Making Yoga FUN & Accessible for Kids!

Below are my 7 top tips for Making Yoga FUN and Accessible for Kids. After all, if we want kids to enjoy yoga and get the full benefits of the postures and breathing exercises, we need to make it age appropriate and fun!

1. Follow a Framework: 

Having a well written lesson plan is absolutely key! Creating a story that kids can easily follow along with, and have visuals or an image in their minds about how something should feel or look like, really helps the poses come alive. The framework may come from a children’s book you love to read (so many use animals and nature, which yoga is full of!) or a make-believe story about something like a trip to the beach. Either way, having a journey for the kids to follow along with, and poses/creative movements that all flow together, will make for smooth and engaging kids yoga classes! Find some fun themes and resources in my online store.

 

2. Use Props & Music:

Keep poses fresh by adding in props that match your theme. My favorite kids yoga props include:

  • Movement Scarves
  • Breathing Ball (Hoberman’s Sphere)
  • Paper Sunshine/Leaves/Moon for the students to hold in their hands and they stretch to the sky, or down to their toes.
  • Stuffed animal toys for breathing exercises. (See my calming yoga post)
  • Real photographs of animals or other familiar objects for them to imitate (SO many traditional yoga poses are based on real things in Nature–mountains, trees, animals…). Having photographs and talking about the qualities and characteristics of each item helps the students to embody those qualities in their yoga poses. For example: “See how powerful, mighty, and tall this mountain is! When you hold your pose think about how strong you are and how nothing can knock you over! Stretch your body to the very top of the highest mountain and hold the pose powerfully as you continue taking deep breaths in and out”).

Music also helps kids jump in to a new routine,  or can aid in changing the pace mid-way through your yoga session by either energizing, or slowing things down. Here are my top recommendations for music for yoga and creative movement, and relaxation:

The Laurie Berkner Band

Kira Willey Dance for the Sun Album Cover

Kira Willey “Dance for the Sun” Album

Yoga for Children Music Cover

“Yoga Music for Kids Masters” Album

3. Spark the imagination:

Take your students on an adventure. Be playful and silly. Use the imagination to feel like you are really on the journey, or in the story you are acting out. If you are going on a trip to the beach, then start by “putting on sunscreen”, “placing flippers on your feet, or goggles on your head”. Really embody the story and adventure fully!

Here are a few of my favorite adventure kids yoga sequences. They all include a full teaching script and printable yoga cards with real photos of each pose: Find them in my online store. 

4. Join Them:

We know kids learn so much by watching and imitating us! If they see you jumping in and doing the poses, they will follow along as well. Also, when it comes to physical exercise or sports, seeing the movements in person is so much easier to follow than having someone just read you the instructions. Therefore, I always encourage the instructors to become familiar with the poses first, then do the poses with your students at least until they become familiar with them. All of my products have safe and easy-to-follow instructions for each pose, along with a photograph of the pose/movement in action. They are appropriate even for those with no prior yoga experience.

5. PRAISE, don’t Over-correct:

Kids Yoga is about doing good things for our body and minds, along with having fun. Nothing takes the fun out of something faster than constantly having someone correct you and re-position your body while you are doing it (in fact, that can actually cause an injury). Safety is definitely a top priority–and if you are using lessons from a professional kids yoga teacher, you know you will have the safest poses for kids bodies–but unless there is danger of an injury, try not to offer too much correction. Instead, welcome new “expressions” of the poses, praise them when they challenge themselves to balance longer, or try a harder version of a pose. Encourage every step of the way and make them feel good for the progress they are making no matter if they are just beginning, or already holding a warrior III pose :)!

6. Fold in Partner Poses:

Partner Poses are a great way to mix things up, and add a bonding experience for classmates, or even parents and kids! My favorite partner poses include: Double boat, partner chair pose, and Double Tree. This Healthy Living site gives some fantastic samples of other partner poses.

7. Add a Challenge:

I love to give multiple options for each pose based on varying ages and abilities. Tree Pose for example can be done in stages. Perhaps the first time in your yoga story, you use the “easiest” version of the pose. Then when you repeat the pose on the other side, or even later on in your story, offer variations that are a bit more challenging. Students love to try and see if they can master a new pose. Here are the 3 versions of Tree Pose I use in my classes:

Level 1: Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight onto one leg. Lift the opposite foot up rest it against your planted foot. You can leave your toes on the ground (almost like a kickstand of a bike) to help with balance. Place your hands on your hips, or bring them up to your “heart space” (chest level) with palms touching. Find a spot out in front of you to focus on to help with concentration and balance, while you take nice long easy breaths. Hold here for 30 seconds. Imagine you are a strong and mighty tree. You are rooted firmly in the ground. Not even the strongest wind can blow you over! Release your raised foot, come back to a neutral stance, and then switch sides, lifting your opposite heel from the ground. Hold for 30 seconds while maintaining breathing and focus. This time, if you are feeling very steady, grow your branches (arms) up towards the sunshine. Shake your leaves by wiggling your hands and focus to stay upright and balanced. GREAT JOB!

Level 2: Let’s challenge ourselves a bit more this time. Stand tall in Mountain Pose. Shift your weight onto one leg. Begin to bend your opposite knee and draw your foot up to place it flat against your standing leg (feel free to use your hand to reach down and help with placement of the foot). You can rest your foot either on the inside of the lower part (shin area) of your standing leg, or on the inside of the upper part (thigh) of your standing leg —just avoid placing the raised foot directly on your knee, as knees are meant to bend forward, and not from side to side. Envision yourself as a mighty, strong, and steady tree. Your roots grow deep, and your branches grow high. Reach your branches (arms) up towards the sunlight. Find a spot out in front of you to focus on to help with concentration and balance, while you take nice long easy breaths. Hold here for 30 seconds. Release your raised foot, come back to a neutral stance, and then switch sides, lifting your opposite foot from the ground. Hold here for another 30 seconds while maintaining breathing and focus. (Instructor, it is super fun to pretend to be the wind and see if you can “blow” any of the trees over as you move from student to student!). 

Looking for more tips on Introducing Yoga to Kids? Click the image below to visit my post:

*All rights reserved to Little Twisters Yoga. No part of the text or photos may be used, or reposted, without prior consent from the owner.
*NOTICE: The information contained on this site is for educational purposes only, is intended to provide helpful material on the subject matter covered, contains opinions and ideas of its author, and should not be confused as rendering professional services, offering medical advice, nor used for diagnosing or treating any health problem. Those who choose to participate in yoga, and/or any physical activity should understand that it involves a risk of personal injury, of which they are solely and personally responsible for. Consult a doctor with any medical concerns or questions.

The author disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any of the contents of this site and corresponding materials.

Helpful Tips on Introducing Yoga to Kids!

As a certified children’s yoga instructor, and a mommy, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing yoga to young children, starting at toddlers on up–and oh what fun it’s been! You may even see your younger baby doing some traditional yoga poses naturally (downward dog and happy baby are some early favorites)!

baby_downward-facing-dog_watermark-with-title

Below are some helpful tips on introducing yoga to younger kids, from a yoga professional:

*Why Yoga For Kids? 

It makes sense. Kids love to move, they are super bendy, and they have great imaginations, allowing them to bring the poses to life with an extra element of fun. Yoga all started with poses that were created to imitate things around us. The mountains, trees, animals…and kids are great at “make believe”! As a bonus, yoga does some really great things for our bodies and our brains. Learn more here and check out my recommended reading here.

*What age should we start at?: 

I’ve found that preschool age, on up, is a perfect fit! Children 3 and up really grasp the instructions, and know how to listen to their bodies if something doesn’t feel right or is too hard, and can communicate that important safety aspect with you. Some 2-year-olds will be able to follow along with some of the early poses, but I would caution against going beyond a few beginner yoga poses at a time, unless working with a professional kids yoga teacher.

Occasionally young toddlers will just be rolling around and come into a perfect yoga pose on their own, out of nowhere. Downward Facing Dog is an early favorite, even with kids as young as 1 or 2. If you see it, cheer it on. “Hey, you are doing yoga! That is a doggie pose–way to go!!”. They love the praise and will most likely repeat the pose several times. They also love to follow along with big siblings, or hold hands with mom and dad while trying out standing poses. That’s awesome! However, remember that toddlers don’t have great balance yet, and should always go at their own pace. See my safety precautions farther down in the article.

* What You Need:

  1. Comfy Clothes to move and stretch in (leaving shoes on, or go barefoot)
  2. A safe, open spot to move around (carpet, or on a rug/mat works best to avoid slipping and to protect tender kiddo tailbones).
  3. MOST IMPORTANTLY  yoga poses that are adapted to be age appropriate for kids!

Check out my Printable Beginning Yoga Cards for 12 starter poses including bright pictures and step-by-step instructions. The printable yoga cards will provide you with a good foundation of how to do the yoga poses correctly and safely for full benefits. No prior experience in yoga is needed for the parent/teacher, or child.

*What Poses Should I Start With? 

Keep it simple! Even if you are an experienced yogi yourself, you want to make sure to keep the children’s yoga poses very basic to avoid injury, and to keep it engaging for little ones.

Below are a few helpful beginner videos!

Step 1: Watch my instructional video on the 5 Foundation Poses of Children’s Yoga (Ages 3+ can follow along!):

Step 2: Have your students join along with some fun Beginner Poses!

Step 3: Download my Printable Yoga Cards to continue the journey. CLICK HERE

How Should I Teach?

Kids love to imitate. That’s why they especially love the yoga poses named after familiar things such as animals, airplanes, stars…They also love imitating you—so I always recommend doing the poses with your kids/students, especially when they are first starting out. Make it a fun family or classroom experience together.

family-yoga_forward-fold_watermark-and-frame

Start Slow & Encourage—as with anything new, some kids may want to watch you a few times before they feel comfortable trying themselves. Let them know that balance, strength, flexibility, are all things that take practice. They will get better the more they try (but don’t force it–that takes the fun out of “playing yoga!”). P.S. Try not to over-correct. If the poses don’t look “perfect”, that is just fine! As long as there is not a risk of injury (for example: putting weight on their head or neck, overstretching, falling over), then generally, it is best to let your children express themselves in whatever way they enjoy doing the pose. 🙂

childs-pose_child_overlay_watermark

Praise is key! Use lots of excitement, and like any new thing your child/students are learning, when they figure it out, cheer for them!

*Verbal Prompts: Once you and your children are familiar with the poses, you can shorten the instructions down to prompts such as: “Show me your butterfly wings!” “Can you  squat like a froggie?” “Do your doggie yoga pose!” (then of course, follow with praise!).

*With Safety in Mind: As with any “exercise” program, you definitely want to have some basic understanding about proper alignment and safety from a professional before you, yourself, give it a try, or try to instruct your kids. (there are lots of blogs about kids yoga, and some of them make me cringe a bit–please make sure the poses you offer your children actually come from an experienced teacher). All of my products offer easy-to-follow instructions for poses, with beginners in mind. Become familiar with the do’s and don’ts of the poses first, so that you can safely teach them to your kids. It also helps to find a certified yoga teacher, that specializes in children’s yoga, who can give in-person advice on proper alignment, and getting the most benefits out of the poses. Plus, children’s group yoga lessons are filled with FUN!

A few additional safety notes:

  • It’s important that we always listen to our bodies on any given day (meaning, things that felt good yesterday, may not feel good today–your body knows itself very well, so stop right away if it doesn’t feel right/hurts).
  • Please teach your kids these rules before beginning:little-twisters-yoga-important-rules-updated
  • Make sure your children never hold their breath during the poses. Speaking of breath, my pose instructions do tie the breathing (inhaling and exhaling) to the motion of the poses. Preschoolers on up will understand this, toddlers won’t, which is just fine. Continue to remind them to breathe through each pose (and not to hold their breath), because sometimes when they are really concentrating to balance, for example, they may forget.
  • Don’t do any poses where pressure or weight is placed on the neck or head. (For example, in downward facing dog, always make sure the arms are holding the weight of the body, and not the head resting on the ground). I never do a traditional fish pose, or headstands with kids. Also, little ones have a tough time with balance, so be mindful when doing any sort of upside down pose, and maybe have them stand next to a wall or chair when doing a standing balance pose on one leg (tree pose, or airplane pose, for example).
  • Let children go at their own pace. Don’t try to move their body into a position, or force them into a deeper stretch. This can lead to injuries! Using words to instruct, or better yet, demonstrating the pose yourself for your little one to copy, is the best practice.

*Helpful Props: 

Adding fun noises, or other teaching points/questions (“What color is your butterfly?”) just adds to the experience! Showing them a picture of the pose, or a picture of the object/animal you are teaching also helps spark the imagination of how the pose should look.

Small stuffed animals or toys work great as props. For example, you can teach downward facing dog by placing a toy in front of small toddler, and asking them to reach their hands down on the floor next to the toy and balance. Or have them reach their toy high in the sky during extended mountain pose. During bridge pose, drive a toy car under your child’s bridge to bring it to life. When teaching breathing exercises, use a small stuffed animal to show how the belly rises high during a full inhale (buddy goes up), and the belly sinks back down on a full exhale (buddy goes down). So many fun ways to use lovable toys during your yoga play.

Belly Breathing

Belly Buddy Breathing

Other helpful links: Online Store,  For Parents,  For Educators  Children’s Yoga Printables and Lesson Plans

Find themed kids yoga sequences here

*All rights reserved to Little Twisters Yoga. No portion of the text or images may be used without prior written consent from the owner. 

*NOTICE: The information contained on this site is intended to provide helpful material on the subject matter covered, contains opinions and ideas of its author, and  should not be confused as rendering professional services, offering medical advice, nor used for diagnosing or treating any health problem. Those who choose to participate in yoga, and/or any physical activity should understand that it involves a risk of personal injury, of which they are solely and personally responsible for. Consult a doctor with any medical concerns or questions. 

The author disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any of the contents of this site and corresponding materials.

Calming with Yoga

Calming Yoga for Kids Infographic

Calming strategies are important tools for ANY age, and provide life-long benefits. Whether our kids are feeling tired, mad, anxious, overwhelmed, or all of the above, YOGA (simple stretches and breathing exercises) can be hugely powerful in slowing down and resetting (and some of the tips can be done anytime and anywhere–especially breathing exercises!). Doing yoga together as a family is a great way to MODEL ways to self-regulate (or calm) our bodies and brains down. Children don’t know intuitively what it means to “calm down”. They need to learn through experiences. Help them learn the signs of what their bodies might be feeling, or how their actions point to their emotional state (what am I feeling right now? what might be causing me to act this way?), and then ways that they can regulate those feelings, move away from negative responses, and begin to switch from a state of fight or flight, to one of rest and relax.

Want to learn more about self-regulation? Here are some great articles: HERE and HERE

HOW DOES YOGA HELP CALM?

  • Yoga asanas (postures), and deep breathing exercises help switch our bodies from a stressed state of flight-or-fight, to a more calm state of rest & digest (activating the parasympathetic nervous system to slow the heart rate, lower blood pressure and regulate breathing, as well as to stop the flood of stress hormones that anxiety and  frustration can bring on).
  • By focusing our minds on the balance and strength needed for the poses, we are no longer completely consumed by the feelings that are making us anxious and overwhelmed. Giving that break allows our left– and right-brain to integrate better and process the emotions so that we may be better equipped for handling them in positive ways. (A fascinating read is “The Whole Brain Child” by Siegel and Bryson ).
  • Poses that involve an inversion (head below the heart—forward folds or downward dog poses), as well as back bends/heart openers (including the camel and waterfall pose) have been shown in many studies to help reduce stress and aid those with depression and anxiety.
  • Slowing the breathing, especially when the exhale is longer than the inhale, also helps bring the body into a more calm and centered state. The best part is breathing exercises are tools that can be used any time and any place!

PRO TIPS:

  1. Teach Proactively: Share these tools with your children during low-stress moments. When we are in a state of fight-or-flight, we are not able to learn new information or follow instructions.
  1. Model & Mimic: Children love to mimic! Do the poses and breathing exercises with them! Make it fun and silly, and praise, praise, praise!
  1. Practice, practice, practice: Do the poses and breathing exercises together often so they become a “default tool” to pull out during a moment of high stress/big emotions

SUGGESTED CALMING EXERCISES AND STRETCHING:

1. Belly Breathing

Deep Calming Breaths Infographic_Flower_Dandelion

Slowing down our breathing is the easiest and quickest way to calm our bodies. But, for young kids, even this can be a tricky concept to master. I love to use easy verbal prompts with my toddler and preschooler. Here’s something you can try.

It looks like you are feeling mad and very upset. Let’s try to slow down our breathing to calm our bodies. (Holding out a pretend flower in front of child). Smell my pretty flower. Breathe in through your nose all the way up to the top of your lungs nice and slow. Good. (Switch hands to offer a pretend dandelion). Now blow my dandelion. Slowly let all of the air out of your lungs and belly to send the dandelion seeds blowing through the air. Awesome. Let’s do it again (repeat).

 Belly Breathing Card

You can also try this laying down with a “BELLY BUDDY” (a small stuffed animal that can go for a ride on the child’s belly as they breathe in and out). This brings awareness to the belly, and how it should expand (on the inhale) and shrink (on the exhale) with good deep breathing–many young children will actually do the opposite when told to take a big breath, and hold their tummy muscles tight, rather than expanding.

Belly Breathing Instructions: Have your child lay down on their back, placing their belly buddy on their tummy. Now take a deep breath in, filling up your lungs and belly (pretending to have a balloon filling up inside of them), as their belly buddy goes up, up, up. Pause at the top and then exhale letting all the air back out as the belly buddy goes down, down, down. Repeat and Relax, as long as your child is comfortable. Even encouraging them to close their eyes as they get the hang of the breathing.

If you are working with a classroom of students, have them sit in hero pose (start by standing on the knees, then lowering bottoms to heels) and place their hands on their bellies as they visualize a balloon blowing up (inhale) and shrinking back down (exhale) for several deep calming breaths.

Belly Breathing_Hero Pose_Watermarked

2. Give Hugs!

Self Hug with Name Hug a Friend_Calming Strategies

Children can hug a grownup, squeeze a stuffed animal (this is especially helpful when mad!), or do a self-hug–wrapping their arms around their shoulders to squeeze and hold for a few minutes with calming breaths–to feel better.

3. Strike a Pose

There are tons of amazing yoga poses out there! Here’s a guide to choosing the right pose for the desired response:

Children's Yoga Poses & Benefits_Infographic

Visit my online store for many other resources including the following helpful lesson plans:

In short, there are tons of ways yoga and breathing can help re-center our bodies and brains and get us to a happier state. And also remember that basic needs such as being hydrated, eating healthy foods, and getting enough rest also come into play with moods and feelings. The more we as parents work to increase our own health and positive responses to stress, the better we are at modeling these behaviors for our little ones.

You May Like:

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 *All rights reserved to Little Twisters Yoga. No part of the text or photos may be used without prior consent from the owner. 

*NOTICE: The information contained on this site is intended to provide helpful material on the subject matter covered, contains opinions and ideas of its author, and  should not be confused as rendering professional services, offering medical advice, nor used for diagnosing or treating any health problem. Those who choose to participate in yoga, and/or any physical activity should understand that it involves a risk of personal injury, of which they are solely and personally responsible for. Consult a doctor with any medical concerns or questions. 

The author disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any of the contents of this site and corresponding materials.