How do you set up a kids yoga class for success in any space: a library, studio, a tiny classroom, an open gymnasium, or a classroom with desks?
It’s important to make sure you have the right tools and an open mind to help ensure your kids yoga class goes smoothly wherever you are.
The start of the school year or the start of a yoga camp can be an anxiety-filled time.
A first day has a lot of high stakes– you want to make sure that the kids have a good time, feel safe and comfortable, learn lots of new poses, and generally follow the expectations.
It may feel impossible to accomplish that all on day one, but it can happen!
One way to help yourself and the kids feel ready for that first day is by making sure that your yoga space is clean, organized, and filled with beautiful and relaxing things to help support the kiddos.
You don’t want to overwhelm them with too many flashy things at once, but it’s good to make sure you are organized and ready to learn fun yoga poses and useful mindfulness skills.
As a 10 year veteran of teaching kids yoga, I have taught classes in so many different places:
- big classrooms all of my own
- tiny closet-like narrow rooms with 6th graders
- the floor of toddler and preschool rooms surrounded by 3-year-olds
- rickety, barely swept wood floor with holes
- outside under a tree in the dirt
- a grassy hill with kids who were deaf and hard of hearing
- big gymnasiums where I had to shout…
Luckily, my past 9 years of teaching kids yoga have been in classrooms all to myself and I have come to find that I’m pretty particular about setting up the space just right.
To be fair, in all of these places, the best tools were:
- My own energy and excitement
- Rhythm (music or call and response)
- A set of yoga cards
But when you CAN provide more… what should you bring to your kids yoga class?
That was a question I asked myself in June a couple of years ago when I had to pack up my old room and move to a new one.
I switched schools a few years ago: my previous charter school ran out of funding because of low enrollment (an unfortunate but common problem).
At my new school, the first room I got placed in was a long, narrow room. I knew it wouldn’t be the best situation, but it was what I got. We made the best of it!
Well, after two weeks of nine separate classes a day bumping into each other and the hot circular water heater, leaving marks on the walls, and feeling the frustration of kiddos not able to see me, the administration was able to make some changes and get me into a larger room. Yay!
I was so happy; I spent 8 hours that Saturday cleaning, arranging, and setting up my new, bigger room.
No matter what space you have or don’t have, it is important to come prepared with a good attitude and a well thought out lesson plan.
There are certain things you can do to prepare, and there are some tools and supplies that you might want.
This helps you ensure that the space you are in feels welcoming and useful for your yoga class with kids.
Even if you stack a few things on a cart and wheel it around to classrooms every hour (or carry it all in a basket, like I have done) the feeling that you will get from being prepared and ready will be passed on to the kids.
It will help everyone feel more in a zen-like state for optimal yoga and mindfulness practices.
How to set up your kids yoga classroom for success (wherever you are)
1. Make sure everyone can see you
If you are in a large enough room, the best layout is to make a big circle. That way, everyone can see you and follow along with the yoga poses that you show.
In my current classroom we are in a sort of rectangle, and that works well enough. (It sometimes works for me to just do the poses in the middle, too).
Rows can also work, with space in between for kids to come in and walk carefully to their mat without stepping on other mats. Place yourself at the front, but walk in between the kids often enough so the ones in the back can see you (and know you can see them)
If you are at desks, try to find a central or “middle” space for kids to see you, or just move around often enough to be visible.
2. Ensure kids have space and know how much space they have
However you can, designate kid’s space visually so they know their spatial boundaries for moving and doing poses. Yoga mats are ideal, but there are other options.
Here are some decent yoga mats from Amazon that are basically adult sized but cheaper and sold in bulk. They work pretty well either for kids to have their own mat or share with others!
If you have kids that need to keep their shoes on, or if you don’t have quite enough space for a full mat, these fitness squares work really well. Two of them together are about the same size as a yoga mat, but just one square works pretty well for smaller kiddos or spaces.
Sit spots, for carpeted rooms, are also a tool to LOVE. They work great as a way to give kids their own designated spot to at least keep a foot or hand on. Being super small they are also much easier to transport from room to room.
For non-carpeted floors these vinyl dots work well for allocating space and transporting as well.
Whatever you have, it helps to use a visual (a poster of the rules) to show kids their space when you inevitably say “stay on their space” a million times a day. I am constantly saying, “Check that you’re on your circle spot!” or “Feet on your own mat!”
It helps remind ALL the kids to stay safe in their space no matter where they are when you can just point to the rule on the chart as well.
3. Create a sense of calm with sound and lights
Try to use natural light, or dimmer strands of white lights to create a calmer ambiance in your room. If you can, use lamps, but obviously that’s not always possible.
If you have natural light, use that instead of the overhead fluorescents.
Some teachers also buy covers for their lights to make them dimmer or less harsh.
It can be really nice to have quiet music playing in the background, and it’s always a good idea to have on during savasana.
4. Add fragrance (or minimize stinky feet smells)
First of all, if you have a place to keep shoes outside of the room, in shelves or bins, absolutely do that. It helps cut down on the stinky feet smell and just generally makes the room feel calmer.
If you have to keep shoes in the room, consider having kids just keep them on. Yoga feels nice when you can take off your shoes but if the smell of stinky feet is too much, shoes on might be the best way to go.
If you do let them take off shoes, either have them put the shoes in a big bag (like an Ikea bag) or put them under their desk or somewhere out of the way. The temptation to play with the shoes (or even throw them) will then be a little less strong.
No matter what, use a little fragrance to help keep the room smell nice. I have a diffuser and some essential oils that help greatly.
Rooms sprays and mat sprays are also great additions to the whole scent package.
5. Encourage positive thinking with motivational visuals
Many classroom spaces are blank and boring before they get filled up with kid’s school and art work. If you’re in a classroom space of your own though, it might be nice to spruce it up a little with some inspirational posters. They would also look nice on a cart if you are pushing that from room to room as well
We also have a cute mantra board that can be used for a quote of the day (or a joke of the day!)
You can put up a new quote every week (sometimes more frequently) and discuss it in class. It helps to guide the classes with a theme and remember what it is we should be talking about 🙂
6. Make mindfulness tools available to kids and let them know when (and how) to use them
If you have a circle space, try putting a singing bowl in the middle of a beautiful mandala cloth. That alone just helps the space feel calm and relaxing. Then, make it a part of the routine to ring the singing bowl and listen all together to help ground in (or check-in) to the space.
Remind them that hearing the sound may help them think about where they are right now and be in the present moment.
Let the kids use the bowl occasionally to help the whole class refocus. You can assign the job of the bell to one kiddo per day and give them a silent signal to watch for to ring the bell at certain times (not too frequently, you don’t want to overuse it).
We also have a breathing ball for the same thing. One kiddo has the job to lead us in breathing after we do a Yoga Flow, and occasionally before the end of class.
Another good space you can try out is a Mindful Minute spot (like Take a Break) with a few tools that they can use to practice mindfulness on their own:
- Manipulatives for fidgeting
- A Glitter Calm Down Jar
- Some Breathing Exercise Printables
- Painted affirmation mantra rocks
- Mindfulness coloring pages
All of these can help if they are feeling overwhelmed, or need some time to refocus and calm their bodies. Make sure to place some rules on the space, like when they can go and how long they can stay.
7. Create a yoga tools station for self-led yoga fun
One thing that many kids need a little more of is autonomy. They need the time and dedicated space to choose what they want to learn.
Here are some fun yoga games that kids can learn first as a whole group, and then have the opportunity to play them on their own in a “yoga station”.
A good yoga station could be something you let kids use on their own when the choose, or it can be something that gets “opened” at certain times of the day.
Some great Yoga Station choices include:
- A Yoga storybook
- Yoga Memory game
- Dice game with poses
- Yoga board game
- Spinner game with poses (also this!)
- Beanbag toss with yoga cards (lots of yoga card options here!)
8. Bring along a Yoga Buddy (Meddy Teddy!)
Meddy Teddy is a very inspirational yoga teddy bear for kids. He’s cuddly and soft and can bend and balance in all sorts of yoga poses!
I use him to help motivate kids and classes that maybe don’t get that excited about yoga. He has a couple of books that go along with him for reading, and tons of cute clothing available now, too.
Check out this post on how to introduce Meddy Teddy and what you can all do together.
9. Hang up yoga pose visuals to help them learn poses faster!
The very first yoga tool I bought online was this awesome ABC yoga poses for kids poster. I still have it up (actually I got a new one and laminated it last year) and the kiddos love to reference it when they can.
Another great visual is to hang up full-sized laminated images of the Kid’s Yoga Pose Cards for a Yoga Flow. They love to see the poses that we do every day at the beginning of class. It also helps them learn the names and poses faster!
10. Optimize their mindfulness during savasana
Aside from the music and scent, one way to help get your kids relaxed for savasana is by giving them each a breathing buddy on their tummy to help them remember to breathe.
We use my old beanie babies, which are cute, just the right weight and were totally free (plus my mom was happy to get them out of her house lol).
To start savasana, a nice sounds to use is a beautiful set of chimes. The kids love the sound and that signal is different than the singing bowl so it helps them associate it with a different type of mindfulness.
Another option to consider is using eye masks for them to rest on their eyes if they choose. Not all my students close their eyes though and I don’t force them (not good for kids who’ve gone through trauma) so that’s up to you and your situation.
If we had blankets, that would be another great addition to helping them really relax in a deep savasana!
Remember, the most important parts of teaching a successful kids yoga class are:
- Your own energy and excitement
- Rhythm (music or call and response)
- A set of yoga cards
It’s important to bring more when it makes sense, but also sometimes simple is better. Do your best; the kids will see your energy and meet you there!
Get out there and teach! 🙂