I love teaching yoga to kids. I appreciate how each class and interaction is so different. We are busy, active, engaging, and playful. Teaching yoga to children is definitely different than teaching yoga to adults for many reasons.
One of the biggest differences is the use of yoga accessories and props that you use in kids’ classes. Children are very visual and having a few surprising and fun items on hand while introducing yoga poses, breathing exercises, and mindfulness will really help keep your students engaged throughout your time together.
What Are Yoga Props?
First of all, what exactly are yoga props that you would use with children? Yoga props are items that you introduce and use with children to help keep them engaged and interested. Do not overthink this. Yoga accessories can be simple and inexpensive items. You probably already have several on hand that you haven’t even thought about.
I cannot wait to share with you some favorite yoga props to use with children!
Now, I need to let you in on a little secret. I am slightly obsessed with utilizing yoga accessories with children. There, I said it. You would definitely be able to tell this if you came to visit me and would see my office at my home. I have balls, hula hoops, read aloud books, puppets and more tucked in spaces throughout the room. Now please understand that I do not use all these props at once. I select 1-2 to use per class and rotate through them to help keep your yoga bag fresh.
In our online Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training, all participants are invited to be part of our private Facebook Group. In our group, we talk about all things kids yoga related. One of our topics a few weeks ago was favorite props that they love to use with children. Based on the response and discussion, I guess I am not the only one infatuated with yoga props!
Favorite Yoga Props to Use With Kids
Beanbags: These are a great tool for balance work and can be used for breathing exercises.
Pom Poms: These colorful little puff balls are the perfect lightweight size to practice controlled breathing as you breathe your puffball up and down your yoga mat or across the room.
Stuffed animals: These are wonderful to use with the younger ages when you are introducing a yoga pose such as Cat Pose, Cow Pose, Down Dog, etc. They also work well as breathing buddies and for getting the attention of your students.
Pose Cards: I use the Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards for every kids yoga class that I teach. I select 4-6 poses that we will be focusing on and practicing. These visual cards help demonstrate the pose and they can be used for all of the favorite yoga games including Musical Mats.
Scarves: Scarves are wonderful to use in many different ways for breathing exercises, Freeze Yoga Dance, and for games.
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.
I was honored to speak at the Opening Minds Conference and Expo in Chicago. It is one of the biggest early childhood events of the year and I was so excited to be a part of it. I presented on How to Easily Incorporate Yoga in Your Preschool Classroom with Poses, Games, and Mindfulness Within Your Existing Curriculum.
I may have slightly overpacked, but I had so many props, resources, and ideas that I couldn’t wait to share with fellow educators, counselors, parents, child care providers, and healthcare professionals about the importance of introducing yoga to young children.
An hour and a half can be a long time for a session so I made sure to break it up with some breathing exercises, poses, yoga games and videos that everyone seemed to enjoy. A few favorites were Birthday Candle Breath, Balloon Breathing, how to effectively teach Tree Pose to children and ways to instantly incorporate yoga into the classroom in minutes. We used the Kids Yoga Challenge Pose Cards for some of the exercises, but any yoga pose cards could work.
One of my passions is definitely helping children get fit and literate. One easy way to do this is by incorporating quality read aloud books along with yoga poses. I took the opportunity to walk through some of my favorite children’s books and explain how to incorporate yoga poses and games with them. Kids love this and they retain what they are learning all the better if they are moving as well.
Kids can do yoga too! One of my passions is teaching yoga to kids and helping others learn how to use yoga with kids in fun and engaging ways. Kids yoga doesn’t need to be overly complicated or time-consuming. You just need a sense of humor and willingness to have fun!
You don’t need to have many supplies or materials to teach yoga to kids, but being knowledgeable of some different items and having a few tricks up your sleeves, helps with keeping the interest level high with kids. Shorter sessions and having a few props that accompany the poses are very beneficial. Child size equipment is also useful for children practicing yoga, and child size mats, balance balls, and accessories will enhance their practice.
I always enjoy highlighting a few favorite props and resources that I use while teaching yoga to kids including a breathing ball and great read aloud books that inspire yoga poses and movement with kids.
I am also a new fan of grippy socks or sticky socks for kids. These inexpensive little accessories help with balance, stability and allow young yogis to practice anywhere–even without a mat.
When I teach my kids yoga classes, I always have the students remove their shoes and socks. Normal socks are slippery and make it difficult to hold poses. It can sometimes be a slow process of helping preschool aged children put on their socks again after class, but if they had these yoga socks it would definitely go faster because they could leave them on for the whole class.