As the parent of two children, I work hard to instill values of simplicity and minimalism in their lives. The formula is the same as teaching any value we desire to pass on: lead by example, look for teachable moments, and hope for the best. Because ultimately, in the end, they will make their own choices.
But if passing along the value of simplicity to your children is important to you, here are 10 children’s books that will help (arranged by age).
Ten Children’s Books to Inspire Simplicity
A Squash and A Squeeze by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler. (Ages: 3-5). When a little old lady can’t stand her tiny house any longer, a wise old man gives her some strange advice asking her to bring the farm animals indoors. Quickly she makes an important realization: her house is not too small, she just needs fewer animals inside it.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister & J Alison James. (Ages: 3-8). This international bestseller has been adapted into an animated television series. But it is best known for its simple story about a beautiful fish who learns to make friends by sharing his most prized possessions.
The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies (Ages: 4-8) and Old Hat New Hat (Ages: 4-6) by Stan Berenstain & Jan Berenstain. Many parents are aware of The Berenstain Bear series. If you are looking for two books out of the series specifically addressing the lesson that happiness cannot be found in consumerism, these two should do the trick.
The Biggest House in the World by Leo Lionni. (Ages: 4-7). A beautiful story about a snail who dreams of a bigger house, but soon realizes there are more important things in life. Not only does this story draw attention to the personal burden of overconsumption, it also highlights the benefit and freedom of owning less.
Too Many Toys by David Shannon. (Ages: 4-8). Spencer has too many toys and they’ve become a hazard to his family. But when his mom tries to help him get rid of a few, Spencer experiences all the emotions you might expect. If your child has a hard time getting rid of unused toys, he or she will quickly identify with the young boy.
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch & Michael Martchenko. (Ages: 4-8). Elizabeth, a beautiful princess, lives in a castle and wears fancy clothes. But when an unfortunate turn of events requires her to save the prince wearing nothing more than a plain, brown bag, she discovers where true beauty is found. The book is short, cute, and terribly empowering.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (Ages: 4-8). With his trademark, whimsical characters and classically brilliant rhymes, Dr. Seuss communicates an important, not-so-subtle message, “There is danger in mindless consumption. Not just for the earth, but for ourselves.”
King Midas and the Golden Touch by Charlotte Craft & Kinuko Craft. (Ages: 5-9). Based on the classic story from Greek mythology, the tale of King Midas continues to warn children (and adults) about the dangers of greed and gold, and the reality that what may seem to be a great blessing, may actually be a great danger.
The Quiltmaker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau & Gail de Marcken. (Ages: 5-10). A greedy king learns an important lesson from a generous, humble quiltmaker. And in the end, the greatest gift she gives to him may not be what’s expected.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery & Richard Howard. (Ages: 11-13). First published in 1943, The Little Prince is the best-selling children’s book of all time. And while its allegorical story addresses a wide number of life lessons, the emptiness of consumerism is certainly one of them.
If you are looking for a meaningful gift idea during the holiday and/or birthday season, I recommend any of the books above.
You can also find many of them read aloud on YouTube or available at your local library.
For an additional list of book ideas, check out Rachel Jonat’s 10 Great Books to Teach & Inspire Simplicity in Kids.