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?
Do you have a child at home who could really benefit from the calm-down practices of yoga?
Teaching kids yoga is not easy, but it sure is fun and beneficial for kids AND their adults.
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
- Respect 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.
Check out this DETAILED post on how to teach yoga to babies, toddlers, 4-6 yr olds, 7-8 yr olds, 9-11 yr olds, and 12 and up:
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
It can also be helpful to create your own visual posters of the expectations in your classroom or studio, 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.
You can print them and laminate for use on your computer or put them into slideshows or PowerPoint presentations!
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
- 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 Jeanette Winter *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.
There are also tons of kids yoga books that have become popular in the last few years! Check out my favorites here:
Loosely follow the structure of a traditional yoga sequence
It’s a good idea to 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.
Some classes may need a higher energy activity right away, depending on the time of day you see them or what they were doing before they have class.
Use a yoga sequence to help warm them up and use energy right away, usually within the first few minutes. This mini spike in movement should help balance out the energy of all kiddos, no matter how they are feeling
Here is a good outline for a yoga class with kids ages 4-12:
- A grounding in pose (child’s pose or butterfly)
- Breathing activity
- Warm up actions or a Yoga Flow
- A game, story, or activity
- Balancing poses
- Cool down poses or a song (reclining or forward folding)
- Savasana (resting pose)
Use breathing techniques to start and finish
As noted in the class structure above, it’s a good ideas use breathing activities at the beginning of class. This helps to center them and get them ready to focus. Then at the end, you can 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.