Children learn best by actively doing rather than passive watching. As a classroom teacher for nearly 20 years, I could not agree more. The old school lecture style of teaching of is thankfully not as common in the schools today. Children need to have visuals, be hands-on and engaged and that is when the true learning and attention truly occurs. Teaching mindfulness for kids goes along these same lines.
This is true for your kids yoga classes as well. Are children going to best learn the poses and breathing exercises while endlessly watching you? Yes, maybe, but they will not remember and retain near as well as if props and visuals are used. While demonstration and safety are important, there are several other ways to actively involve children in the learning process.
Use Props and Visuals
One way that I involve children a lot is by providing visuals. While teaching yoga poses, I like to use yoga pose cards that help showcase the poses that we are learning. My favorites are the Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cardsbecause of the included starred difficulty level as well as the mantras for each pose. With these cards, the children can easily look at the pose and model it to the other children and say the mantra. This way your students are getting the physical and mental benefits.
When I introduce mindfulness to children, I have found it is important to use visuals as well. As mentioned children retain information when they are seeing and experiencing it as well.
For this mindfulness exercise and visual all you need is a balloon. Children are usually mesmerized by balloons and especially enjoy as they are being blown up so this is a great activity that will keep their attention. I like to begin by holding a deflated balloon and ask the children to picture themselves as they wake up in the morning. They feel easy going and flexible just like the balloon.
How to Teach Mindfulness
Next, I stretch the balloon up and down and talk to the children about how they may stretch their bodies and feel calm, flexible and ready for the day. That is how you want to feel. After that, I would walk the children through a series of events that could happen throughout the day which could change how you feel.
For example, our dialogue may go something like the following, “Let’s pretend that something disappointing happens in the morning, such as the orange juice is spilled at breakfast (blow up the balloon a little), then you can’t find your backpack (blow up the balloon a little more), it is raining outside. “Your best friend is gone from school” etc. Continue blowing up the balloon as this scenario is painted.
Finally, show how the balloon is really big and inflated. Explain how there are lots of feelings and emotions trapped up inside. What is going to happen? Can you continue in this way? No of course not.
With that much emotion and feelings bottled up inside, there is sure to be a consequence. Let go of the balloon and watch as it spins around and settles.
Ask the children, what can they do instead of letting things continue to bottle up inside?
Be still. Breathe. Take a moment.
It is important to help teach children to acknowledge their feelings, take note of them, but to understand how to deal effectively with them and then move on. By using this balloon visual the children will definitely remember it and will be better equipped to not keep those feelings bottled up inside.
As a mom of three and a teacher for over 18 years, I frequently see a recurring theme of anxiousness in children, and it is completely normal. Kids get nervous or stressed. Any different event such as starting a new school year, taking tests, trying new activities, and meeting new people can bring about uncertainty, unease, and worry. Luckily yoga for anxiety can give kids the tools the handle the stress.
When we worry, we take short, shallow breaths which continue to ignite the feeling of unease in our bodies. Slowing down our breathing and taking long, deep breaths naturally brings on a sense of calmness and peace.
Try these three breathing exercises with your kids. These calming techniques are effective for any age, and can be done anywhere – in the morning, during a car ride, sitting in school, or before bedtime. Yoga for anxiety can be done anytime, anywhere.
Roll your shoulders back and down so they are away from your ears. Breathe deeply in through your nose as you raise your shoulders up by your ears. Breath out and lower your shoulders. Repeat movement 3-5 times and feel the tension melt away.
Darth Vader Breath
This is a favorite with children as they associate an image with this breathing exercise. Breathe deeply in and out while exhaling strongly through an open mouth.
Close your eyes and imagine you are an ocean wave. Breathe in and out deeply as if you are an ocean wave crashing on the beach. Alternate the frequency of your breath to become shorter and longer waves.
By introducing yoga for anxiety to kids, you will be giving them lifelong skills to become calm and focused, and better manage their anxiety when facing new situations.
Let’s begin with breath. Why is breath important? Deep breathing helps calm us if we’re nervous or anxious. With yoga it helps us hold the poses longer and center ourselves. This is especially important for kids who are maybe nervous or anxious at home or at school. We’re going to show you some kid-friendly ways to practice breath work from our kids’ yoga teacher training.
We’re going to learn eight breathing techniques that kids can remember and use in the home, at school, any time they’re feeling anxious, nervous, or upset. So why is breath important? Deep breathing helps calm us if we’re nervous or anxious. With yoga it also helps us hold the poses longer and center ourselves. I’m going to teach you some fun kid-friendly ways to practice that deep breathing and breath work.
First is our Belly Breathing. You can place your hand right on your belly and go ahead and breathe in and breathe out and you can actually feel the breath moving inside. Another fun way to do it that kids love if they know each other is lay on their tummies and breathe deeply and see if they can feel their friend’s breath work as well.
Next is Window Fog. Pretend like you’re trying to fog up a car or maybe you’re stepping outside in the cold air and you’re kind of seeing your breath. Go ahead and breathe deeply in and out as hard as you can. Put your hand there so you can feel your breath moving.
Blowing out the Candle is especially fun too. Put your index fingers together and then you’ll breathe in then and breathe out as if you’re blowing out those birthday candles.
These Breathing Balls are another great visual to see your breath actually working. The training video shows you how the ball expands and decreases. Kind of how your diaphragm would work with your breath.
Feathers are a great tool for breath work as well. You can blow your feather up and down your yoga mat. You can blow it across the room. These are inexpensive ways to actually see your breath in action.
Pinwheels are another great resource. You can take it outside, you can take in the house and practice blowing it fast or blowing it slow. You can practice different ways of utilizing your breath.
Bubbles are a great way too to see how your breath is actually working.
Finally, we must remember Sun Salutations. These are important with yoga to connect this movement of reaching up high to the sun and then diving forward towards your toes. Go ahead and breathe in as you rise up and exhale as you fall down. That really helps you connect the movement with the breath and really warms up your whole body.
First, brainstorm with the students about positive qualities that they see in themselves. For example being kind, honest, hardworking, caring, strong, etc. Write these qualities on the board.
Next, the students took the “hand template” and wrote qualities that described themselves. They did this by writing around the hand template.
Finally, the students were able to put the yoga poses and mantras for success together to practice and perform. This absolutely made the lesson even more memorable as it ties together so many different types of student learning such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning.