations (on a CD, as MP3 files and printed text) and mindfulness games for kids aged 5–12. There is also a very useful activity book to go with it.
So, this summer why not take a break, take a book … and breathe!
Juliette Saumande (juliettesaumande.blogspot.ie), a children’s book writer whose latest title, My Little Album of Dublin, is illustrated by Tarsila Krüse and published by The O’Brien Press.
ABC Mindful Me by Christiane Engel, Quarto, 36pp, ISBN 9781633225107
From ‘Awareness’ to ‘Zen’ these twenty-six very short, brightly illustrated rhymes will help engage in conversation with your little one about their emotions. Read it in one go or use it as a how-to guide to shed light on specific issues and pick up some good tips along the way for understanding your feelings, gauging your energy levels and appreciating that it’s ‘a joy to be alive.’ (Age 2+)
My Daddy is a Pretzel by Baron Baptiste, illustrated by Sophie Fatus, Barefoot Books, 48pp, ISBN 9781846868993
‘Niki says her mommy is a gardener. Sometimes my daddy is a tree. Sita’s mommy is a marine biologist. Sometimes my daddy is a fish.’ This fun, whimsical book combines stunning illustration with clear, simple text to introduce very young readers to a range of postures and link those up to everyday situations and contexts. This is one to try together, before letting older readers use it by themselves whenever they feel the need to stretch, breathe or energise. (Ages 4–7)
Calm, Mindfulness for Kids by Wynne Kinder, DK Publishing, 72pp, ISBN 9781465470904
A clear, accessible and fun guide to taking a break from a busy schedule or an anxious patch, Calm is full of simple ideas and tips for kids and includes some guidance for parents, too. Learn how to focus, to pay attention to your senses, to zero in on the present, and more, through simple exercises as well as some cool crafts, like the glitter jar, the gratitude paper chain or the breathing buddies. (Age 6+)
The Unworry Book by Alice James and Stephen Moncrieff, Usborne, 96pp, ISBN 9781474950770
Part guide to the science of stress and anxiety, part toolkit packed full of tips and techniques, this is an excellent write-in book to be used by the worrier in your life. It will give them a chance to honestly lay down their fears in the worry diary, as well as provide clever ‘emergency calm-down’ methods ranging from mindful observation to mindful colouring, creative writing and more. Highly recommended. (Age 9+)
For more reviews check out Inis magazine which is published by Children’s Books Ireland, the national children’s books organisation whose vision is an Ireland in which books are central to every child’s life.