What comes to mind for you when you think of mindfulness? You likely don’t think of a five-year old practicing it. Yet mindfulness can absolutely be adapted to be fully accessible and approachable to kids.
Why do that adapting? Kids are learning and growing at just about lightspeed, it can seem like. Learning, growing and gaining new experiences — as wonderful as all of that is — can come with uncertainty, anxiety, disappointment, and other challenging emotions. With a kid-friendly mindfulness practice, young ones can begin gaining the skills to handle life’s ups and down with more calm, joy, and authentic connection with other people.
Lara Hocheiser’s and Mindfulness Workbook, for ages 5 and up but specifically designed for ages 5-7, offers more than 60 exercises to start kids on their mindfulness practice journey. These exercises also open windows for parents to engage in their child’s learning and growth, and even benefit through mindfulness themselves — creating the potential to make more connected and harmonious families.
How does Hocheiser make mindfulness kid-friendly, and moreover in a book format where the content itself has to carry the learning and understanding? Interactivity makes the content engaging. Relatability can further draw young readers, foster understanding, and help them feel better understood.
Finally, in many ways the book offers suggestions for continuing the practice beyond the book — therein placing the exercises as stepping stones to an even longer, deeper, and more fruitful practice long after the book is finished.
From drawing to writing to choices among given options, interactivity is the name of the game with this book. Well, it is a workbook, so that’s par for the course, right? On the other hand, when I think of workbooks, I think of dull visuals and drab lines for dry answers to dry questions (might just be my elementary school memories talking there!).
Yet this workbook’s activities are interactive in a way that kids will want to interact with: drawing from their imaginations, writing about their thoughts and feelings, reflecting on their favorite things and less-than-favorite things.
To the former, young readers are guided to draw their “worry monster” (and thus externalize it into something not so scary, maybe something that can even make them giggle) and at another point someone or something that makes them feel calm and happy.
To the latter, the workbook guides kids to write three things they see that they are grateful for. That can help take attention away from worry and anxiety — and, in a larger sense, to begin recognizing that even in challenging moments there are things in one’s life to celebrate. In another exercise, the workbook guides readers to think of three kind, loving thoughts to send to someone they care about (and it doesn’t even have to be someone the reader is with!).
Truly engaging graphics and compelling writing frame all of this interactivity, making the exercises a pleasure rather than a chore to accomplish. It’s all in service of the ultimate goal: giving kids tools for managing big emotions, interacting in more prosocial ways, and knowing themselves better.
All of the above also attests to the sincere relatability of the content as well; Hocheiser doesn’t write like an adult talking down to a child on subject matter that they have no reference point for or interest in — quite far from it! For example, she includes periodic stories of how kids use mindfulness to better handle challenging situations, hurt feelings, interpersonal disagreements, and the like.
These stories sound like genuine snapshots from kids’ lives: arguing with a sibling over a broken toy, nervousness over going to a new school, self-doubt about one’s skills in math class, struggle to pay attention to a parent saying something serious (and maybe um…a little boring).
I could picture children reading these stories and seeing their lives reflected. For one, that can engage them more closely — because the content is familiar, understood, and interesting. For two, kids can see that this mindfulness stuff they’re reading about could help them, too; maybe it’s not just for grown-ups!
Thus engaged, kids can follow along, learn, try the exercises, and start to form a mindfulness practice. From there, they can watch their ability to manage tough emotions, interpersonal challenges, and other hard situations with more grace and ease. What a gift to start that young!
Indeed, Hocheiser makes clear that this book can be just the beginning. She suggests ways to use certain exercises over and over again to feel better, for instance. One exercise has kids drawing themselves doing things that make them feel proud and awesome — and Lara suggests bookmarking that for when readers might need a confidence boost or a reminder, for any reason, about why they’re special.
Hocheiser is also realistic about the scope of the book, offering kids ways to seek support outside of it — such as in consulting a trusted adult or a friend a reader may trust. Hocheiser demonstrates that the practice isn’t really found in the book (as much as it’s a wonderful guide), but out in life and in the world.
In a closing letter to readers, she suggests picking favorite exercises from the book and making sure to practice them often — thus making it a mindfulness practice. She also challenges readers to choose a friend to teach these exercises: a wonderful way for the book to create ripple effects of greater and greater harmony and joy.
When children learn to handle life’s challenges and embrace its joys even more fully through mindfulness, the world can benefit. And it can start with one little workbook. Brava and thank you to Lara Hocheiser and publishers for that incomparable gift!