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Teaching yoga poses to toddlers and little kids can be a real challenge, but is fun and rewarding!
Imagine doing animal poses and making animals noises and reading books and chasing 12 toddlers to get them to do yoga in a big classroom.
The biggest issue is usually a diaper blow out or getting bitten.
Ok, so maybe that doesn’t thrill, you, but that’s ok. You still might want some advice on teaching yoga to this age group!
I’ve recently been asked for tips on how to teach yoga to 2 and 3 year old’s, the littlest yogis who have lots of energy but not a lot of personal space boundaries.
Turns out, I happen to love teaching yoga to toddlers since I used to work at a preschool and daycare center. The toddler room was one of the first places that I started teaching yoga to kids.
Maybe it’s hearing them say new words as we read and play together, or the excitement when we learn that they know the word “twist”. I love it though!
What are the best yoga poses to do with toddlers?
Here are the pose images for some of the poses we did in the video for toddler yoga!
Mountain (reach up!)
Star pose (reach out!)
Forward fold (reach for your toes!)
Down Dog (make an upside down triangle!)
Three legged dog (lift a leg and wiggle your puppy tail!)
Cat/cow pose (mostly they will just be crawling, but whatever)
Cobra pose (wiggle like a snake!)
Child’s pose (make a tiny ball!)
Butterfly (sit with feet together!)
Frog pose (squat with hands by your feet!)
Savasana (pretend to be sleeping!)
After you do the poses, do them again. No seriously. REPEAT.
Kids this age love to repeat things. Their little brains learn more and more as they do things again and again.
That’s why a favorite word of toddlers is “MORE!” or “AGAIN!”.
Use this to your advantage and plan less, but do it all on repeat. Obviously if they didn’t do it at all the first time they might not do it the second. But if you had at least 50% of the class participating, do the activity, story, or pose again. The more you build up excitement with the group, other kids will want to try it too.
Don’t forget to teach your toddler some mindfulness and meditation techniques, too! Get a huge list of ideas here:
How do you teach yoga poses to toddlers in a class, group, or at home?
1. Use engaging yet simple language
It’s important to talk to them in an engaging and energetic voice. Change your tone up and down, and show them that you are excited to do yoga by using a storytelling voice.
An energetic tone grabs their attention and helps keep it. ( I sometimes have a hard time keeping this up if it feels fake , but toddler yoga classes are usually shorter anyway so it works out.)
Also, make sure to use simple phrases. Tell them you will do yoga poses together and pretend to be animals.
Let them know they should copy the moves that you do, and be safe, but that’s about it. They don’t really need to know WHY since they will hear it in your voice how much fun it is.
2. Establish personal space for yoga poses
If you are in a class: make sure the kids have enough space to move and try poses without landing on each other, or you (though they inevitably will). Remind them it’s important not to touch other while we do yoga.
You can, and should, talk about personal space, but know that they might not get it right away. It’s a process!
The best way to do this is just to model it with your own body. Talk through each pose and say what YOU are doing with your body and they will follow suit as best they can.
If you have mats, make it a game to stay on the mat and talk about fun and squishy it is.
If you don’t have mats, just try to remind them not to touch others (or lay on them).
At home: it’s still important to talk about personal space. My sister got her toddler a used yoga mat (from me!) to inspire him to try some poses with her and it worked great!
She is also very good at making sure he knows about his body, his choice, and autonomy. Doing yoga next to him is a great way to show a reminder good personal space boundaries.
Here are some adorable and enticing kids yoga mats on Amazon if you want one for your kiddo:
My sister and her toddler had some great success being on their own yoga mats. He copied her and tried his best with some of basic poses. (So cute!!!)
3. Designate a specific yoga space for less toddler wandering
Along with personal space, it helps to try to keep them within a smaller physical space. Toddlers tend to lose focus and find something to do on their own if they aren’t very close to the thing you want them to attend to.
If you have a small designated space to practice in, great. If you are in their toddler room at the preschool, you might want to rearrange some furniture in the room or use lines or mats on the floor, to help them know where yoga class is.
Obviously don’t force them to stay or MAKE them do anything, again: your body, your choice. It just helps them to know what’s going on when they are close by and can see and hear well without buckets of toys to get into.
They should stay close by if you are engaging enough, but it helps to remove other distractions if you have a large class.
4. Use books to keep engagement (and literacy!) high
The single best way to teach kids poses in toddler yoga classes is with books. It’s generally a good idea to do a warm up game of “Yogi Says” or “Pretend You are A…” to get them moving and focused on you as their teacher.
Then, pick a book with lots of animals and read the story. Do a pose per page (approximately) and keep reading. It works well to have board books that have lots of animals and not too many words. That keeps them moving and interested.
If you don’t know the matching pose for each animal, make it up, or ask the kids to make one up! They will love that.
These are the best books that I have found for toddler yoga:
You can also see a great list of Kids Yoga books, already with the pose pictures included in the story in this post here.
Many of them are great for Toddlers. I wrote specifically what ages each book is good for, so check it out!
5. Set up a few yoga pose cards and tell a short story. Then repeat.
Another great lesson idea is to tape up 5 or 10 yoga pose cards to the wall or an easel. Tell as silly story with each pose, or in continuum.
You can move through them quickly or hold each pose as you count to three (like a game!)
Here is a post with some of my favorite kids yoga cards from Amazon:
I also have a set of digital Yoga Cards for the Perfect Yoga Flow that would work great for this as well, here.
I hope these tips and ideas helped you if you are a teacher of toddler yoga or a parent of a little one. Little ones are so much fun and definitely worth the trouble 🙂
Learn about how to teach yoga to kids of all ages in this comprehensive post on Yoga and child development:
What other yoga poses do you do with your kids or toddlers at home or at school?
Check out so more kids yoga and mindfulness resources in my Free Resources Library: