Ever wonder what kids DO in yoga class? A lesson plan inspired by The Giving Tree.
Before actually seeing a kids yoga class in action during my mini yogi teacher training with Shana Meyerson, I had NO clue what to expect; I knew that it wouldn’t look anything like any adult class that I had ever taken! What I saw in my training was nothing short of amazing! Shana managed to keep a bunch of preschool aged kids engaged for almost an hour an a half, alternating between doing yoga, breathing, sitting still, moving, playing games and even laying in savasana at the end of class (one little boy was so relaxed he did not move even when it was time to get up, no joke!). She was full of insight and tricks…I mean, this chick is Talented (with a capital T) in so many ways…a true inspiration.
When I started teaching children, I took the tools that I learned from Shana’s training and through trial and error since then, I have been figuring out how to add my voice and ideas for playful, energetic, and creative kids yoga classes. What I have learned along the way is that it is good to have a plan, but not to be too tied to it, and that the kids have a ton of great ideas of their own. They are wonderfully creative and hilarious and have NO expectations…we laugh a lot and are silly but always take time to sit still and just breathe.
One thing that I was sure about wanting to incorporate into these kids classes were the core values of Yoga. Thinking of some of the BIG ones: kindness (ahimsa), honesty (satya), self-discipline, or doing our best (tapas), gratitude, courage…I wondered how I could best introduce these concepts to children in a way that was not only accessible to them, but also fun. Here is one of my first lessons which is designed to reinforce loving kindness…because after all, that is what life, and yoga, is all about.
After an introduction, guided seated meditation and a warm up (including sun salutations) kids are introduced to Tree Pose and then we all read the Giving Tree. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (one of my all time favorite books) tells the story of the friendship between a tree and a boy as he grows into an old man. After reading the book, we discuss the importance of love, kindness and friendship. We also chat about how important it is to be kind to ourselves, others and the environment in thought, word and action. Next, we revisit Tree Pose…first starting out as seeds, rooting into the earth, and then growing into trees as we are “watered”. The kids LOVE sprouting branches, swaying in the breeze and even toppling over during storms! Next after a short break for snack we reconvene for a tree-related craft. There are so many great craft ideas out there…I have found that Pinterest is an excellent resource (even for those of us who are less artistically inclined). After our craft, we head back to our mats and explore more yoga poses related to trees…namely animals that live in trees (snakes, bugs, monkeys, birds, owls, insects, lizards, etc). This is a great time to allow kids to be creative to think of their own poses. After this movement session, we will revisit the poses that we have learned with a game…perhaps musical mats or yoga jenga. Of course, we always end with savasana (complete with lavender eye pillows) and namastes.
There are so many amazing children’s books out there which serve as wonderful inspiration for creative class ideas and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future!!