Teaching toddlers can be a lot of fun AND very challenging. Just what is appropriate for these youngest of Yoga students?
I just started another six-week session called Toddler Time Yoga yesterday. Many kids who have attended previous sessions were there, along with several new moms and kids. The kids who had attended previously knew me and our class routine. The new kids, and new moms were at times overwhelmed. I, along with other experienced moms, assured them that their child's free-style behavior was just fine for class and that they too would learn the routine and structure while making new friends and having fun.
Teaching toddlers is a blast because they are full-on. You know when they are happy – squealing with delight, and when they are sad – on the floor with arms flailing and tears flowing. It's like they are "Life Force" coming out of a fire hose. I've tried many different techniques and refined a structure over the years that is engaging and fun for them, while keeping parents sane.
People often ask for suggestions for teaching Yoga to this very young age group so I’ve compiled a list that can help you get toddlers into Yoga.
Ten Tips for Teaching Toddlers:
1) Provide structure– At this age everything is new, so by providing some predictability, toddlers can relax and enjoy knowing what’s next.
2) Include the parents– Parents practice along to model the practice. It gives them a chance to have fun and relax too!
3) Surprise and delight with props– This is one thing that makes teaching this age range so much fun. They are thrilled by so much. Give them scarves to run around with while you play a dance song = sheer joy.
4) Manage your expectations– Both teachers and parents will have a lot more fun if it is understood where a 2.5 year old is at developmentally. Sitting still and paying attention are skills yet to be developed.
5) Play music– There are thousands of great bands catering to the toddler set. The music is peppy and often involves lyrics that direct the little ones how to move. One of my most used songs is Airplane Song by The Laurie Berkener Band.
6) Use storybooks– Storybooks include characters that can be turned into yoga poses. The images are engaging and it keeps the class moving along.
7) Promote a language-rich environment– Language acquisition is a major developmental endeavor at this age so expose them to both written and spoken words and letter recognition. For example, a class about the letter T.
8) Allow space for their big emotions– The happiest kid in my class yesterday was also the most upset. It’s not until kids are 4 or 5 that they are able to start reigning in emotions.
9) Be a source of steadiness and calm– Your presence has a huge impact on the kids. Both the parents and the kids are looking to you for direction as well as a sense of the energy level. When you are even-keeled, your class will be too.
10) Have fun! Don’t worry too much about proper alignment or even getting all the way through the book. These kids are socializing, turn-taking, talking, getting in lots of gross motor movement and having fun. Relax and join them in the fun!
Want to learn all the tips and tricks for teaching yoga to Toddlers? Join Mira Binzen for her professional training, "Teaching Yoga to Toddlers", February 4th at Blooma. Interested in teaching to the whole family? She will also be leading "Teaching Yoga to Families", February 5th.
Mira Binzen has a degree in child psychology and is a certified Yoga and iRest® Yoga Nidra teacher, Yoga therapist, and co-founder of Global Family Yoga (globalfamilyyoga.com), a teacher-training program based in Chicago, focused on children and families.