Mindfulness refers to different techniques for focusing on the present (rather than the past, as in rumination, or the future, as in worrying). It can be a useful relaxation and regulation strategy. It’s also really important in getting in touch with our feelings in order to listen to them, as well as developing a sense of which thoughts are worth listening to and acting on and which are not. Mindfulness can help us to realize that our thoughts and feelings are not always the absolute truth (sometimes our brains play tricks on us!) and that we can make choices about how we react to a thought or feeling.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This book teaches the “Name It, Tame It, Reframe It” strategy of emotion regulation (i.e., name the feeling, use a relaxation skill like deep breathing, and then shift one’s thinking to be more helpful), which is useful for a child who has explosive reactions when something goes wrong or doesn’t go their way. It’s an effective trifecta of strategies, and it’s a moderately fun way to introduce this concept.
Age range: Preschool through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This riff off of The Princess and the Pea teaches children relaxation skills to use before bed when they are having trouble feeling sleepy (including stretching, taking deep breaths, and doing a mindfulness exercise of placing worries on stars and watching them twinkle and disappear). It’s a fun, well-written read, and it easily leads into a child practicing the relaxation skills along with the Princess. Adults might benefit from joining in as well!
Age range: Kindergarten through 5th grade.
Recommended for: I highly recommend this workbook for parents and children to work through together over many weeks or even months. It’s ideal for a child who would like to feel less anxious and who is ready to learn some strategies for getting their anxiety more under control. This workbook is based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and is a comprehensive collection of evidence-based practices for childhood anxiety. Therapists may also be interested in using this book in session with clients as a way of structuring their treatment or as between-session “homework” for children and their caregivers as a means of reinforcing in-session content.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is a lovely collection of peaceful mindfulness exercises for a child to practice with an adult before bed, or really anytime they could use a relaxing reset. A child who often has a lot of racing thoughts or worries when they’re going to bed might particularly benefit from some of the exercises in this book. Therapists and child care providers interested in incorporating mindfulness exercises into their work with children might enjoy using this book during the day, as well. All but the last prompt on dreams are applicable to the daytime as well as bedtime.
Age range: Elementary-aged kids. Older kids will understand the depth of the story better than younger ones, but this story does such a nice job describing a complicated but important concept in an accessible way that many younger children will get a lot out of it too.
Recommended for: This book portrays the importance of sitting with and “unpacking” our feelings rather than avoiding them. It is excellent to read with children who think that feeling sad is wrong, weak, useless, or scary and therefore minimize what they’re feeling and/or who avoid thinking about or sharing their feelings. It’s also great for a child who is feeling sad about a family’s move (as Santiago is), but it’s certainly not limited to this specific situation. This story is available in Spanish as well as English.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Recommended for: Great for a kid whose days are often ruined by worry. It’s cute and non-threatening, and has a relatable dinosaur protagonist. Worrysaurus promotes insight into the way that worry ruins days (by making bad outcomes seem more likely or real than they probably are), encourages the creation of a coping box of favorite items to help a child to feel better when they’re worried, and gently introduces the idea that focusing on the present is an antidote to worries about the future.

When Sadness Comes to Call

Written and illustrated by Eva Eland
Age range: Preschool through elementary school. It’s simple on the surface but the message is profound.
Evidence-Based Practices: Mindfulness, Behavioral activation
Age range: Toddler through Kindergarten.
Recommended for: This story is really excellent for soothing a young child who has been woken up by a loud noise. It’s particularly relevant for a child who lives in a city. The Red Brick Building is an apartment building, and a car alarm is featured prominently. It’s a fun story with repetitive onomatopoeias that really sing, and it encourages a child to listen to the quiet sounds of a city night as they fall back asleep.
Age range: Toddler through 1st grade.
Recommended for: Young children who like dogs will enjoy this very adorable book about a dog who isn’t sleepy even though it’s bedtime. This book will help a non-sleepy child feel understood, and it encourages a child to get snug in their bed and think about the highlights of their day and what they’re looking forward to tomorrow. This book is also available in Spanish.
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Mindfulness, Exposure
Age range: Preschool through 2nd grade.
Recommended for: This book is the only one that I’ve found that specifically addresses intrusive thoughts, which some children experience as their primary symptom of OCD (as in “Pure O” OCD). Using a visual metaphor of thoughts as different colored balloons, it validates how ineffective it is to try avoid an unwanted thought, and it encourages children to look directly at a thought in order to recognize that perhaps it’s not as big as a child feared. It veers from there to encouraging a child to “catch” other types of thoughts instead (lovely thoughts, calm thoughts, true thoughts). I have a few reservations about the way that the book talks about these thoughts (they’re labeled “good thoughts”), but with a thoughtful discussion, this book presents a helpful exercise to take the fear out of intrusive thoughts and to help a child to practice a mindfulness exercise of choosing which thoughts to catch and which to let go.
Age range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness, Relaxation
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This is a fun, joyful celebration of Indian cooking that works well as an introduction to mindful eating and the potential anxiety-management benefits of the technique. Kalamata is anxious about a first day at a new school, but the book is relevant to any child feeling worried about something in the future who could benefit from some pleasurable, present-moment grounding.
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: In child-friendly language, this book provides an explanation of anxiety and how it is often a false alarm, and it teaches children five mindfulness strategies to reconnect with their sense of safety and calm. This is a good fit for children who are often nervous and who have some insight into their thoughts and feelings. The strategies articulated in this book are applicable to older children and adults as well. Grown-ups with anxiety, you might like this book as much as your child (or perhaps more!).
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Evidence-Based Practices: Mindfulness, Diaphragmatic Breathing
Age range: Kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Recommended for: This sequel to Anh’s Anger tells the story of how Anh copes with an incident of rejection by his friends at recess. The story teaches the skill of a walking meditation (i.e., walking slowly, breathing in with one step and out on the next, while counting each step) as a way to soothe one’s anger. It’s a great tool for children to have in their “emotion regulation toolkit” because it doesn’t require any special equipment. A child can use this skill on a walk to the bathroom, to a drinking fountain, or around a backyard–anywhere that they can take a couple dozen steps.
Evidence-Based Practices: Diaphragmatic Breathing, Mindfulness