Books about Buddhism for little kids
May 20, 2019 7:25 AM   Subscribe

I was a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist for over a decade, since lapsed but only because I got busy and lazy. Husband also practiced for a long time. We now have a 6-year-old who knows that Mommy is Buddhist and is curious about what that means. I am bad at explaining. Need books. Help.

I know there are scads of such books out there but I am super picky and am looking for just the right one that spends less time on the historical Buddha's life and times, and more explaining in ways kids can understand the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path. And when I say "kid" I mean he is super a little kid. He's not a deep thinker or philosophically precocious. Not interested in books that treat Buddhism as a "neat exotic myth from Asia" or something akin to Greek mythology or anything like that. My ideal book would be one that spends a page or two talking about the historical Buddha in concrete terms just to set the stage and give some context but then after that concentrated more on teachings.

Really, I'd like him to go to Buddhist Sunday School but American Zen is sooooo dour and adult-oriented. The temple I used to attend says "children welcome" but there's no special programs for kids and he's definitely too young to participate in services. Maybe in a couple years if he's still interested. Until then I think we're going to have to cobble together something at home. Any help is appreciated.
posted by soren_lorensen to Religion & Philosophy (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Grownups and kids alike enjoyed this book at that age, which integrates teachings into the stories (critical caveat: we are not Buddhists): Buddha at Bedtime. Link is to Amazon but available from your local booksellers as well, I'm sure.
posted by nkknkk at 7:32 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]

A relative has sent us several copies of Buddha at Bedtime, which I think is at a good level for a 6-yo; it is mostly stories with a brief wrap-up of the lesson at the end of each.
posted by nonane at 7:32 AM on May 20

Jon Muth has a couple books that I think are great
posted by falsedmitri at 7:35 AM on May 20 [5 favorites]

We purchased Thich Nhat Hahn's "Is Nothing Something?" for our kids three years ago when they were 4 and 6 years old, and still refer to it frequently when certain life circumstances come our way. It's organized around specific life questions that children (and adults!) encounter, and frames responses to these questions in a Zen-oriented way.
posted by thenewbrunette at 8:06 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]

Not historical but might work for you: The Tao of Pooh and the Te of Piglet?
posted by stillmoving at 8:10 AM on May 20

Thanks for all the suggestions so far! I probably also should have also mentioned that my kid vastly prefers non-fiction to fiction. He generally wants Just the Facts and really struggles to generalize morals and lessons from fiction. Which I realize is the opposite of a lot of kids (and adult assumptions about what kids like) and is another reason I've had trouble finding just the right book here.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:12 AM on May 20

Also a Buddhist here. We went to the library and found non fiction books in the junior reader section (not a big selection mind you) that was helpful - showed the iconography, who Buddha was etc.

My kid enjoys Peaceful Piggy Meditation for mindfulness and anything by Jon J Muth. Those are fiction but you can use them as teaching tools.

Otherwise I’m watching this thread with great interest too. I agree the choices are slim.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 9:51 AM on May 20

My youngest son (10) has also been asking about Buddhism recently. We're a Canadian-Japanese household and so Buddhism, or a variation of it, has been a part of our family life because of funerals and memorial services. I also have a lot of books about Buddhist art history lying around the house. I also think he got to thinking about it after reading a manga series I have about Japanese history.

Anyway, while I didn't attempt to try to explain to him Soto Zen or Jodo Shin, the two denominations that are most relevant to our family, I did hand him a couple of manga books about Buddhism I had lying around. Both of them tell the story of Shakamyuni. One of them has been translated into English -- Buddha, by Tezuka Osamu.

I'm not entirely sure how interesting the Tezuka series would be to a young child. It's interesting enough, and accessible. It's also quite looooong, and I imagine it would be expensive to buy.

However, there's probably some other manga about Buddhism translated into English.

Soto Zen itself may have some links to useful books. This temple and teaching centre in the U.S. lists a few books for kids.

The official Soto Zen site has a comic about Soto Zen in English as well, but it's for older readers.
posted by JamesBay at 9:52 AM on May 20

This website is simple, if your kid uses a tablet.

4 Noble Truths / Eightfold Path
posted by St. Peepsburg at 10:01 AM on May 20

Y HELLO THAR, I am with a Soto Zen temple that has a long-running childrens' program. Sorry to hear that your local doesn't have a Dharma school for the kids. Let me poke around the temple library and ask some people and I'll get you book recs in the next day or two.

I also can connect you with some general resources about sharing the Dharma with children if that would be helpful. This is a significant part of my own practice so happy to assist.
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 3:35 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

from someone who works with the younger kids:
Kindness: a treasury of Buddhist tales & wisdom
Zen Happiness, and other titles by Jon J Muth
Flow, flow, flow--I haven't seen this one but it sounds nice
Shantideva: how to wake up a hero
Is nothing something? Q & A for kids with Thich Naht Hanh
Coconut monk
Wisdom of the crows and other Buddhist stories
Buddha at bedtime and other titles by Nagaraja
Mindful monkey, happy panda--I don't love it, but it is ok
posted by nixon's meatloaf at 8:45 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]

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