In the first post on kids’ brains on yoga we saw how the three E’s, Exploring, Energizing, and Engaging help develop healthy brains. This post looks more deeply at the importance of the first E: Exploring.
How Exploring Builds Better Brains
In our mother’s womb, sixteen weeks after conception, our brains start receiving signals from our ears. This experience of sound begins a life long bombardment of stimulation from the senses to the brain. When we are thrust into the light of day our baby brains are flooded with all the senses: sounds, sights, smells, tastes and touch.
Our baby brains begin organizing neurons to understand this onslaught of sensation. Making sense of our senses becomes a life long project we undergo as infants, toddlers, kids and eventually as yoga teachers.
As we age we experience ourselves as a “self” exploring a physical world; a self that faces the ultimate questions of life. Who am I? Where am I? What can I do? Modern brain scanning techniques reveal our brains take a starring role in our exploration of the world. These brain scans also reveal Exploring builds better brains.
Three Ways to Encourage Exploring with Kids Yoga
Kids engage in exploring when they interact with their environment in new and novel ways that pushes their physical, mental and emotional boundaries. Through exploration kids push their brains to develop new connections and learn new skills.
You can foster healthy brain development by providing good exploring activities for kids:
- Moving the body– Teaching big movements that involve the entire body and small movements that involve just parts of the body. Kids Yoga: try a rocket ship launch – start in a squat position and use your fingers to do a countdown from ten to one (small movements) then stand up slowly like a rocket ship launching and flying to the moon (large movements).
- Handling physical objects – Teaching the handling of age appropriate toys, props and musical instruments. Kids Yoga: Introducing a Singing Bowl during class is a fun way for children learn to play it, while the other children watch and learn how to play and listen for the sound of the bowl singing.
- Interacting with others– Teaching singing, dancing, game playing and partner yoga. Kids Yoga: consider partner yoga bicycle legs (see picture). For toddlers try adult/child partner yoga, with the adult moving a child’s legs like they are riding a bicycle. Then switch and let the toddlers grab the adult’s feet while they slowly bicycle.
In the Young Yoga Masters kids yoga teacher training we emphasize choosing postures and activities appropriate for the age group. Remember for toddlers merely standing up is a balancing posture.
Exploring Develops Confidence
When kids Explore they not only develop problem solving skills and motor skills they also develop emotional strength in the face of hardship. Kids faced with a hard task or a complex movement will struggle and learn to deal with struggling.
Kids’ yoga teachers need to be keenly aware that stress can be devastating for children; nevertheless, they shouldn’t be too quick to help a struggling child. Struggle in the right doses helps kids go from not being able to do something to being able to do it easily. We don’t want to deny kids this lesson as it is one they will benefit from for their entire lives. Ziggy Marley and Paul Simon explain it perfectly in song, “Walk tall, walk tall, even if you fall get up.”
In encouraging kids to Explore kids yoga teachers foster problem solving and perseverance in the face of obstacles. Kids become stronger and smarter in a fun, playful and safe environment. Who could ask for anything more?
For a great resource on kids brain development take a look at the Baby Brain Map on the Zero To Three Website.
Written by: Aruna Kathy Humphrys and Hrishikesh Singh
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