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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?
I have some great ideas and tools to help make sure your children’s yoga class goes smoothly wherever you are located.
The start of the school year or the start of a yoga camp can be an anxiety-filled time.
I know I have trouble sleeping before I teach a new class or meet kids for the first time. It’s important to me that they have a good time, feel safe and comfortable, learn lots of new poses, and generally like me.
I know it’s impossible to accomplish that all on day one, but I like to try!
One way to help myself feel ready for that first day is by making sure that the space is clean, organized, and filled with beautiful and relaxing things to help support the kiddos.
I don’t want to overwhelm them with all the things at once, but I do want to make sure we are organized and ready to learn fun yoga poses and useful mindfulness skills!
I have taught kids yoga classes in SO many different places:
- big classrooms all of my own
- tiny closet-like narrow rooms with 6th graders
- the floor of preschool rooms surrounded by 3 year olds
- rickety dirty 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…
…the list goes on!
Luckily, my past 6 years 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
- 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 of last year when I had to pack up my old room and move to a new one.
I switched schools this year: 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!
Thankfully, after two weeks of nine separate classes a day bumping into each other, 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, I have learned that it is important to come prepared.
There are certain things you can do, and there are some tools and supplies that you might want.
This helps you make sure that the space you are in feels welcoming and is useful for your yoga class with kids.
Even if you stack these things on a cart and wheel it around to classrooms every hour (or carry it all in a basket, like I did) 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 class for success
1. Make sure everyone can see you
If you are in a large enough room, I suggest making a big circle. That way, everyone can see you and follow along with the yoga poses that you show. In my new class we are in a sort of rectangle, and that works well enough. (I sometimes just do the poses in the middle, TBH).
I’ve also done rows with “walking” space in between for kids to come in and walk carefully to their mat without stepping on other mats.
If you are at desks, try to find a central or “middle” space for kids to see you, or just move around often 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 “space” for moving and doing poses. Yoga mats are ideal, but there are other options.
I use 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! I also prefer the ones that are a solid color instead of designed to avoid them fighting over which image they get.
Sit spots, for carpeted rooms, are also a tool I use AND LOVE. The kids sit on their circle spot until we unfold our mats, and again after the mats are away before they go back to class. They also work really well if you don’t have mats or the space for mats.
For non-carpeted floors these vinyl dots work well for allocating space too.
Whatever you have, use a visual 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.
3. Create a sense of calm with sound and lights
I try to use natural light, or dimmer strands of white lights to create a calmer ambiance in my room. When I can, I use lamps, but that’s not always possible. I very much dislike the overhead fluorescent lighting in most classrooms so I try to keep those off (or least low if they have that setting).
I frequently have quiet music playing in the background, and always during savasana. Google Play is excellent (I have the monthly subscription that gives me ad-free YouTube and ad-free unlimited music, it’s a lifesaver!!)
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.
In my current room, we have to keep the shoes in the room which is a bummer, but we make it work. They place their shoes by the wall, upside down if possible, and don’t touch them until it’s time to put them on.
No matter what, use a little fragrance to help keep the room smell nice. I have a diff user and some essential oils that I use, those help greatly.
5. Encourage positive thinking with motivational visuals
The walls in my new classroom were a little too white and boring when I moved in, so I found these nice inspirational posters to hang up.
I love the positive affirmations and bright colors.
I put up a new quote every week (sometimes more frequently) and we discuss it in class. It helps me 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
In my circle space, I place my singing bowl in the middle of a beautiful mandala cloth. That alone just helps the space feel calm and relaxing. We ring the singing bowl and listen all together to help us ground in (or check-in) to the space.
I remind them that hearing the sound may help them think about where they are right now and be in the present moment.
The kids get to use the bowl occasionally to help the whole class refocus. I assign the job of the bell to one kiddo and give them a silent signal to watch for to ring the bell at certain times (not too frequently, we don’t want to overuse it).
I also created a Mindful Minute spot (like Take a Break) with a few tools that they can use to practice mindfulness on their own:
All of these can help if they are feeling overwhelmed, or need some time to refocus and calm their bodies.
7. Create a yoga tools station for self-led yoga fun
I have some fun yoga games that my students learn as a whole group, and then they have “stations” where they can choose a game that they like and practice poses on their own. Basically that means I put all the stuff in the middle of the circle and they choose what they’d like to do on their own for 10 minutes or so.
Their Yoga Stations choices include:
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.
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.
I also 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, I help my kiddos get relaxed for savasana 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, I always ring 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.
I have also contemplated 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:
It’s important to bring more when it makes sense, but also sometimes simple is better. Do your best and the kids will see your energy and meet you there!
Get out there and teach! 🙂