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Teaching is hard. Teaching a subject that is practically new to the field is even harder!
Flashback to four years ago, when I first started teaching Movement (Yoga at a public school). I was at a total loss to figure out how to come up with innovating and exciting kid’s yoga lessons every day.
My first year of teaching I spent HOURS writing, re-writing, and failing at lesson planning. I spent every day after school analyzing what went well, and what didn’t.
I searched every site on the web looking for tips and tricks on how to teach better classes.
How do you avoid this???
One simple way to come up with plans for kid’s yoga is to have a well thought out THEME. Pick a theme that you can stretch out to fit several classes, with books, games, and activities.
Pick something you are interested in, so you can let your passion shine through!
Themes help keep kids engaged because it’s often something they can relate to and feel connected to. They contribute and have good ideas when they know the topic, too!
Themes also help ME when I teach because I remember the “plotline” of the story better, or I just generally stay on task better. #winning
What are some easy and relatable themes for teaching kids yoga?
Here I’ve compiled a few go-to themes that I have used in my teaching. I have a few links to related books and tools that I use and love as well. Bolded and italicized are poses (if you can’t figure out which pose it’s supposed to be please comment below and I’ll let you know!)
There are TONS of yoga poses that are animals, and so many more that can be invented. I spend about half the year teaching yoga to kindergarten just using animal themes.
We start with animal movements on our mats: move like a bear, move like a bunny, move like a frog, etc. Then we focus on how a pose is different. When we POSE we hold our body in the shape of an animal.
Freeze dance works well for this, and a game called Museum.
Check out some fun yoga games in this post:
My favorite way to show animal poses is with pose cards. These adorable game cards are my favorite animal ones, and this cute book, Zoo Zen, is really fun for learning some different animal poses with a trip to the zoo!
This is a great addition to the animal theme above, and I use this perfect deck of ABC Yoga cards to go through a lot of them. The matching book is also awesome (affiliate links) and my students LOVE both! We try all the poses, sometimes using sounds.
Then we write the ABC’s on a big chart and write an animal for each letter. This way they can review ones they know, and also create new ones! They love using their imaginations.
This post is ALL about Animal Yoga ABC’s! Find out how I taught this theme for several classes and grab a free PDF of resources!
One other awesome set of ABC yoga cards is here. I love these as well because there are duplicates and you can play “Yoga Memory,” if you flip them over and pretend not to see the letters 🙂
A newer ABC yoga book is here, and I just adore the sweet illustrations and hefty style of the book. It is durable and appealing to all ages so far!
My free PDF of Animal ABC’s is available for instant download in the Free Resources Library. Grab yours now!
Building again on the animal theme I often use safari-type exploration stories to get lots of poses into a short time frame.
We pick a location (desert, jungle, forest, plains, mountains, ocean) and start off on a hike. I usually pretend to march in place and then hold my thumb and finger up to my eyes as binoculars to look for animals. I let the kids raise a hand to tell me what they see. As we see more and more animals we often have to get into a boat to go down a river or a climb a tree and look for birds.
Lots of versatility with this one and you can also learn about topography and geography if they are older kiddos!
These books, by Kid’s Yoga Stories, are wonderful books that take kiddos on animal adventures. They take up a little more time to read the whole story, but I find they work well for small groups.
The seasons and weather themes are great for a last minute class. Weather is always changing, as are the seasons if you live in the north like me! The Giving Tree is a great book for the changing of the seasons, and the years, as well as teaching about kindness.
It’s very fun to pretend to be a tree in different seasons. Start as a small seed, grow up into a tree in the spring. Flowers grow on the tree, bees start to buzz, and fly around. In the summer there are thunderstorms and rain (lightning bolt pose, patter hands on knees). Trees move a lot in the wind (star pose: opposite hand to foot, come back up, then the other side). You also start to see apples (crouch and curl). You can go on a long tangent or a separate lesson to make applesauce. In autumn the leaves fall, the animals start to gather food, then the snow comes, and the trees are still.
Lots of poses can be made transportation-related! Boat and airplane are good places to start. Again, we often go on a journey and use our vehicle poses to get us from place to place.
If you want a few classes in this theme, here are some ideas:
- Make a list of different vehicles and practice them all the first day. Commonly created poses include car, airplane, rocket, boat, submarine, motorcycle, bicycle, train, excavator… and so many more!
- The next class you can choose one to start to tell a story traveling with their vehicle in between other poses.
- The following class they could create their own stories with poses or use partner poses to create new vehicles.
- Play a game with especially active kiddos: try a move-and-freeze game, changing vehicles every time you freeze.
- Or you can play “Red light, Green light” and use the red light for posing, yellow light for walking, and green light for moving fast.
- I love The Little Blue Truck, about a truck and all its animal friends. Good for transportation, animal, and friendship themes!
I often start this theme with kindness towards ourselves. That means a slow sun salutation with deep breaths to help our bodies. I usually add on heart opening poses at the end, reminding them to go slow and take deep breaths to protect their heart.
After kindness to ourselves, we practice some trust games and activities:
- Walk on blocks with a blindfold: with a partner to talk you through it and hold your hand
- Trust falls for older kids
- Blindfolded mat maze: kids that will be blindfolded don’t watch while the others create a maze using the mats, then everyone talks them through the maze, either on top of or in-between the mats (think, “Floor is Lava” but the mats are connected)
- Partner poses: elevator (chair pose holding partner’s arm), double boat, double down dog, back to back chair, etc. Yoga Pretzels has all of these partner poses, and more!
Holidays are great for so many themes. I almost never use them in my school, since I teach at a public school and students celebrate a variety of different holidays. It’s pretty hard to do them all or find culturally relevant texts for all of them.
However, holidays may be a perfect theme for you and your kids or class!
- Tell a story of the holiday with poses
- create new poses for holiday characters or objects
- take some time for students to share what their favorite part of holiday traditions are
- Read a book and create poses as you go
I love talking about feelings and emotions with yoga. There are so many ways to teach about how we are feeling and tie it in with poses that can help. Mindfulness always ties in nicely, too.
- Let kids share how they are feeling by passing around a special “talking piece” (the person holding it is the only person allowed to talk)
- Come up with poses (or faces) that demonstrate our emotions: sad (forward fold), excited (star), scared (child ‘s pose)…
- Talk about and practice poses that help us manage our feelings and big emotions
- Read a book and do a pose for each page/feeling. These all work really well: My Many Colored Days, My Heart is Like a Zoo, and Sometimes I Feel Like a Mouse.
Balancing and Flexibility
This is a theme I frequently use for several weeks with my older kiddos (ages 8-11). They love learning about balance and flexibility. I talk more about the benefits these have on our bodies, and then we work on building strength and flexibility.
It’s a great theme to give them some good challenges, and also to build on sequences linked with breath. Since breath is inexorably linked with gaining flexibility, you can make sure to cue them to inhale and exhale slowly with each new pose.
The Giving Tree is, again, a good book to use here because they can hold tree pose for a long time. Also, boat and chair (for the old stump) are good balances.
I have a specific sequence of poses that I call a Yoga Flow that works really well for themes on balance and flexibility.
Check out the pose images and the Yoga Flow sequence here!