As we are developing our next big book project, we want to share our best finds for picture books that encourage mindfulness for kids... and adults! Here are our recommendations:
Note: Most of these books are specifically about mindfulness. Others we consider "mindfulness-adjacent" as they encourage gentle observation of our world, and their beautiful illustrations can easily be used to open a discussion with a child about being mindful. Oftentimes, storytelling is a much more effective teaching vehicle than straightforward lecturing.
1. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy
We love this book! And so do 14,000+ reviews on Amazon. This isn't a standard picture book, it's a collection of Charlie Mackesy's popular instagram posts. While not strictly about mindfulness, Charlie's gentle drawings remind us to be present, to be brave, to be compassionate. You can start this book on any page as it really is more a collection of individual vignettes. We read it straight through and loved the loose narrative as well. Kids and adults alike will treasure this book.
2. A World of Pausabilities, by Frank Sileo and Jennifer Zivoin
This is a traditional picturebook appropriate for kids of any age. It introduces the word "pausability" as a new term to describe taking a mindful moment. While the text is not a story, kids will enjoy the little narrative being carried in the illustration. The book helpfully concludes with some info and practical tips for parents and caregivers on introducing mindfulness into their child's life.
3. A Handful of Quiet, by Thich Naht Hanh
This is not a traditional picture book but more like an illustrated guide. Revered Buddhist monk Thich Naht Hanh introduces a simple but effective form of meditation using just four pebbles that helps guide a child through a mindful practice.
4. Sitting Still Like A Frog Activity Book, by Eline Snel and Marc Boutavant: This book provides 75 mindfulness games for kids and includes stickers and coloring pages. It is based on the author's book Sitting Still Like A Frog, but this time is made directly for children. There are some helpful parable-like stories sprinkled throughout, and overall is effective in providing a fun way for kids to interact with the lessons of mindfulness. We're not sold on the off-green and grey color palette of the book, but the illustrations are otherwise cute.
5. Mindful Games for Kids, by Kristina Sargent: This is a book of various games that you can incorporate into your mindfulness lessons with kids, and definitely one of the better illustrated. In a test run of CAMP, we tried the stone surfing game to introduce how to breathe deeply, and it was actually a lot of fun for the kids! This is not an activity book (there is nothing to fill out or color or cut out in the book), but provides games for the reader to physically do by themselves or with others.
6. The Seed of Compassion, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Bao Luu: Back to traditional picture books! I didn't include this one further up because this book is more about compassion than mindfulness, but the two themes go hand-in-hand. This book tells the story of the Dalai Lama's life with a focus on how his mom helped him cultivate compassion, and how that seed of compassion lives in all of us. This is one of the most story-driven of the books on this list, so great for kids who learn better through storytelling.
7. My Friend Earth, by Patricia MacLachlan and Francesca Sanna: This is what I consider mindfulness-adjacent. It's a beautifully illustrated picturebook about mother nature, and really lends itself to the mindful observation of our wonderful earth. To be honest I have not found any mindfulness picture books where I also love the illustrations, so I have to balance it out with some of these beautiful mindfulness-adjacent books :)
8. Here We Are, by Oliver Jeffers: This is another mindfulness-adjacent picture book. Oliver Jeffers is of course one of the most popular author-illustrators of our time, and this book is another one of his greats. Written for his then-newborn son, it introduces us to earth and space and its inhabitants in a gentle way. The illustrations welcome kids to interact with them, mindfully observing the pages and pointing out little details. PS This book was also turned into an animated short on Apple TV.
9. Big Ideas for Curious Minds, by School of Life: This is an illustrated chapter book that is for older kids grades 4 and up. It introduces philosophy concepts through short bios of famous philosophers, from Socrates to Aristotle to Buddha. We would also count this as mindfulness-adjacent, as the ponderings encourage observation and awareness of our world. It is a very nicely designed book, and is a great read for adults as well!
10. Guardians of Being, by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell: This is one of our favorite books on this list, but we saved it for closer to the end mostly because we think it's really more for adults than kids. The messages in the text are directed more towards people who are distracted and stressed out in their lives. Leading spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle and Mutts comics creator Patrick McDonnell make the perfect team to show us how our pets can teach us mindfulness. The message is sweet, charming and poignant. While adults will get more out of it, kids will enjoy it as well.
11. Planting Seeds, by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community: This is a great resources filled with mindfulness exercises for kids.
And of course, last but not least, our book Let's Go Explore is also a mindfulness-adjacent book. Encourage kids to find the hidden sprites and observe the details on every page. Ask them what they notice and encourage them to be mindful next time they are exploring their world. The best explorers are mindful explorers! After all, it's all about noticing and being aware of what is around you in the present moment.
We'll keep adding books to this list as we find more. Feel free to share any recommendations of your own in the comments. Last updated 10.1.2020.