Years of working as a primary school teacher prepares you well for sniffing out the best authors, illustrators and most engaging books to read to classes of up to (and over) 30 young children. As a Children's Yoga specialist, I am now lucky enough to go into schools to teach regular weekly yoga sessions as part of the curriculum - and through open liaison with their class teacher... and the involvement of a very carefully chosen book, I am given the perfect opportunity to also promote children's personal, social, moral, spiritual and cultural growth and development.
The needs of the group of children will always slightly differ but I always intend to use a wide range of age-appropriate themed yoga postures and flows, breath, mindfulness or relaxation activities and techniques to adapt to each class or individual child I teach. The ability to pass on the foundations of early meditation and mindfulness is a true gift and witnessing the effects over time are profound. If this wellbeing 'toolkit' is embedded into their early learning - then there is no reason why they cannot be transferred through major life transitions; like starting school, adolescence and into adulthood.
How many adults can you think of that are able to identify the emotion they are feeling, fully detach from it, witness the overpowering thoughts and strong physical symptoms, but react in a controlled and calm manner, using their wellbeing 'toolkit' to override these negative thoughts and behaviour patterns? Wouldn't it be great if there were more people like this in the world?
The starting point for very young children to be able to understand and become emotionally literate, will always be first and foremost, the ability to identify the emotions; naming them (happy, sad, angry, worried) and then understanding the physical reactions of the body associated with each feeling. Children (and many adults) often confuse the basic needs; feeling tired, hungry, or thirsty with feelings of upset and anger. Many toddler tantrums can be understood as the lack of their basic needs being met and then a downward spiral of behaviour stemming from this point. As children get older, their feelings and emotions become more complex and they carry with them a plethora of both real and imagined ideas about themselves, which can transform both their emotional and behavioural development.
Through daily positive reinforcement and the promotion of healthy habits we as parents and caregivers can support the next generation into adolescence and beyond. So, without further ado, I thought I'd share just some of my favourite books which make wonderful additions to any family learning library, some specific books which address the emotions in a child-friendly way, and others that I have found to be great conversation starters over the years.
1. The Colour Monster - A Story About Emotions - By Anna Llenas
2. I can do hard things - Mindful affirmations for Kids (Listening with my heart/Listening to my body) - By Gabi Garcia
3. The Suitcase - by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros
4. The Lion Inside / be brave little penguin / The Fearless Octopus
5. How big are your worries little bear?
6. Kind - by Alison Green
7. My Strong Mind
8. Giraffes can't dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees (The Lion who wanted to Love)
9. Monty the Manatee
10. Today I feel 'An Alphabet of Feelings' by Madalena Moniz