With homeschooling and working from home, it can be hard to find non-chaotic times to exercise or find calm at home. So, why not involve the kids?! We chatted with Maia Horsager, a registered children’s yoga teacher who teaches yoga and mindfulness full-time to kids in primary, elementary, and middle school. Here's a few of her tips and tricks to practicing yoga and mindfulness with kids at home.
Yoga and mindfulness are amazing tools for adults and children during normal times. During a pandemic, or any time of crisis, they can be even more vital. Moving your body, and staying flexible and strong, can be an effective way to combat desk fatigue. Mindfulness, or being aware of and present to the current moment, is an excellent way to help notice and regulate anxiety.
Adults and children alike need to bring more movement and mindfulness to our routines when we are stuck at home. It also does wonders for our relationships when we move and flow together. It builds connections and creates memories that last. So, what are some easy ways to bring a little yoga and mindfulness to your home routine with kids?
Tip 1: Show excitement to be on your yoga mat
If you already have an at home yoga practice, great! Be sure to make part of it accessible to your kids. Make some time for you, of course, but then let your kids join in when possible.
The more they see you enjoying yoga and benefitting from the practice, the more they will be interested in joining in (at least when they are younger...).
If you don’t have a practice, get a yoga mat, or make an open space and do some exploring of the poses! Something new and exciting can be cultivated to last with the right intentions. It definitely doesn’t have to be perfect to be effective.
Make sure to share why you are going to do some yoga and mindfulness:
- It's fun to move in different ways
- You get some time to relax
- It’s an easy way to get exercise without leaving the house
- It can help you feel more calm and at peace with what’s going on
Knowing the reason behind doing something can be a great motivator for kids.
Make sure to try some livestream classes and let them join in. There are plenty of options that are free and you can also find plenty on YouTube. There are also Kids Yoga livestream classes! Check out a list of free and paid options of online (mostly live!) kids yoga classes here.
Tip 2: Pretend to be an animal and do the corresponding pose
Animal poses are the GO-TO option for most kids yoga classes. There are tons of yoga poses that are already named after animals, and it is to your advantage to introduce those to your kids. The most popular are: downward dog, cat, cow, cobra, lion, tiger, frog, camel, and kangaroo (aka chair pose, you guessed it!)
You can introduce these poses by pretending to be the animal moving and making sounds, then make the “statue” for the animal. This works particularly well with toddlers and pre-school age kids.
Eventually you can graduate to doing the yoga poses and holding them for several seconds while taking deep breaths. Frog and kangaroo will be particularly challenging and silly. Here’s a whole list of animal based ABC yoga poses here you can check out for more inspiration.
Other ideas of animal themed yoga?
- Ocean themed animals
- Farm animals
- Jungle adventures
- African safari
- Australian animals
- and so much more!
Tip 3: Try the Mirroring Game
“Copy me, then I’ll copy you!” Try that phrase with a little one and see how long you can both keep it up. Mirroring, or watching and matching movement of another person, is extremely good for developing coordination, control, and possibly even empathy.
When playing the mirroring game, make sure to start SLOW and be very exaggerated with your movement. Almost like a mime. Then speed up suddenly, or do weird faces. Narrate a bit for the younger kids if you need to. Do a slow yoga flow with kids while mirroring!
Add music, pretend to be ninja, or a clown. Your only limit is your own imagination! (And perhaps your energy level…)
Tip 4: Turn normal games in yoga games
Games make anything possible with kids! Turn the yoga into a game. Use supplies you have already around the house, or invent a new game. Yoga Jenga, Yoga Twister, Yoga Sorry, Yoga Candyland, Yoga Memory… these are all games I’ve played with kids. Just add the direction of doing a specific yoga pose for at least three breaths when you land on a color, or go back to home, or something.
Create your own yoga pose board game, (or download some pre-made versions here). For more directions and ideas on specific yoga games, check out this list.
Tip 5: Play a mindfulness game
There are tons of games for kids that challenge their thinking skills and noticing skills.
Most of these mindfulness games need barely any equipment or tools:
- I Spy
- 20 Questions
- Back Doodles (“draw” something on their back and they have to guess what it is!)
- Nature walk scavenger hunt (Find something… prickly, soft, orange, etc)
- Indoor scavenger hunt! (Bring me something… cuddly, round, rainbow, etc)
- Sorting! (things by color, size, sort out beans and rice, alphabetical, etc)
- Cotton ball maze (use a straw and cotton ball to blow it around a set up maze of blocks, mats, dishes, or whatever else you have laying around!)
- If you have the supplies, make a mindfulness glitter jar! So pretty and fun to make.
Here are some other mindfulness games and activities for kids.
Tip 6: Make breathing a fun activity with tools and actions
It’s always important to take deep breaths to focus, calm down, and deal with anxiety.
However, you can always use a few extra deep breaths in your day, even when you’re not stressed! In fact, it’s important to practice deep breathing with kids before they get upset.
Try some “animal themed” breathing techniques.
- Breathe like a snake: inhale deep, exhale a hissss
- Breathe like a bumblebee: inhale deep, exhale a buzzzzzz
- Breathe like a bunny: inhale quick 3 times then exhale slow
- Breathe like a lion: inhale deep, then stick out your tongue and exhale a “hhaahh”
Use some commonly found tools to help visualize where the breath is going!
- cotton balls
- dandelions, etc
Here are some more fun breathing techniques to teach your kids, plus some free posters to print as reminders.
Tip 7: Make it part of the routine
Create space for yoga and mindfulness to be a normal part of your day--wake up, brush teeth, do yoga. Or add it in right before or after lunch!
As a kids yoga teacher and a public school teacher, I know how important it is for kids to have a real solid routine. They thrive on consistency, especially when there isn’t a lot of stability in the world as it is.
It may not work to do it every day, but try for two or three days a week to start. I can guarantee it won’t be perfect but it will be fun and entertaining, and hopefully even beneficial :)
The more you add in a little yoga and mindfulness the more your kids will gain in confidence and skill, and the more you will gain in calm and peace!
Check out Maia’s website with tons of other ideas on how to bring yoga and mindfulness to the lives of kids everywhere!
Want to incorporate mindfulness into your eating habits as well? Try Splendid's easy, ready-to-eat meals.
Maia is a registered children’s yoga teacher of 7 years. She has her 220 hour yoga training through Green Lotus Yoga, Little Lotus Yoga and has also been trained in Yoga Calm, Mindful Schools, and Baptiste Power Yoga. Maia currently teaches yoga and mindfulness full-time to kids in primary, elementary, and middle school at a public charter school in Minneapolis, MN. She also runs a website and online kids yoga teacher training on KumarahYoga.com.