I know a whole lot of nothing about pandas. My limited experience emanates from the occasional subpar mall lo mein at Panda Express in brightly colored food courts. (Remember malls?) Henceforth: The Interwebs. The more I learn about pandas, the more I discover they’re kind of like little kids––off the charts cute and sort of adorable weirdos in their own right. Here’s what I’ve gleaned: these endangered species like the taste of metal, particularly licking copper bowls. They’re even slower chewers than your 20-toothed-toddler gnawing that rainbow bagel, as pandas spend about 12 hours of their day masticating bamboo. And my personal favorite factoid: some pandas like to do headstands, um, while they pee.
They also make for great picture book protagonists. But there’s one panda in particular (no, not this virile one) that will come in handy during the quarantine. Kira Willey’s Peaceful Like a Panda is chock-full of 30 excellent mindfulness activities that all take less than one minute each to complete. The trick to connecting with your children and feeling more present with family: practice and consistency. Brevity and fun. Gold star for Willey’s heartfelt definition of mindfulness too: “paying attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity.”
And let’s face it, with the impending winter, we’re all desperate to find more meaningful indoor activities. Combine this picture book on mindfulness with some zoo ooms and Panda Cams, and you’ve pretty much bought yourself one more month of not having to devastate your kid with the news that you’re never ever getting a Pandemic Puppy.
Consider this picture book as your portable Zen Machine. From AM to PM, it’s got you covered to overcome some of the most stressful parts of your day. Here are four terrifically mindful moments you can add to your daily routine to chase better sleep, boost immunity, and alleviate depression. Your kid will be calmer, and it will do wonders for your own anxiety too. (Already asked for a friend. Yes, these exercises help parents too.)
Ah, glorious morning. Once upon a time, you might have actually woken up at an appropriate hour, aka: after sunrise (Parenting-hack/Pro-Tip: resist the morning cartoons.) Now, your kid’s likely chomping at the bit at 5 am, demanding Lucky Charms. While you’re still half-asleep and squirting strawberry toothpaste on your finger, you can try out “Sun Breath” to begin your little one’s day on a shiny, positive note. This exercise encourages you to imagine that you’re the sun, take big breaths, and spread your bright light everywhere. Sure, it’s probably still pitch black outside of your bedroom, but you might as well encourage your kiddo to start shining from the inside out.
If you’re lucky enough to get your kids out of your hair for a few hours and enter an actual school (masked up, of course!), you’re unlucky enough to have to transport them there. A former sanctuary of solitude, where you could belt embarrassing Dad Music in peace, the car has now become a Cheez-Its laced isolation chamber of lame children’s music. That dreaded question lingers on the edge of every child’s tongue from the second the seat-belt clicks: are we there yet? After you’ve exhausted the Pirate’s Booty and re-sung Baby Shark for the 8000th time, ”Heart Breath” is a simple and beautiful exercise to use while in transit. Basically, you encourage your chauffeur-ee to put her hand over her heart, close her eyes, and repeat the simple mantra: “I can rest. I can rest. I can rest.” It’s the perfect way to steal some stillness during an annoying red light.
Where’s It From
Dinner time can be a stressful mess, but Peaceful Like a Panda offers up a tool that would even impress Michael Pollan and possibly plant the seeds for some future environmental activism. “Where’s It From” help you enlighten your little one before she stuffs her little face. To illuminate the fact that your food supply is not actually the Stop & Shop. This exercise has your child consider the sources of sustenance, the farmers who made it, and all the people who helped along the way. While you’re inwardly expressing your thankfulness that Postmates is an essential service, you can inspire your progeny’s gratitude for the origins of that neon macaroni and cheese.
Good Night, Worries
When bedtime rolls around and the invisible monsters are lurking under the beds and in the back of the closets, it’s the perfect time to practice the “Good Night, Worries” exercise. Essentially, you imagine you are holding a little box in your hands. You encourage your pajama-ed child to release her anxieties out loud, cover the lid, and then shut that bad boy tight. Now that your sleepyhead’s worries are neatly nestled in a safe, unbreakable box, maybe it’s time to bust out with one of your own –– boxed wine, anyone?
Prior to Peaceful Like a Panda, Willey was the author of several other similar zenned-out kids’ books. This new one doesn’t come out until December 29, 2020, but in the meantime, you can always get Breathe Like a Bear.