The best books on mindfulness and self-acceptance for young children

Who am I?

Whitney Stewart will travel far for a story—trekking in a Himalayan snowstorm with Sir Edmund Hillary, climbing to remote Buddhist monasteries in Tibet, interviewing the Dalai Lama in India, and Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar. She is an award-winning author of nonfiction for children, and a longtime meditation practitioner. When she is not writing or traveling, she teaches mindfulness and self-care to children.

I wrote...

Mindful Tots: Tummy Ride

By Whitney Stewart, Rocio Alejandro (illustrator),

Book cover of Mindful Tots: Tummy Ride

What is my book about?

I adapted my mindfulness exercises from Mindful Kids Activity Deck into a board book series to help toddlers manage their emotions and engage more easily in life. Each of the four board books, beautifully illustrated by Rocio Alejandro, offers toddlers one simple mindfulness technique—to calm down, to share kindness with others, to relax into sleep time, or to transition from activity to activity. Barefoot Books published the series in English and in bilingual, Spanish-English editions.

The Books I Picked & Why

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Zen Shorts

By Jon J. Muth,

Book cover of Zen Shorts

Why this book?

I adore this picture book and return to it often, to read to myself or to share with children. The story of three children meeting Stillwater, a peaceful panda, is fresh and fun. Stillwater teaches each child through an ancient story. The tone of the book and Muth’s illustrations perfectly reflect the concepts of stillness, self-awareness, self-acceptance, and non-judgment.

Jon Muth says it best when he writes in his author’s note: “’Zen Shorts’ are short meditations—ideas to puzzle over—tools which hone our ability to act with intuition. They have no goal, but they often challenge us to reexamine our habits, desires, concepts, and fears.”

I Am Peace

By Susan Verde, Peter H. Reynolds (illustrator),

Book cover of I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness

Why this book?

In gentle, poetic language that illuminates the essence of mindful awareness, Susan Verde has created a picture book that shows children how internal peace is possible. Without preachiness, Verde suggests ways for kids to connect inwardly and outwardly:

“I can watch the clouds make shapes against the sky. I know wonder.”

“I can feel my breath fill my whole body. I tune into me.”

“I don’t need to worry about before and after. I am in this moment. I am peace.”

Just reading this book, silently or aloud, helps me be in the present moment, in the universal expanse of awareness.

I am Peace is one in a series of I Am books that Verde created with the wonderful illustrator, Peter H. Reynolds. Look for their other titles I Am Yoga, I Am Human, I Am Love, and I Am One.


By Christopher Willard, Daniel Rechtschaffen, Holly Clifton-Brown (illustrator)

Book cover of Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing

Why this book?

Alphabreaths is brilliant. It’s a colorful alphabet book and a mindfulness book in one. Clinical psychologist Christopher Willard teamed up with family therapist Daniel Rechtsschaffen and illustrator Holly Clifton-Brown to create mindful activities from A to Z. Kids will want to try out these breath and mindfulness techniques because they are so simple, and the illustrations so inviting. You can do each one without any prior understanding of mindfulness or breath techniques.

My favorite pages include: “Question Breath. As you breathe in, ask yourself how you are feeling. As you breathe out, answer.”

“Superhero Breathe. Breathe in and imagine you are a superhero. Breathe out and imagine how you will help someone.”

“Wish Breath. Breathe in and make a happy wish for yourself. Breathe out and send a happy wish to someone else.”

I’m crazy about Clifton-Brown’s illustrations. Her characters express innocence, wonder, and serenity. Her palette is soft yet evocative.

The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day You Begin

Why this book?

This stunning picture book is for all of us who have ever felt like outsiders, ever felt scared to be in a group, to walk into a new place, a new situation. Woodson speaks right into your heart when she opens the book with “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” And the emotion in López’s characters will have you holding your breath.

I could gaze at Rafael López's artwork for hours and repeat the lyrical text over and over to let the wonder wash over me. Woodson tells of children who are misunderstood, children who feel left out until they can share their own voice and truth. The vibrant illustrations and joyful expressions of the kids at the end of the book bring on such happiness.

There is so much here, in words and art. Give it to all the children you know, to all the adult children too.


By Andrea Zuill,

Book cover of Sweety

Why this book?

Author-illustrator Andrea Zuill has created a gem of a character in the awkward naked mole rat named Sweety. Sweety wants to fit in with the others at school, but she also loves what she loves. She loves what others don’t always understand. When Sweety’s beloved Aunt Ruth talks about having been called a “square peg” when she was young, Sweety begins to understand about being different. She will have to find her people and wonders how best to do that. Maybe just by being herself.

Zuill’s humorous text and lovable, quirky characters make Sweety one of my favorite picture books ever.

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