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Are you interested in teaching yoga to kids, but don’t know where to start?
Have you tried a few times and it went ok but not great?
Finished your teacher training for adults but really you just want to hang with kids?
Have a child at home who could really benefit from the calm-down practices of yoga?
I have some tips and tricks for teaching kids yoga just for you!
Getting started with teaching yoga to kids is simpler than you think, but there are some important tips to remember:
Establish Ground Rules (or Mat Rules)
No matter where you are, classroom or living room, studio or gymnasium, kids need ground rules. Kids do better and feel more comfortable when they know the boundaries.
These are some simple rules I use in my classroom:
- Stay on Your Mat
- Keep Your Mat on the Floor
- Listen to the Speaker
- Be Safe
- Be Kind to Yourself and Others
Consider child development
Think about age-appropriate games and stories. A three-year-old can copy basic shapes and poses, but will not be great at balancing or taking verbal cues. A five-year-old loves to play and imagine and create, but probably won’t know left vs right or care about how their abdomen strength keeps them from slouching.
To learn more about age-appropriate teaching, I use the book Yardsticks on a very regular basis.
Check out this DETAILED post I wrote on how to teach yoga to babies, toddlers, 4-6 yr olds, 7-8 yr olds, 9-11 yr olds, and 12 and up! It is PACKED with great information for you:
Practice yoga WITH your kids
Kids like to copy movements that they see you doing, and usually NEED to, in order to learn poses the right way! No matter what age, kiddos love doing what the grown-up is doing.
It’s impossible for me to have 100% engagement in my classes if I’m just standing there barking orders at them. They do so much better when you are talking them through the poses and showing them at the same time.
Get some great music going to motivate yourself, and make sure you are wearing comfortable and appropriate clothing.
Use visuals like yoga pose cards
I definitely couldn’t teach yoga to kids without visual representations of the poses in the form of cards. Partly because it keeps kids engaged, partly because sometimes I’m too tired to do all the poses with them for the whole day.
Also, kids are super excited to play with the yoga cards on their own and having them as a resource gives kiddos autonomy, which they need!
My favorite decks of cards are reviewed here in this post and also listed below!
- Enchanted Yoga A-Z
- Yoga Pretzels
- ABC Kid’s Yoga Cards
- Yogi Fun
- Kid’s Yoga Challenge Cards
- Adventures of Super Stretch
I also create my own visual posters of the expectations in my classroom, written in nice bold letters and with little pictures to show the rules.
I work at a school where 90% of my students are English Language Learners, so visuals are imperative. It’s super helpful to refer back to in times of a bit more chaos.
Here are some free printables you can grab from my Free Resources Library to help add to your visual collection!
Focus on PLAY, not postures
Kids want to have fun! Yoga is great for helping to get kids moving and be active, and the best way to do that is through play. Kids don’t need to be told they aren’t doing the poses perfectly.
The ONLY time I correct poses is if they are going to hurt themselves, or if it’s something we have worked on several times and I think they can do it differently to get more benefits from the pose.
In that instance, I might just simply say, “My front knee is bent just a little, try that.” Or, “I like how Audrey has her shoulders down.” Those examples let kids make adjustments on their own if they notice it in their own bodies (and that’s the goal!)
Here are my top posts on fun games to play with kids:
- The Best Yoga Games for An Amazing Summer Camp
- How to Play Engagingly Creative Yoga Games with Your Kids or Students
- 5 Active Kid’s Yoga Games to Have Fun in a Group
Build creativity together
Speaking of play, let kids help you with the creativity portion of the lesson! They will have so much fun and take some of the work off your shoulders. Ways to build creativity:
- Start a story with an animal pose and go on an adventure: let the kids choose where!
- Pull 5-10 poses randomly from a deck of yoga cards and let the kids arrange them in the way they want to build a story
- Create new poses based on favorite animals, movie characters, or video game characters
- Play “Yogi Says” and let kids be the Yogi in charge to channel their creativity in new poses or movements
Grab several free storytelling lesson plans from my free resources library, plus mindfulness relaxation scripts, game descriptions, and much more!
Let literacy be a part of the yoga practice
My school is hugely focused on literacy for our students, especially with so many kids learning English. In order to help out our kiddos, I do lots of reading with the kiddos, and I weave Yoga in wherever I can. Also, kids just LOVE hearing stories! And if you don’t yet feel comfortable making one up, use a published book first 😉
Here are some books that I have easily adapted to teaching kids yoga:
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
- Sometimes I Feel Like a Mouse by Jeanne Modesitt
- Commotion in the Ocean by Giles Andreae
- Rumble in the Jungle by Giles Andreae
- Ninja by Arree Chung
- Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
- Journey, and Quest by Aaron Becker (These books have no words, so they are awesome for telling the story as you go) *I wrote up an entire lesson plan for Journey in this post here. Check it out!!!*
- Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
- I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
- Follow the Drinking Gourd by *I created a whole lesson on this book too, with poses in the post! Check it out here.*
You can also choose a favorite book or fairytale and “act out” the story, adding poses wherever you can. This works better for kids age 7+, who are a bit better at naming points on a plot line.
Cosmic Kids Yoga has many great videos based on stories with real plotlines, some recognizable stories, too! I use her videos for sub days, or if I’m really not able to be active for 10-15 minutes.
Loosely follow the structure of a traditional yoga sequence
By this I mean structure your class with a “hill” format in terms of energy use. Start slow, build up to a peak, then come back down to calmer levels.
I do this for my kinder, 1st, and 3rd-grade classes because they come to me before lunch. After lunch, the 4th graders are too tired and need more activity right at the beginning to get them going. And 2nd graders are super wound up after the long day of sitting so they also need to move right away.
Here is the exact yoga sequence I use with my kiddos called a Yoga Flow. Check out the teaching tips and flow images here!!
Use breathing techniques to start and finish
As noted in the class structure above, I use breathing activities at the beginning of class. This helps to center them and get them ready to focus. Then at the end, I always cue calming breaths during resting pose (savasana).
I let my kiddos have a Beanie Baby stuffed animal to put on their tummy during savasana. This helps them notice if they are using belly breaths to calm their brains and bodies.
Check out these 14 Clever Ways to Breathe with Your Kids to Calm Down.
Also, download cute visuals of these techniques from my Free Resources Library!
Thanks for reading these tips and tricks to teach kids yoga!
I hope you are inspired to get out there and teach your first classes or to continue teaching with some fresh ideas and perspectives.