Kids Yoga Teacher Training and Certification

I Need Your Advice for Kids Yoga with Different Age Groups?

I’m working on a new quick reference chart (below) for teaching yoga to children of different age groups.

I’m making the chart because so many new kids yoga teachers wonder about teaching specific ages, things like:

“What age range should I choose for my studio classes or summer camps?”

“Are games too juvenile for teens?”

“What should I do with the energetic 4 year olds?”

“At what age can children start to do yoga?”

“What ages can I teach in a daycare?”

These are valid questions because age is an important factor when creating kids yoga lesson plans.  Some activities work with all ages but most will be either too mature or too juvenile depending on the age of your kids.

As you plan, you need to know what certain terms mean. Generally you will find yoga classes for children divided into these age categories:

Teaching yoga to children of specific age groups toddlers are 18 months to 2.5 years, preschool are 2.5 to 4 years, kinder yoga is 4 to 5 years olds, junior school age is 6 - 8 years old. senior school age is 9 to 12 years old, teen yoga is 13 plus years old and yoga camps are usually 5 to 12 years old

This chart is handy for new teachers getting booked in studios, daycare, or summer camps for yoga.

Last year our kids yoga camp was amazing.  The kids fed off our yoga energy and excitement over the 5 days. The children, ages 5 – 13 years old, took to us quickly.  They even started playing pranks on us, hiding in different spots in the gym, when we arrived. One day they set up a decoy hiding spot and when we headed to it and found it was empty, we all burst into laughter.  They really got us! We had so much fun with them.

Each of the teacher trainers in the Summer Certification developed a beautiful connection with different children.

The kids were sad to see the yoga camp end and so were we.

I just finalized the practicum for this years 10 Day Summer Certification in Ontario, Canada in July.  These 18 hours teaching real kids looks like another highlight for the training.

Our trainees experience kids yoga classes during the week of certification:

  • 3 x 30 min toddler classes in a daycare
  • 3 x 30 min preschool classes in a daycare
  • 3 x 50 min kinder classes in a daycare
  • 3 x 90 minute school age classes in a daycare
  • 2 x 4 hour kids camps at the community centre with a mix of ages from 5 – 15 years including kids with special needs

Trainees get lesson plans for all these classes as part of the course.

My heart is skipping a beat just thinking about how great it will be.

As we plan for this summer, it’s always helpful to hear from other teaches.  We all know there are great Free Yoga Class Printables you can use, wonderful ways to use stories in yoga, and fun animal adventures.

So, here’s where I need your advice: What is your favorite age group to teach? What’s your favorite activity with them and why?  I’m looking for your insight on teaching particular ages or types of class.  For instance, how do you divide the children?  What’s the broadest age range you have taught and what do you like to do?

Tell me one of your stories.

I’ll be linking this blog post to my teacher training manual, so your comments will be a great resource for new teachers and also for those who have been around and want some fresh ideas.

Please share your story in a comment below.

 

17 Comments
  1. This is great! I am so excited to read all the other post and learn from everyone. I don’t have time to read right now, so hopefully I’m not duplicating. A few things come to my mind.

    I teach a preschooler & parent class, tot class (3-5), and kids (6-10). My class are all through our local parks and recreation department.

    My business is called Enchanted Mats and my website is http://www.enchantedmats.com

    PROPS:

    LITTLE
    I think there’s places for props in kids yoga, but I used to use animal pictures, a pebble in the center of the room as a drishti. feathers for breathing. I have found that with the little kids, props can be such a huge distraction. Often they all leave their mats and crowd around me to see what I have. Lots of time is lost regrouping and I really don’t want them to think yoga is about objects. I’ve found it goes better when I rely on their imaginations only.

    BIG
    I think props can be really fun with older kids, though as long as the entire class isn’t organized around the props.

    CONTENT:

    LITTLE
    I have found the little ones like repetition much more. I have never heard one of my tots say, “we did that last time.” The first 15 minutes of my tots class is usually exactly the same so they have the repetition and comfort of knowing what’s coming. I think it’s also empowering and good for overall self-confidence. Then we might have a loose theme or just a lot of fun poses. I need to keep it moving to reduce interruptions and suggestions (I always allow for some though).

    BIG
    With the big kids, we always start with breathing and a cat/cow/dog type sequence, but from there I feel I need to mix it up or they will get bored. I feel it goes best when there is a portion that is immersive (like going to the jungle, Hawaii, etc.), and a game or two. When I first started teaching, I spent hours upon hours creating highly immersive/themed classes with picture cards, maps (for flying around the world), etc.. I think this was more of a crutch for me than a benefit to them. I feel if the whole class is themed from beginning to end, it can be really fun and exciting, but maybe it’s distracting away from and diluting yoga a bit?

    PACE:
    Where adult yoga and exercise classes generally follow a single bell curve pattern, I find my classes (for all ages) work much better with several bell curves. I think the kids need to have bursts of energy and expression, followed by calm, followed by more bursts, etc. Unlike adults, after the calm, they are ready to go again. I’ve experienced that most kids don’t really want to sustain up or down energy for very long, so they seem to be much happier when they can shift back and forth. I find when we do this cycle a few times, their bodies and minds are much more ready for savasana and maybe some meditation. When I discovered this, it really made a big difference in the success of my classes.

    • Dear Susan, thanks for sharing your valuable experience.

      I agree that the lesson plans are a crutch for a teacher, but there is nothing worse than teaching a group full of kids and suddenly not being able to think of anything to do. That makes it worth it! Especially till a teachers has more experience under their belt.

      I think lesson plans help a teacher be more professional when they are starting. It is up to the teacher to use them or not. Referring to your notes is showing that you took the time to prepare. It can take a while, but once you know you won’t draw a blank in yoga class, you can make the lesson’s up on the go.

      Thanks for the insight on the different ages. That will be a big help to others too!

      • Hi Aruna,

        I completely agree! I’ve only been teaching for a little over 2 years and I am completely in need of my lesson plans. For one, I do get distracted either by the kids or lack of brain power, also I just want a good plan to start with. I rarely stick to it completely, but it’s always there. I have a binder full of them in plastic sleeves. Maybe some day I will give them up? What I was using as a crutch was props that went along with my plan, like pictures that I used like a power point to keep me on track. Also, I agree, it was something I needed when I started out to keep my focus and it helped me be less nervous, but I felt I got carried away with the immersive aspect of my props and now I use my lesson plan but focus more on our imaginations for the immersive aspect. That’s kind of what I was trying to say.

        I also realized that I went straight from your email to this post and I didn’t notice that their were some specific questions. I came back just now to post that I plan to come back and respond directly to those questions.

        I’ll be back!

        Susan

  2. Hi Aruna,
    I find this question so difficult to answer because for me it’s the kids themselves rather than the age group. Sometimes I really love the older ones because I can see them delving deeper and sometimes I love the innocence of the littler ones.
    In the fall i asked my class to collect materials out in nature and we did a nature mandala – that for sure was one of my favorite classes. I’ve actually been trying to figure out what to this solstice as our last class together…..
    Normally, I run my classes as a 2-5 with a parent, and the 6-12 – but this current session I’ve been working with I am finding that the split is too large to work in the way that I want it to. My 12 year olds seem to old and my little’s are just to far away so I can get the class working for one or the other but not both! 🙁 This is the first time I’ve had that happen though.
    Not sure if this is helpful or not but it’s what I have on this sunny gorgeous day!

    Not sure if this is helpful but it’s what I have for you on this beautiful day!

    • Thanks for the comment Anita. The nature Mandala sounds wonderful.

      Splitting the age group from 6 – 12 is handy if you have enough kids. The problems arise when there are not enough kids or time slots in the space for two groups. It can be a trick. Personally I’ve found I teach to the older children whenever possible and the little ones will tag along. But so much depends on the kids’ personalities.

  3. Hi Aruna,

    I remember taking your course and using it so many time when I was subbing yoga classes for kids. Your resources were fantastic and helped me in making the classes fun and interesting for kids.

    Being in India though I came across few references (i.e. Bihar School of Yoga, book on yoga for Kids) wchi warn not to teach yoga to kids 8 years old and under. The reason given – on average this is the age when all the organs get well formed and from then on they simply just get bigger.

    They also advise to start with Sun Salutations and Anuloma Viloma pranayama only.

    • Thanks for the insight Lee. Your work in India with cancer and yoga is amazing and I hope people check out the link where your name is above.

      It is confusing to know what to do with children. I remember learning many years ago not to do pranayama with children for the reasons you mentioned and so I don’t include much. But then years later saw that there were other opinions on that topic. It is hard to know what to believe.

      But we do know kids need to exercise! So I see kids yoga as a mindful form of exercise that is quite different than an adult practice for young kids.

      I’m looking forward to more studies to back the different yogic opinions.

      I’m very much into the book “The Science of Yoga” by William Broad. He makes the point that in yoga people can make claims about this or that benefit and have nothing to back it up. Then cites studies that show some of the claims in yoga that are false or inaccurate (the benefit occurs but not for the reason given).

      I like this movement towards science based yoga when it comes to deciding what is beneficial or not.

      Lee, you must be seeing much more evidence and studies in your work?

      Have you found any interesting results?

  4. One of my favorite types of yoga to teach was Vacation Bible School Yoga, or Noah’s Ark Yoga. I have this portable miniature animal pocket carrier that has different animals in each pocket from letter A to Z. We’d go through the alphabet 5 – 7 letters, and I’d have a child pick out a letter. If it as letter N, we’d do the deer like animal from Africa and talk about how it came off of Noah’s ark, and then act out the animal in a yoga pose. This would go on for about 5 – 7 animals per group. We’d then review the bible verse for the day.

    I had each age group in VBS, and I’d go in depth about the breath, do the holerman sphere for breathing, ding the chimes at the end, breathe at the end and we’d do these animals off the ark. I had them for about 20 – 30 minutes.

    I had my round yoga mat in the center, and then I drew a circle around me with yoga mats and I had 2 – 3 kids on the yoga mats, depending on the number of kiddos in each group. It worked well with each age group, as each age group stayed together.

    Gaileee

    • That is so creative to incorporate yoga into Bible School. Your props are very effective. Thanks for the comment Gaileee.

  5. Hallo Aruna,I teach my classes in czech republic,but I think the kids are the same everywhere:)
    My favourite age group is 4-6.these lessons are in kindergarden.kids under 4 I accept rarely;depending on their individual skills.
    I love their imagination,enthusiasm and energy.but theirs energy and focus is somethimes big challage.Favourite activities in this age group are definitely stories with yoga poses.I also draw the mandala reflecting the story with poses for the home practice.of course they like games and props.I dont had much success with breathing and relaxation excesices.Ofcourse we are trying but I thing kids would skip this part of the lesson freely:)
    At school I teach afterschool club (7-10) here I focuse more on poses creating litle flows.They like mudras;its like some mistery for them.Usualy a use the some mandala and story but focus more on moral of the story.I like the spontanous discusion this evoke.
    But I would say;that there are ofcourse difference between teaching different age groups,but I never have two same lesson in the week even with the same age group.I prefer spontaneity and connection between kids and me and kids between them to strict scedulle.My goal is make them like yoga at the first place.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas!

    • Hallo Daniela,

      thanks for leaving a comment all the way from czech republic. Amazing!!!

      That’s good insight that you never have the same lesson plan even in the week. It sounds like you have been teaching kids for a while and you have ideas to change the lesson plan on the go.

      Is that correct?

      I encourage new teachers to make lesson plans at first because they sometimes cannot think of something quickly. Then once they can think of activities easily, they don’t need the lesson plans.

      Did you use lesson plans when you first started teaching?

      • I still have very detail lesson plan, maybe more detailed that 5 years ago,when a started kids yoga lessons.But it has only supporting role.
        I usualy set the main theme for the week and draw the mandala accordingly.This material I use for all classes in the week (I’d like to share one for inspiration if I know how to upload it here).

        What is different are the activities around. We start sitting in the circle with greeting, chanting,sharing.Than we have sun salutations.I let kids choose which salutation they want to practice or I pick one according some clues kids were sharing in the circle. Sometimes we salute to the sun like flowers,cats,dinossurs or superhero (thank you for this idea) etc.

        After that I explain new pose or we review the poses from previous class.Then we have the story exercise with mandala.In some group I go deep to the story,we share ideas and meanings and don’t excercise much.

        In other group we focus more on poses. Even the story is the same I respect the mood of the group and thats why the lessons are not the same.

        Than I choose relaxation theme according to kids interest or I let them choose.Than we have some coloring or drawing activities or we play games.

      • Thanks for the details Daniela – its a beautiful class and wonderful that you are able to go with the mood of the group and still keep the structure.

        If you want to share the mandala class plan – I would love if you could upload it on my Facebook Page here:

        https://www.facebook.com/youngyogamasters

  6. I find the division of ages in yoga class often reflects how local schools divide kids. IE: Some areas have middle school others have Jr High.

    Each age group has its benefits and challenges when teaching. The littles love games, songs, puppets, books and more to engage their attention. As they get older their attention span and body awareness increases and your teaching can reflect this. Adding more detailed instructions, longer holds, partner poses, etc develops heart, mind and body. Tweens & teens enjoy delving into the yamas/niyamas and need time to reflect/share in a safe space.

    One thing I love about teaching kids yoga is the great variety it offers. Each group is unique. Knowing generalities of age groups is a good starting point however, always take the time to connect with the students and adjust your teaching to meet them where they are.

    Enjoy lots of kids/youth yoga resources http://yogainmyschool.com
    Continue your Teacher Training online http://kidsyogaacademy.com

    • Thanks for sharing your wisdom Donna.

      Taking the time to connect to each group is paramount. One class can love an activity and another of the exact same age could complain when you bring the same activity up. Connection is key!

  7. This is such a great question. I actually love introducing yoga poses to kids between 4 and 6 years old. They are attentive and enthusiastic. They love the resources I bring (breathing ball, chimes and my magic rock). After we learn about 5-10 poses, there is generally a song I can play where we can use them and put a sequence together (Thanks to you and your training).

    I am running a camp for 5-12 year olds this summer. Of course the older kids will help the younger ones with their poses and crafts…. BUT the younger ones will help the older ones with their imagination, creativity and abilities to ‘let it go’. I was just at a school this morning where a few grade 2 girls taught me some yoga….their special ‘Namaste Handshake’ it was awesome.

    Here’s a link to my camp page: http://yogatruly.com/kids_yoga/kids_camp

    • Claire – thanks for the comment. It is so true about how the older and younger children can help each other. It’s sounds like your camp will be wonderful.

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