For many, teaching preschool children (walking to around 5 years old) is difficult because the kids can have a short attention span, but I find this age group so cute and enthusiastic, it is one of my favorite classes to teach. Enjoy these tips for teaching yoga to preschool and you just may find yourself wrapped up in the best group hug you’ve ever had at the end of a yoga class.
Yoga For Preschool Children
Adults have been walking so long we forget that just standing is a balancing pose. So yoga with preschool kids means thinking like a preschooler.
Preschool children usually range from toddlers up to 5 or 6 years old. Here’s a quick overview of the many changes that happen during these years, in case you don’t remember from when you were a kid:
- At 12 months kids are usually standing on their own and taking their first wobbly steps, they’re only speaking a few word;
- at 18 months the kids are toddlers, meaning they walk well, starting to go upstairs or walk backwards, their vocabulary is around 15 words;
- 2 years – identifying body parts, putting words together, singing, jumping;
- 2 – 3 yrs – can follow 2 step instructions, throw overhand, jump, run, and potty train
- 3 – 4 yrs – speaking short sentences, walk backwards, sideways, balance on one foot for a few seconds, pedal a tricycle, use a fork/spoon and hold a pencil correctly.
- 5 – 6 yrs – now we can start introducing complex poses!
Choosing Yoga Poses for Preschool Kids
When it comes to yoga, the poses must fit the child’s stage of development. When choosing poses ask yourself:
- How many steps does it take to get into this pose?
- How much co-ordination/balance does it take?
- Do the kids know the body part I am naming?
- How much abdominal strength does this pose take? I’ve found younger children have more flexibility, especially in forward bends, but less ab muscles for things like rocking on your back.
Yoga Poses: The Good, The Bad, and the Awkward…
Here are three of my favorite yoga poses for preschoolers. Even at 18 months they just copy these:
- downward dog
Here are three poses that seem like they should be easy to do – but for younger kids they can get awkward:
- tree – notice (above) that balancing on one foot doesn’t happen till 3 – 4 yrs old,
- cat pose – when kids see this one they often go into downward dog – they need help to understand that they keep their knees on the floor,
- pigeon – any three or four step poses will probably require individual attention.
If you’re teaching yoga in your living room or a small class, you’ve got the time and attention to get awkward and work it out. If a child isn’t doing a pose they may not be at that stage of development yet. Be sure to realize it’s your problem and not theirs.
If you’re teaching a large class (15 – 20 children) in a thirty minute daycare setting, you’re going to adjust your lesson plan according to the complexity of the poses you have chosen. The more complex the poses, the more time they will take to teach.
What are your favorite preschool yoga poses?
Have you ever done a pose the kids just couldn’t figure out?