William Meyer has written a sensitive book that teaches children how to meditate in an easy and accessible way. Many books on mediation—especially those intended for children—often take a pedantic tone, but the tone of Big Breath: A Guided Meditation for Kids is charming and playful:
Find a comfy spot, maybe a squishy cushion or soft blanket.
All parents want to give their children tools to comfort them after a challenging day or to help them relax before bed. Meditation in one such tool and Big Breath is a great book to help your child (and you) learn how to meditate.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION FOR ADULTS
The benefits of meditation for adults have been well documented: between 2013 and 2017, there were 216 randomized controlled trials involving mindfulness. Well-designed, well-run studies have shown that mindfulness has benefits for those with depression, chronic pain and anxiety and that these benefits are similar to those of existing treatments. Plus, meditation is on the rise. A 2017 National Health Interview Survey found that adult use of meditation tripled between 2012 and 2017.
BENEFITS OF MEDITATION FOR CHILDREN
The use of meditation by children in the US also increased significantly between 2012 and 2017. About 5.4% of US children meditate. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents to share meditation with their children and teachers to incorporate mindfulness training into their lesson plans. The AAP delineates the most common types of meditation practices, including
- Concentration on a word, thought or image such as in transcendental or breath-focused mediation.
- Movement-based meditation such as in yoga, tai chi, or Qigong.
- Cultivating positive emotions such as compassion, forgiveness, gratitude or loving kindness.
The calming of the body and spirit through meditation has many mental and physical benefits as well. A number of studies in school settings have shown improved attention and behavior. Some research has shown benefits for ADD, anxiety, depression, school performance, sleep, behavior problems and eating disorders. One study of low-income, minority urban middle-schoolers showed that mindfulness instruction led to improved psychological functioning and lower levels of PTSD.
Because meditation calms the nervous system and decreases stress hormones, it has shown benefits for gastrointestinal symptoms, obesity, headaches, high blood pressure, pain sensitivity, and immune function.
Big Breath is the kind of book you could read to your child as he or she meditates, and you could also use it to learn to meditate yourself or to share meditation with your child. Just reading it will make you feel more relaxed. The book starts by helping you to get seated and comfortable.
Let your arms be long and your hands be soft.
Place one palm in the other
and gently squeeze your hands together.
It just asks you to breathe, to notice what your breath feels like, to notice the sounds around you, to imagine the thoughts in your head.
Now take a big breath
and pretend you can
let go of each of those thoughts.
Imagine your breath is the wind
and your thoughts are the clouds.
Meyer invites the reader to take a breath [“but only when you’re ready”] and follow it down the spine, through the legs and down to the tips of the toes.
Let go of the day. Let go of the
coulds, the woulds, and the shoulds,
the goods and the bads.
And, finally, Meyer asks the readers to take one last breath [“but only when you’re ready”] and open their eyes.
How do you feel…?
Meyer’s text is kind and non-threatening, but it would not be what it is without the wonderful illustrations of Brittany R. Jacobs. Jacobs is a librarian and author-illustrator and her soothing watercolor illustrations are delightful. She depicts diverse children using a bright and inviting color palette.
Written by William Meyer
Illustrated by Brittany R. Jacobs
New World Library
Ages 4 to 10
About Peggy O’Mara. I am an independent journalist who edits and publishes peggyomara.com. I was the editor and publisher of Mothering magazine for over 30 years. My books include Having a Baby Naturally, Natural Family Living, The Way Back Home and A Quiet Place. I have conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, Hollyhock and Bioneers. I am the mother of four and grandmother of three. Please sign up for my free newsletterwith the latest posts on parenting, activism, and healthy living.