Donkey Kicks are a Kid’s Favorite

Thanks to everyone who has been sending in questions!

Here’s part one of a question that came in from a yogi in Toronto who’s just starting teaching kids:

I was teaching an age 7 – 12 age group at a daycare and I had this one boy (who will never engage with me — have taught him 3 times now), who ended up sitting on his mat the whole time through the entire class. I tried to ask him about half way through if everything was alright, and he just shrugged me off.

Anyway – I basically ignored him the rest of the time, but felt kinda bad for him. He looked like he wasn’t into it, and decided to not participate.

What would you have done?

Thanks to Lisa for the question. You are not alone in this situation especially teaching in a setting where not all the kids have chosen to be there. So here’s some things that I would consider:

  • What would I do? I too would ignore the behavior as much as possible in class as long as it is not disrupting the class. I try to give energy to the behavior I want. If I wanted to find out what was up with this boy I would talk to him after the class was over, discreetly and quietly to see if he would open up a little more. It could be a number of things going on: stress, lack of confidence, a learning/developmental issue, or maybe just introversion. Since it’s been going on 3 weeks, I would probably ask the teacher(s) for advice or feedback too. The teacher’s are a great resource.
  • The age group you are teaching is broad. The younger kids will still enjoy pretending, yet the twelve year old kids may not want to do “childish” things. This is tricky for a teacher. I teach to the higher end of the age range rather than the lower. I’ve found kids will act older when they are around big kids, but it doesn’t work as well the other way around. I would do a little less pretending with the group and talk about more mature themes in class.
  • Pull out my Favorites: there are a few poses that kids just can’t seem to resist. One is Donkey kicks. Donkey kicks are great for getting rid of pent up energy and this kid may have some! Every class is a bit of a puzzle to figure out how all the different pieces fit together. When I have a situation like this, I privately make a goal to see if I can figure it out and get the child participating. It keeps it interesting for me as a teacher.
Donkey Kicks are Fun and Great Exercise
for building strength and Rejuvenating

Here’s the simple steps for Donkey Kicks:

  1. Come into downward dog pose then move your weight into your hands.
  2. Kick one leg up high and then the other up, then land them on the ground.
  3. Then switch which leg goes up first and repeat.
  4. Continue for a minute or more.
Caution: With Great Fun Comes Great Responsibility
(yes, I wish I was stopping this instead of taking a picture – it happens so fast!
But fortunately this boy is made of Jelly)

Warnings for Donkey Kicks:
  1. Set up the room so no one is going to kick someone behind them. Get everyone on their own mat or take turns doing Donkey kicks so you can space kids out.
  2. Do this exercise on padding for safety.
  3. Before you start, remind kids not to kick too high or they may flip over and land on their back, hard. I’ve seen the situation in the picture above happen, by accident and sometimes on purpose, more than once. Don’t do this in a large group unless you have other teachers there to watch and help the kids.

Even with a few mistakes, I’ve never seen any kids harmed doing Donkey Kicks, but do take the precautions. When I mention Donkey Kicks, the kids eyes light up! But I’m sure there are other Sure Fire Yoga poses.

In the end, you can try all these things and still not get a child to participate. The ultimate power in yoga and in life is always the power to choose. We have to let others choose for themselves and even respect their right to choose even if we don’t like it. That will bring us closer to connecting with kids. Try not to feel bad or sorry for any kid who chooses not to participate. You will mostly end up bringing yourself down!

Please feel free to leave any comments or suggestions on this question to help out a new teacher!

Aruna Humphrys

P.S. There are a few spots left in the next Kids Yoga Teacher Training course. Come to Toronto and join the growing number of kids yoga teachers. I’d love to see you there! Full details here.

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  1. THANKS SO MUCH ARUNA! Your blog is such an indispensable resource!

  2. I love the pom pom idea–could be a great way for the less juvenile among us to access our silly sides.

    Any going-around-the-room technique, thumball, yes/no questions, engages the most reluctant participant, eventually if not much sooner. The important point here is, create total permission to "take a pass" when the (ball, question, whatever) arrives by you.

    We all need the freedom to say yes or no.

  3. Donkey Kicks are always a hit when I use them – I teach a Farmyard Adventure Story that includes downdog, cat, cow faced, gate, plough, etc. The kids love to imagine themselves visiting the farm and braying like donkeys.

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  5. Love the Donkey Kicks! Another favorite has always been Ladybug Handstands (handstands done against a wall). The kids are SO proud of themselves and love to just hang out there and giggle! A fun twist is for half to do the ladybug handstands, while the others slither like snakes on their bellies, under the tunnel of handstanders lined up on a wall. It's great fun with some upbeat music, and a real energy burner.

  6. Hearing how others tackle class room management issues always is helpful. When I have kids who are bursting with energy or who are reluctant to join the group, I will sometimes change the class sequence around and start with something quiet but active like the Yogi Toes game (scattering pom poms around the room and having the kids pick them up with their toes and put them in buckets) or I play a game where we pass a Thumball around that has personal questions about likes and dislikes all over it and you answer the question where your thumb lands. These questions often engage kids. Then we can move on to the class agenda.

  7. Love the donkey kicks Aruna! I had a boy once who was difficult to engage. One day I noticed him wearing a Transformers shirt and we talked about it. It came to me to connect the yoga to this kid by using Transformers as the poses. He loved it and was instantly hooked.

    Find out what this kid likes and see if you can make a connection!

    Also, if a child won't participate in the group, maybe suggesting a special job for the child, like being a special helper or demonstrating poses or something.