Here is the first in a series of kids yoga articles I am writing for teachingyoga.net, which is an amazing resource for all yoga teachers.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.
What’s better than expressing our gratitude for all that we have in our lives and sharing time with our family and loved ones?
This week, we explored the theme of Gratitude and Being Thankful in my yoga classes. We began with a discussion of what Thanksgiving means and each child got to share one thing that they are thankful for. I let the children know that we don’t have to wait until Thanksgiving to be thankful, we can be Thankful every day!
P.K. Hallinan’s book I’m Thankful Each Day was the perfect book to engage my little yogis in the many things we can be thankful for. In the book, a boy describes all the blessings in his life, from the sun to the rain, to the trees and the love of his family and friends.
There are so many great YOGA POSES in this book:
The book begins with the boy looking up at the clouds and then the night sky and being thankful for the STARS in the sky. For Star Pose, we all stood up stretching out our “star points” and sang Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
The children enjoyed finding the yoga poses in the book (and of course, doing them):
SUN (Sun Saluatations), TREE, FLOWER, RABBIT, TABLE, RAINBOW, DOG, MOUNTAIN.
We also had fun making the sound of RAIN with our fingertips and then making it louder and even making thunder by clapping our hands and slowing down to tiny raindrops again. Creative movement is a great way to keep children’s attention and allows them to use their imagination!
At the end of class, we colored some Turkey Mandalas. I explained that a MANDALA is a special kind of art that is used by people from all around the world and that it helps us to focus and connect when we are coloring just like MEDITATION.
I brought in a book of Native American Mandalas. I explained how the Native American mandalas show how much they respected Nature and how much they were thankful for all that the Earth provided for them. I told them that mandalas are shaped like a circle which is like the circle of life and how we are all connected in life.
Then I handed out the mandalas and some crayons and asked them to color quietly and think about what they are thankful for. I played some soothing flute music and the children spent some time very focused on coloring, some even drew their own Mandalas on the back of the their paper. For SAVASANA, they were all lying down and looking at their Mandalas, it was adorable!
It’s never to early to teach a child to BE THANKFUL and recognize all the gifts their lives!
I LOVE AUTUMN.
It’s my favorite season…the leaves changing colors and falling to the ground, the sound of the wind rustling through the leaves, and of course stomping or rolling around in the leaves…it makes me feel like a kid again!
Now that the foliage is at its peak, I wanted to do a lesson on LEAVES with the children. I found this book in my home library and never really thought about using it before until I opened it and realized how many animal poses were in the book, I love it when that happens!
I also brought in some real maple leaves to use for breathing and creative movement.
After our OMs, I introduced the theme by asking the children what season it was. When they all answered FALL, I asked them ” What is so special about this season? They all replied…“the leaves change colors and are falling!” Then I passed out the leaves to the children.
“We are going to use our leaves for our breathing today.”
I instructed them to place the leaves in front of their faces and begin breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly through their mouths “CHOO” like in our TRAIN BREATH . I asked them to notice what happens to their leaf with each breath. This was a wonderful way to reinforce mindfulness, as they were very focused on their leaves, observing it and its movement.
Then we had some fun and each child gave ideas for other ways to make our leaves move.
They blew on the leaves, they twirled their leaves, they shook their leaves like it was a windy day.
Then I asked them where leaves came from and we did TREE POSE.
They lifted their leaves above their heads, even on their heads and then made some branches with their arms and then let the leaves fall to the ground. So many creative ideas to f=do with the leaves…
Then we read the book and did our yoga poses: BUTTERFLY, MOUSE, COW, FROG, LION, BIRD, TURTLE, PEACOCK and more!
The illustrations in the book are beautiful and show the many ways to make art with leaves!
There is also a page of all the shapes and colors or leaves, so it’s also a great way to reinforce these concepts with preschoolers. They even had fun “seeing” different shapes in the leaves, like an umbrella, a mitten, a star, a surfboard!
For SAVASANA, I had them place their maple leaves over their eyes, like an eye mask, they fit perfectly!
I told them a guided visualization about being outdoors in the cool, autumn air, watching the beautiful colors of the leaves and seeing them falling to the ground…
I am always amazed how a simple prop in yoga, especially one that costs nothing and can be found everywhere can transform yoga into a magical experience for children!
A child’s imagination is ripe with possibilities…what can you use in your classes to make learning yoga FUN?
It’s been a while since I shared my MUSEings.
from my journal to you…
DIZZY ON DIVINITY
I am HOLY,
a sacred INCARNATION of love
inhaling only love
exhaling only love
exuding only love
emBODYing only love
Love is my RELIGION.
I am the sun and the shadows that it casts,
the moon and the darkness it illuminates,
the raging waves and the tiny ripples in the ocean
I am every paradox, parallel,
polar opposite, twin flame,
all wrapped into ONE,
ONE me which is you
which is ONE…
the ONEness of it all.
~ Betty Larrea © October 2013
What better holiday to stimulate a child’s imagination than Halloween?
I have always loved the creativity and self expression involved in choosing a costume and dressing up for Halloween- it’s a day of PLAY and PRETENDING that’s fun for ALL!
This year, I wanted to give the children I teach a TREAT by having them choose some of the spookiest poses for our Halloween yoga.
I told them we were going to a costume party in a Haunted House, but the only problem was that the house was wayyyy up on a big tall Mountain. I was going to need their help to come up with ideas on how to get there. They enthusiastically made some suggestions…we took a Train (Choo Choo BREATH), a Plane (AIRPLANE POSE), rode a Witch’s Broom (TRIANGLE POSE for Witches Hat), a Magic Carpet (sitting on our YOGA MATS) and even a Spaceship! When we fianlly made it up to the top, we all did MOUNTAIN POSE and TREE POSE, and even made some CROOKED BRANCHES with our arms.
Then we made our way to the House and met some creepy Halloween creatures along the way…
Of course we saw lots of other fun Costumes like
At the party, there was a Table (TABLE POSE) full of lots of tasty treats and after a lots of DANCING to the MONSTER MASH, it was time to rest. We ended class with the children tucked in bed, all wrapped up like a MUMMY in their Yoga Mats. As they ooked up at the Moon (CRESCENT MOON POSE), they were ready to relax in SAVASANA.
There are so many possibilities for Halloween Yoga and the best part is that the kids get to ne creative and even make up their own poses!
With Halloween coming up next week, I planned a fun Monster Yoga lesson for the kids.
I found the cutest Sesame Street video on YouTube called Belly Breathe by Common & Colbie Caillat
Sometimes the monster that’s inside you
Is a monster that is mad
It’s a monster who is angry
It’s a monster who feels bad.
When your monster wants to throw things
And your monster wants to shout
There’s a way to calm your monster and chill your inner monster out.
Belly breathe gonna breathe right through it
Belly breathe this is how you do it.
The kids LOVED the video and were mesmerized watching Elmo while doing their BALLOON (Belly) Breathing.
Next we did a Skeleton Warmup, where I went around the circle and asked each child what part of their skeleton body they wanted to warm up. There was some head shaking, toe wiggling, arm raising, foot stomping with lots of laughter and fun going on!
I read them an adorable book called Where’s My Mummy? by Carolyn Crimi, which is about a little mummy who plays “Hide & Shriek” with his Mama Mummy and then he can’t find her.
The Baby Mummy sets out to find his MUMMY and meets lots of friendly monsters along the way, like BONES, GLOB and DRAC the VAMPIRE, but he is not scared, her keeps looking for his MUMMY. The book has lots of fun actions that the children can pretend to do along with the mummy and the other monsters, like TROMPING, BRUSHING your teeth, WIGGLING your head and FLAPPING your wings. Of course, there are lots of other animals and yoga poses in the book, like FROG, TREE, BAT, and MOUSE too, so we got lots of yoga in too! The book was perfect for the Halloween season and the children enjoyed the sound effects and illustrations in the book, as they waited for me to turn the page to see what happened next!
Stay tuned for another fun Halloween lesson plan next week…
After a month of Meditation and Mindfulness lessons, I wanted to treat my little yogis to a month of Imagination and Play!
Music and Dance are both good for the soul and music is always a big hit in my yoga classes~ so I decided to do a lesson where this kids could express themselves to music while doing yoga too! Thanks to Angela’s wonderful review on OMazing Kids, I came across an awesome Kids Yoga CD called OMWORK by Kidding Around Yoga.
There are some really fun yoga dance and movement songs/games on the CD like Hip Hop Yoga Bop, which is a lot like a YOGA FREEZE DANCE. The children free dance to a funky upbeat song and when the music stops, I call out a yoga pose and we all FREEZE in that pose! The song even has a little rap with some positive messages about doing yoga:
If you wanna feel good and you wanna be strong, then do your yoga all day long…Breathe, Stretch and Meditate…Be peaceful and be really kind…You’re focused, kind and loving, it’s amazing what yoga brings to you…you see everything in a whole new light…remember to practice every day…
Another fun, catchy tune on the CD is Here Comes the Little Yogi. I placed a yoga mat in the center of the circle and each child got a turn to do a yoga pose and the rest of the class follows the Little Yogi in the middle and does the pose.
The last song I used was If Your’e Happy and You Know It because it is a popular kids song that all kids love and it includes a sequence of posers that lead right into Savasana. I began by singing the original chorus of the song with the children, We sang and clapped our hands and then I told them we were going to hear a new song and learn some new yoga poses too! The children loved learning some new poses, like Rag Doll and Forward Bend. Then the song leads perfectly into quiet time:
If your’e happy and you know it, take a rest…
The OM WORK CD also has two soothing relaxation songs, one called Garden Dreams is instrumental and has flute and nature sounds, so I played this in the background as I guided them through a visualization of being in their own beautiful garden and engaged all their sense by asking what they see see and hear and feel there.
When they came out of their meditation, we sang a closing song and then I asked the children to share about what they saw in their “garden“. I got some beautiful responses, like they were planting in their garden, flowers, bunnies and fairies. Some children were more descriptive and it was amazing to hear that they had a positive experience during Savasana.
One of my favorite yoga books is called PEACEFUL PIGGY MEDITATION!
Continuing with the theme of Meditation and Mindfulness, last week I brought in my PIGGY puppet and he read the book Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry MacLean to the children! We started with a discussion about all the ways we had been learning about how to calm our “busy” minds. These are some of the responses I received when I asked them “So, what can we do to quiet our busy, busy minds?”:
“We can do our Balloon Breath”
“We can chant OMs”
We can be QUIET and listen”
“We can do yoga”
It was amazing to hear all the great responses they came up with and to see that they really made the connection between yoga and breathing and being quiet and peaceful inside.
I also brought in a meditation jar I had made with some glitter, water and a bit of blue food coloring. I had the children gather around in a circle on their bellies to watch, then I shook the jar vigorously and placed it on the floor. I explained that the glitter in the jar was like all the thoughts going around in our head. I asked them to watch was happening to the pieces of glitter in the jar. They told me they were falling and down down and how they stopped moving. I told them that as the pieces were settling down, the water was becoming clear and still, just like our minds when we do our meditation and quiet time.
The kids LOVED it and wanted me to shake it again and again and were so focused on watching the glitter swirling around then settling down. It really helped them to understand the idea of how our thoughts can become STILL like the water in the jar when we do our breathing and meditation. To make your own meditation jar, click HERE.
Then we did some yoga poses of animals and objects we found in the book. In the book, Piggy says: ”it can be hard not to lose your temper when you’re angry” so I passed the PIGGY puppet around and asked each child to share what makes them angry and upset. Children are not often given a safe place to express what makes the upset or angry, so I wanted to give them a place to be heard in this way with acceptance and love.
After they shared their frustrations, I let them know it was ok to get angry and a good thing to do when we are feeling angry or upset is BREATHE! I taught them the LION’s BREATH, where they make an angry scrunched up face and then take a deep breath in and stick their tongues out and say “AHHHH” when they breath out! They all loved it and started laughing.
Peaceful Piggy Meditation helps teach kids that they can find their own PEACEFUL PLACE INSIDE through meditation.
For more Yoga Lesson Ideas on Meditation, see my previous posts: