Your Mind is Like the Sky / The Go Yogi! Card Set

 

Your Mind is Like the Sky
Bronwen Ballard and Laura Carling
Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Psychologist and mindfulness teacher, Bronwen Ballard has written a book to introduce children to mindfulness. She uses similes and metaphorical language to show that our difficult thoughts and feelings are an integral part of everyone’s life and demonstrating that we all have the power to deal with them.
Sometimes she says, the mind can be like a clear blue sky but at other times it might be ‘fizzy, stormy, black and crackly’; or perhaps a ‘bit grey’.
Thoughts come and go constantly; they’re likened to the clouds – sometimes positive, pleasant white ones but at other times they become dark and negative.

For example ‘raincloud’ thoughts may well make one feel sad, cross, irritated, confused perhaps.

However there are ways to deal with them, even those that seem at first to be overwhelming and this is what the second part of the narrative discusses. The important thing to do is to acknowledge the thought but realise it’s only one of many, many in the entire sky of your mind and that way you can let that dark thought slip gently away.

The more one practices being mindful, the easier it becomes to take control and choose which thoughts to attend to.

The main narrative ends on an upbeat note reminding the young reader that, like the sky, his/her mind is bursting with amazing thoughts each one different in shape, colour and size.

There are two final spreads aimed at adults explaining concisely what mindfulness is and offering some basic ideas to try together at home.

Award-wining illustrator Laura Carlin’s soft focus, smudgy, mixed media illustrations are the ideal complement to Bronwen’s gentle narrative. Together they offer parents and carers a really helpful book to help youngsters overcome their worries.

The Go Yogi! Card Set
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon

Using little humans rather than animals this time, the author, very experienced yoga teacher, Emma Hughes and illustrator, John Smisson, of the Go Yogi! book have created a set of 50 cards of popular yoga poses; and Emma has written an accompanying explanatory booklet.

The latter briefly gives the benefits of yoga for children, sets some ground rules to use and talks about how to work with a group, the names of the poses, some words on pranayama and suggests ways the cards might be used in a session – in games or for storytelling being two ideas.

It’s concise and especially useful for those who aren’t practiced in teaching yoga to children. One proviso though, I was taught that young children (under 7) should not attempt headstands as the skull may not be fully hardened.

The ‘flash cards’ themselves have a child showing a yoga asana (pose), (or in the case of paired poses, two children) set against a brightly coloured background on one side, while the reverse side shows how to get into the pose. Each card has a coloured border that suggests a possible emotional or physical benefit doing the pose might bring. Orange signifies energising; green is for calming; red for strengthening and yellow for balancing.

All in all, and I speak from experience as a specialist early years teacher and teacher of yoga to children (and adults), this little box is a real treasure for those wanting to introduce yoga to young children. I thoroughly recommend it.

Mindful Little Yogis

Mindful Little Yogis
Nicola Harvey, illustrated by John Smisson
Singing Dragon

The author of Mindful Little Yogis is an education writer and children’s mindfulness practitioner and the book is based on her experiences as a teacher working with children in both primary and secondary schools with a range of learning abilities and needs. Several years ago around 20% of children were identified as having special educational needs and the number is rising, making additional demands on classroom teachers in both mainstream and special schools. Nicola stresses the importance of these children receiving consistent positive messages from all adults be they parents, carers, teachers, teaching assistants, therapists.

She advocates using mindfulness techniques to help build self-assurance and describes the STAR model: ‘STOP. Take a breath. And. Relax.’ that provides a framework, a four part developmental tool.

Then follows a section on mindful breathing, giving guidance on a range of sensory breathing techniques that I know from experience work very well with young children and those with additional needs.
The same is true of Animal Breathing (children I know especially love lion’s breath, bee breath and snake breath); Shape Breathing techniques and the use of sound, and body flow are explored next.

Part two ‘AND …’ comprises a range of self-regulation activities, grounding and sensory yoga games. There are also sections on emotional intelligence, using music as therapy and much more. I especially like the emphasis Nicola puts on positivity throughout.

With illustrations by John Smisson, this is a smashing book for all children of all abilities in all places for all times. With our increasingly pressurised education system all schools would do well to include some of these techniques and activities in their daily schedule.

Mouse’s Big Day / All Birds Have Anxiety / Mouse and the Storm

Mouse’s Big Day
Lydia Monks
Macmillan Children’s Books
Mouse is going to school for the very first time and even before leaving home, she’s decided it’s not for her. Her dawdling tactics don’t work, nor does her “I don’t want to” response to all Mummy mouse’s encouraging remarks; finally she’s left at Twit Twoo School in the safe hands of teacher, Miss Hoot.

She has an exciting project for her class: “… go out and find something. Something special. Maybe something only you can find.
Mouse reluctantly joins her classmates all of whom thoroughly enjoy rummaging, upturning rocks, digging and pond peering, although she’s too shy to be anything but an onlooker. While the others are busy contemplating their findings …

Mouse vanishes. Miss Hoot knows just where to look for her though, and eventually a kindly paw proffered by Mole encourages Mouse to emerge from her hiding place and follow the others back indoors.
There she makes a series of discoveries that ultimately lead her to a very important realisation. School is an exciting place after all and she cannot wait for tomorrow.
Populated by adorable animal characters, Mouse’s school is an inviting place and Lydia Monks’ heart-warming story of her first day gets right to the heart of how the less outgoing among 4 year olds are likely to feel on their ‘Big Day’. This is just right to share with a nursery and preschool groups, or individuals, in the lead up to starting school.
Further reassurance about coping with tricky situations comes in:

All Birds Have Anxiety
Kathy Hoopman
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Statistics show that more and more children have anxiety problems, often starting at a young age. I’ve talked about educational issues that I feel are to a large degree responsible in other reviews so will just say that here is a photographic picture book that will help children of all ages better understand the condition.
By populating it with birds of all kinds with appealing faces,

and in amusing poses,

the author gives a serious topic just the right degree of lightness and gentle humour.
Anxiety in all its forms is discussed including how stress can effect everyday activities – ‘Everyday jobs, like combing hair, changing clothes or making decisions are too much to think about ’; its possible causes – ‘it often runs in families’; how to deal with it: ‘Being with those who listen to us and accept us makes a world of difference.’ and ‘Exercise, plenty of sunshine and a healthy diet are all a huge help.’ for instance.
Unthreatening, fun and enormously helpful for children of all ages, whether they suffer from anxiety or just want to understand it better in others.
For educators and those they have dealings with, be that in school, at home or in another setting.
Anxiety prone youngsters will benefit from some therapeutic reflexology as in:

Mouse and the Storm
Susan Quayle, illustrated by Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
Reflexologist, complementary therapist and developer of The Children’s Reflexology Programme follows The Mouse’s House with a third story intended, this time for reflexology on a child’s hands.
Using Mouse and the five other animal characters to represent reflex areas of the hand, Quayle weaves a charming rhyming story to accompany the sessions of hand reflexology. It’s especially designed for use with young children, in particular those who have anxieties be they associated with ASD, new experiences, or another condition where calming treatments are required.
With hand instructions at the top of each left hand page and a charmingly quirky illustration on the right, adults can read the story of what happens when the animals awake to discover a storm scattered them far from the comfort of their own homes

while applying the gentle movements to the young recipient’s hands.
Since no prior reflexology experience is needed, this is a book for any parent of an anxious young child to add to the family bookshelf.

I’ve signed the charter  

Go Yogi! / Animal Asanas

Go Yogi!
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon
Namaste: Meet Monkey, Mac and cat, Flo: they are enthusiastic about yoga and its benefits and want young children to join them and learn a special yogic way of breathing and some of their favourite yoga poses. First though, a space away from distractions is needed and then, mat down it’s time to start. The first focus is on the breath, and this is followed by a round of sun salutation. Here are the opening moves:

The two animals then move on to some standing poses, the first being the triangle – here called ‘Tea Pot’.

Clearly this book is for very young children who will most likely be familiar with the favourite nursery action song.
After this come four further standing poses; ‘balancing barn door introduces the slightly tricky (for 3 and 4 year  olds) standing on one leg. They’ll love to try though and increase the time before wobbles set in. Equally great fun, is the ‘warrior’.
All good yoga sessions need a variety of standing and sitting poses, so Flo demonstrates the ‘balancing boat’ next.

Following it with what they call here ‘pebble on the shore’ and many yogis will know as the pose of the child or balasana. Three additional poses are shown by Flo and then it’s time to relax. Mack gives her instructions and Flo begins to let go completely, making a ‘Ha’ sound to help her.
The entire yoga lesson is nicely illustrated by John Smisson who also teamed up with the author in Striker, Slow Down!
The final spread is aimed at adults and offers words of wisdom from a very experienced teacher of yoga, the author, Emma.
For me, as an early years teacher and yoga teacher, this is perfectly pitched for the very youngest beginning yogis. I’d strongly recommend it for all early years settings and families with young children. It could, one hopes, be the start of a life-long practice that offers many benefits, physical and emotional.

Animal Asanas: Yoga for Children
Leila Kadri Oostendorp and Elsa Mroziewicz Bahia
Prestel
A gloriously ornate menagerie of creatures great and small demonstrate over a dozen yoga asanas, and relaxation exercises.
‘Namaste, Children’ the author says on the introductory page and then goes on to give some wise words about yoga and taking it up. Anyone coming to yoga for the first time should read and inwardly digest what’s said before going near a yoga mat
The first asana shown is Vrikshasana – the tree pose and before embarking on the pose itself, there’s a ‘tree meditation’ that begins ‘Imagine you are a tree … You stand firmly on the ground and nobody can move you.’ A great introduction and believe me, as a yoga teacher and one who specialises in teaching children, this really works. Benefits of the pose (and indeed, all the others), is given as is a helpful tip. Here it’s the crucial anti-wobble: ‘Focus your eye on to a single point straight ahead of you. This will help keep your balance.
After this, all the asanas are animal-based: there’s the Frog, Cat and Cow, The Dog ,

the Cobra, the Dove (I know it as the Pigeon), the Butterfly, the Camel, the Tortoise, the Roaring Lion – a great one for letting off steam and relieving tension/stress – children love this …

the Rabbit, the Locust the Fish and finally, the Crocodile.
Relaxation is extremely important after a yoga session and there is a lovely Rainbow journey to undertake while lying in sarvasana.

The final spread gives some words of yoga wisdom – and wise they are ‘time spent … is for children’s enjoyment and exploration; it is not a time to be achievement-oriented or critical.’ and some practical tips for parents on a child’s yoga practice.
The whole book is beautifully presented both verbally and visually. Ornate Indian style borders enhance each spread and really help to underline the notion that the yoga mat or demarcated space is ‘a place from which to become aware’ and that time spent on yoga is a very special time when nothing else matters; and nothing should be impinging on that time.

Striker, Slow Down!

How often do we ask children to ‘calm down’ or ‘slow down’? Fairly frequently I suggest. Now here’s a little book to help subtitled “A calming book for children who are always on the go‘:

dscn9421

Striker, Slow Down!
Emma Hughes and John Smisson
Singing Dragon
Striker the kitten, like many young children, leads a frenetic life, dashing from one activity to the next, never stopping or slowing down, despite frequent pleas from his mum and dad.

%0a

Seemingly the only times he stays put are mealtimes and when he’s fast asleep. Now if you’re the parent of a whirlwind-type youngster, this will surely resonate.
One day though, the inevitable happens: Striker’s rushing results in a bumped head. Only then is he ready to sit down quietly with his mum, and start to relax.

%0a

Those of us who work with young children know it’s not as simple as that. I do know however, that regular short sessions, be they of yoga, breathing, listening to a meditative story or whatever, do lead to calmer youngsters who can spend short spells being relaxed and peaceful in mind and body.
This little book is written in rhyme (creaking slightly once or twice) and Emma Hughes, the author, is herself a yoga teacher so obviously knows things don’t happen overnight as the book might suggest. However, if it does nothing more than set adults and young children off on the calming path, then it will have served its purpose.
For a start, take time to sit quietly together, share the book and enjoy the bright, bold, appropriately uncluttered illustrations.

Secret, Secret & Mouse’s Best Day Ever

%0A

Secret, Secret
Daisy Law
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
In this rhyming contemplation of secrets of all kinds, the child narrator takes readers and listeners through many different kinds of situations and secrets that children may experience. Having worked in various roles in education for over thirty years (and had children disclose to me) I know and appreciate just how difficult it may be for some children, in certain situations to have the confidence to open up and talk about certain things that are troubling them.
Subtle in its approach, this little book explores – with child and floppy bunny creature friends –

%0A

a variety of secrets be they sad, happy, crazy, new, old …

%0A

quiet, loud, the really scary, make your insides stone-cold kind, or these …

%0A

To keep or tell, that is the question when it comes to secrets.
All children need to develop emotional intelligence: this book is a very helpful tool to use to this end; it deserves a place in primary classrooms, children’s centres, in fact anywhere that children are cared for and their well-being of vital importance.
One splendid way to help a stressed child is through reflexology and here is a picture book that embodies some basic techniques in the pursuit of well-being:

DSCN8051

Mouse’s Best Day Ever
Susan Quayle and Melissa Muldoon
Singing Dragon
The book features half a dozen characters: main protagonist Mouse (representing the solar plexus reflex point),

DSCN8052

together with Hare, (representing lungs and chest reflexes), Otter (representing the lymphatic system), Squirrel (head, sinus, teeth, eyes and ear reflexes), Mole (reflexes of the digestive system) and Snake who represents the nervous system, back and spine reflexes. Told through a gentle rhyming text, and pen and ink illustrations,

%0A

the story is designed to accompany a sequence of reflexology moves aimed at calming a child’s peevish mind and thus helping to improve general health. At the same time it facilitates the cementing of a bond between child and adult, soothing a youngster at bedtime, when stressed or unwell. Additionally it might be used to re-inforce names of parts of the feet and legs; and to help children begin to understand the interconnectedness of various parts of their bodies. (The latter is something mentioned in the foreword by Spiros Dimitrakoulas, Chair of Reflexology in Europe Network.)
Instructions are given on how to use the book at the beginning, and instructions for each reflexology move is given at the top of each verso page throughout the story.

WNDB_Button localbookshops_NameImage-2

 

Connor the Conker & Little Meerkat

DSCN7924

Connor the Conker and the Breezy Day
Rachel Lloyd
Singing Dragon
Connor is a conker residing with his family – mum, dad and two siblings – in Horse Chestnut Town. It’s a particularly breezy day when we meet him and he’s eager to demonstrate his balancing on one leg, (without any wibble wobbles, is the aim). The wind is very playful though and that makes Connor get the sneezes unbalancing him; but that’s no problem because Connor knows how to roll and land safely without spilling himself: in fact it’s rather fun so he does a whole lot more rolling …

%0A

right into a friend and on through the town and oops! Straight in the river so it’s fortunate that he also knows how to swim, though he’s always up for a bit more learning, so he tries backstroke too as the fish suggests.
While on his back, Connor decides it’s time he went home so off he goes; but first he has a last lovely stretch – in all directions …

DSCN7927

I’m a yoga teacher rather than a teacher of pilates about which I know comparatively little. I do know however, that story is a fantastic medium for working with young children and that the author Rachel Lloyd has a dance background and is a Pilates Master Trainer who is clearly passionate about its practice. Her positivity and what she says in the helpful notes at the back resonate with me completely. There are also photographic sequences and instructions for teaching each of Connor’s Pilates activities – equally helpful and empowering: and unsurprisingly, very similar to yoga asanas and sequences.

In similar format, and also recommended for early years and KS1 classes, as well as home use, is:

DSCN7928

Little Meerkat’s Big Panic
Jane Evans and Izzy Bean
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
This one’s subtitled ‘A Story About Learning New Ways to Feel Calm’ and don’t we all need those right now.
When we meet Little Meerkat he’s faced with the prospect of ‘a very important job’ and today’s the day: his vital role is to act as ‘Lookout Meerkat’ and keep watch over the whole Meerkat gang. Simple eh?

DSCN7929

Well, not really because it means he has to stay wide awake and alert so that in the event of unwelcome potential harm in the form of snakes, large birds and other predators, he can sound the “Danger, danger, danger!’ alert. So how do you think he feels about that? It’s a question asked of listeners to the story.
Now most of us are familiar with that wobbly legs, heart thumping, hyper breathing that kicks in all too easily on such occasions, making it hard to focus on the task in hand and that is exactly how Little Meerkat feels on this important, right of passage day.
Off go his fellow Meerkats for some fun and games safe in the knowledge that there’s a watchful Meerkat at the ready just in case …

%0A

Soon though our little watcher begins to feel drowsy on account of the heat and he dozes off – just for a very short while – but he awakes to discover all the other Meerkats have vanished. Little Meerkat’s in such a panic he can’t get his words out properly and Small Elephant gets a very convoluted message when the two come face to face. Fortunately the elephant has a good imagination and is able to understand and empathise with how his friend might feel right then; and soon both are frantically searching high and low – to no avail.
Along swings Mini Monkey and providentially he has some breathing techniques to pass on: Just what the others need to make them feel nice and calm.

%0A

(And yes, they definitely work – I know from experience.)
And do the friends manage to discover the whereabouts of the missing Meerkats? Certainly they do; but first Little Meerkat has to tell the story from his viewpoint: then a plan is suggested, put into action and …

%0A

There are his fellow Meerkats safe and sound in the ‘safe place’ just where they should be, if only the one on lookout had been able to stay calm and remember …
The final pages of this enjoyable, but very vital book explain simply some ways of keeping calm, as well as discussing the triune brain (not using this word however, other than in the adults’ information section.) And, I’m pleased to say, the author points out that everyone is different: what one brain likes may not suit another person (or meerkat) when it comes to relaxation techniques.

Order from JKP

Use your local bookshop     localbookshops_NameImage-2