As I’ve been diving into children’s yoga, I’ve been exploring the wonderful world of kid’s literature!
Storytelling is such a powerful tool for all ages, and I find that nothing captures and holds attention quite like a beautifully written and illustrated picture book.
So, to celebrate Book Week 2020, here are my top 4 favourite children’s books that I use in my yoga and mindfulness classes!
Embrace Your Body by Taryn Brumfitt and Sinead Hanley
You may know Taryn Brumfitt as the founder of The Body Image Movement, and writer and director of the acclaimed documentary ‘Embrace’. The movement is all about the “quest to end the global body-hating epidemic”, and they believe that everyone has the right to love
and embrace their body, especially children!
This is 100% in line with the Bumblebee Yoga values, so when I saw this book, I knew we had to have it. I was even lucky enough to get a signed copy!
I think talking about body positivity from a young age is so important, because we’re bombarded with so many messages telling us otherwise as we grow older. Especially when it comes to physical movement like yoga, for us it’s never about moving to change our bodies, it’s moving our bodies to feel good and have fun.
The book itself has gorgeous illustrations, and a great message. It showcases a combination of body-positive affirmations, things we can be grateful for in our bodies, and a true celebration of diversity. There’s also a song that goes along with it that you can listen to on their website! Plus, the website also has a study guide to the Embrace Education program for schools, and of course books and resources about embracing yourself at every age.
I’ve found that kids really resonate with the message of the book. It’s a great way for me to start a conversation about how our bodies can all do different things, and we don’t need to compare ourselves to other people, because we’re all beautiful and talented in our own ways.
All bodies are good bodies, and all yoga poses are good poses as long as we’re having fun and staying safe!
My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss
The one and only, unbeatable, Dr Seuss. This book is a really fantastic tool to talk about emotions and mindfulness with children.
I actually got this idea from Maia at Kumarah Yoga so full credit to her here! But I have
started using this book, and incorporating some other emotional regulation resources, including activities inspired by the Big Life Journal (which I also highly recommend!).
The book takes us through a whole spectrum of different emotions, in true Dr Seuss rhyming style. Each feeling has a colour that goes along with it, and an animal that helps to explain the feeling.
For example, one of my favourite lines (for obvious reasons) is:
“Then comes a yellow day, and WEEEE, I am a busy, buzzy bee.”
It gives a fantastic class structure, as we read through the book together, talk about each emotion, and then do a yoga pose with the animal in the story. It keeps the class really engaged and interacting with both the class and the story. And of course, it makes a great standalone book to ready with your kids.
The thing I love most about this is that none of the emotions are labelled as good or bad. This is a core idea behind mindfulness practice, that we just accept the emotions for being there instead of pushing them away or chasing after them. It completely normalises the full spectrum of emotions and gives plenty of space to feel them fully.
It also gives children some more vocabulary to be able to describe how they’re feeling. It might be hard to say, “I’m feeling fatigued today”, but it might be easier to say, “I feel brown like a sleepy bear today”.
Overall, great emotional learning tool and a really fun class to run!
Your Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak and Sarah Ackerley
Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a total neuroscience nerd. It also took me an entire degree to learn some of the stuff that this book explains so beautifully!
Though it’s a picture book, it communicates some really complicated ideas in an incredibly
accessible and easy to understand way. There are some parts of the book that maybe went over the heads of some of my younger students (my 4-5 year olds), but I still felt like everyone in the class got something out of it (especially my 7-9s!). But, be prepared for some questions, and be willing to go on a learning experience with your kids! You’re opening a curiosity can of worms here.
The book is all about growth mindset. It talks about what the brain is, explains the parts of the brain and the jobs that those parts do, and then talks all about how your brain grows and stretches when you try new things and make mistakes!
The pictures are especially great in the anatomy pages. The drawings of the brain are clear, well explained, and have great examples that kids can relate to. Sometimes if I’m not reading the full book, I’ll still use those pages to help me explain how the brain works in a more visual way.
Growth mindset and understanding how the brain works is such a useful conversation tool in our yoga classes. I’ve had kids say to me: “I fell down in that pose, but now my brain is growing!”. What that tells me is that kids are understanding that being scared or making mistakes is a normal part of life, and something that they can use to learn and improve. That’s so powerful!
I absolutely love this book, and it’s become a huge influence on the way I teach and engage my students. I’ve even used some of this language to explain the concepts in my adult classes!
Rosie’s Brain by Linda Ryden
Rosie’s Brain is another fantastic tool to talk to kids about how the brain works. But while ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain’ is a non-fiction book with facts and examples, Rosie’s Brain follows a story, and focuses more on what happens in our brain and body when we have big feelings.
The story is about a young girl, Rosie, who forgets about her piano lesson, and gets really upset when she’s not allowed to play with her friend. She yells at her mother and storms to her bedroom. She talks about what she’s noticing in her body, like feeling puffed out and hot in the face. Then, Rosie’s Amygdala, Hippocampus, and Pre-Frontal Cortex turn up in the form of different personified characters to explain to Rosie what’s going on in her brain.
The book does a great job of explaining the role of those three key brain parts, and how they react when we get upset. And more importantly, they explain how to calm down the Amygdala (emotional centre of the brain) and put the Pre-Frontal Cortex (the rational brain) back in charge, by taking some slow, deep breaths.
Using the ‘flipping the lid’ analogy is a great tool to teach mindfulness, especially to children. It can then be a way to introduce the idea of mindful breathing, which combines the conversations about how the brain works and how our emotions work. Doing this in a storytelling way is also super engaging for the kids, and something that they feel like they can relate to.
Sometimes we’ll also have some time for the students to discuss examples from their own lives, or they can make their own characters to imagine what their own Amygdala, Hippocampus, and Pre-Frontal Cortex would look like!
There are SO many books about yoga, mindfulness, emotions, bodies, and brains that are available for kids. I encourage you to get out there and explore what there is on offer!
These 4 are my go-to books that I highly recommend, and I can’t wait to discover more and more to be able to bring to my students.
What should we read next? Let us know in the comments!