I used to be a mindfulness sceptic. Being mindful, seemed like a short-term fad, soon to be replaced by another buzz word. My views changed last year, when one of my children had a teacher who promoted mindful activities. My daughter blossomed during that year, from struggling to cope with anxiety when things didn’t go her way, to recognising her emotions were taking over and seeking ways to overcome them. It didn’t stop her rolling her eyes when we talked about being mindful but the strategies helped her to focus, make friends and practice self-control.
Throwing my scepticism out of the window, I decided to review a new book promoting exercises for children to practice mindfulness, “Breathe Like a Bear”. I’m glad I did, because this really is a great book. It is beautifully presented, resplendent with Anni Betts’ vibrant illustrations and contains a variety of simple, fun exercises that won’t make you feel like you are leading a meditation session. The activities are developmentally appropriate for children young and old and might even be useful visualisations for parents and teachers.
“Breathe like a Bear” is written by Kira Willey, a children’s music artist and kids yoga expert. Kira provides enjoyable, engaging activities children will love. The book’s focus on fun, rather than lots of explanations about the mindfulness message, makes it especially appropriate for young children.
The first section focuses on calming, for when children feel they can’t sit still. It is difficult for children of any age to sit still all day and many children become agitated after a period of time. These exercises are designed to encourage children to slow down. They would be perfect for those days when children have boundless energy but can’t get outside to let off steam. The title “Breathe like a Bear” comes from one such activity. The children pretend they are a hibernating bear, breathing slowly in and out through their noses. Each section has a variety of exercises and encourages you to choose the one you feel most comfortable with. You may need to try a few to find what works best for your child or class.
Section two promotes concentration and focus. There are a mixture of activities in this section. Some are slow visualisations focused on breathing and others involve following actions, movement and sound. I particularly like how varied the activities are.
Section three comprises exercises that stretch the imagination. I think these are my favourites and can imagine using them during a rest time for young children, or to calm an older group when they get noisy or over excited. They would also be useful for bedtime. They could be read to children before they sleep or recorded to play in children’s bedrooms.
Section four is for energising children when they are feeling sleepy or lethargic. These would be great for the start of the day, to wake children up or during a lull later in the day. The exercises include moving your facial muscles, clapping hands, making twisting movements with your body and creating various sounds.
The final section is relaxation for when we are feeling stressed. Stretching like a cat or scrunching and releasing sound deeply satisfying to me.
If mindfulness is your thing, I believe you will love this book. If it isn’t, why not try it anyway? You may become a convert, just like me. My next stop is to investigate Kira Wiley’s music, if it is as beautiful as her book, I’m in for a treat.
Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon US Breathe like a Bear available from Dec 2017 priced $10.99
Amazon Affiliate link for Amazon UK Breathe like a Bear available from 13th January 2018 priced £11.99
Disclaimer: links in this post are affiliate links, meaning if you order via this link I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price. No payment was received for writing this review. I received a complimentary review copy of the title.