Activities & Games: Yoga
Yoga is a practice that encourages cooperation and relaxation. It builds healthy bodies and encourages self-esteem, while encouraging ways of dealing with the pressures and stresses of daily life. Yoga can be beneficial to both children and families and can be done with children of all ages.
Practicing yoga with infants is a way for the child and parent to work on their emotional connection as well as a chance for parents to help their child’s physical development with muscle movement and balance, which, in turn, will give confidence and strength to baby’s early solo movements.
Yoga with infants should be done on a cushioned, yet firm, surface, and should always be done slowly. With baby lying on his or her back, hold one leg in each hand. Parents should make and maintain eye contact with the infant to promote more meaningful bonding. Gently massage baby’s legs from thigh to ankle, working in a circular motion and gently down the leg. Then, slowly, bending at the knee, bring one of baby’s legs up to his or her tummy while you hold the other leg extended. Slowly alternate the legs being bent at the knee and extended. Repeat this several times.
Many yoga poses are based around animals and nature, concrete examples that toddlers can often relate to. Pick simple poses such as “Cat,” “Cow,” or “Tree.”
Name a familiar animal to your toddler (cat, dog, monkey, cow, lion… all have coordinating yoga poses). Ask your toddler to pretend to be that animal. How would the animal move? What would it sound like? “Lion Breath” is a fun yoga pose to do with children that works on their breathing and allows them to associate movement with animals. Sit cross-legged across from your child, facing each other. Ask your toddler to make a lion face and lion sound. This is the basic of lion breath. Now, demonstrate the pose: Place a thumb on each of your cheeks, with your palms facing out and fingers spread wide. Now stick out your tongue. This may result in giggles. Next, breathe in through your nose and then loudly exhale through your mouth, “roaring” like a lion. As you exhale, bend forward at the hips, as though you are bowing to your toddler. Then have your toddler do the action with you. This pose is a good way for toddlers to associate their own body’s movements with those of animals, and also an excellent way to focus on breath control. It’s also great silly fun!
Yoga is an excellent way for preschoolers to work on attention span, as well as improve balance and understanding of movement and their place in the world. For preschoolers, yoga is not only a way for them to move their bodies meaningfully, but also a way for them to work on higher-level thinking and imagination.
This activity involves children with the natural world and allows use of creativity and imagination, along with physical movement. The activity should be done in a space where there is enough room for you and your preschooler to make big movements. Make a list of natural phenomena or objects (trees, rocks, mountains, waves, rainbows, wind, fire, tornadoes). Use objects your child will be familiar with based on his or her knowledge of the world. Call out the words one by one and you and your child should both move your bodies to act out the word being said. Let your toddler come up with a word or two for both of you to act out. This can be done for as long as you and your child remain interested. Remember that movements should remain slow and deliberate.
Yoga helps improve concentration and reduces anxiety in school-aged children. It is a way for them to incorporate a growing sense of balance and higher-level thinking and a way for you and your school-aged child to interact in a meaningful, positive, and still playful way.
Put together note cards or a “spinning wheel” with different body parts on them (knee, tummy, hand, foot, elbow, bottom). Then, each of you draw a card or spin the wheel, and “create your own pose” by balancing on those two body parts. This activity not only improves balance and creativity, but it helps children with recognizing and locating body parts, and can help with word recognition.