Teaching Yoga To Toddlers
As a teacher of Toddler and Me Yoga, a class designed for children aged 12 to 36 months, I’m often asked, “How can you possibly expect to teach yoga for that age range?” The questions usually continue with, “Aren’t they full of energy?” Yes! “Don’t they have short attention spans?” Yes! “Isn’t it chaotic?” Not usually.
Children of this age are naturally sponge-like, curious and want to play and learn. It’s an important developmental time socially, physically and emotionally. They are experiencing life through their eyes, ears, and sense of touch. They are learning and expressing through language. Toddler yoga provides an introduction to yoga with the freedom for the children to explore in a supervised setting along with their parent or caregiver.
What Happens in Yoga for Toddlers Class
What is a typical 45-minute class like? Since children of this age crave repetition, so many basic songs and poses are repeated each week. Music with associated movements and books are wonderful ways to help teach. Children also learn by watching adults, so the parents and caregivers are encouraged to participate in the poses.
As an instructor of toddlers, you quickly learn what activities the children prefer and when it’s time to change course. They enjoy various props such as a pinwheel or Hoberman sphere to practice deep breaths, a scarf held overhead to become a rainbow, or a play squirrel to ‘climb’ their leg while in tree pose. Any basic yoga pose can be made receptive to toddlers. For example, a basic Sun Salute becomes reaching the arms up to touch the sun and hanging down to tickle the toes. Vipariti Karani pairs well with the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ song. Holding hands for ‘Row, row, row your boat’ is an opportunity for a modified Upavistha Konasana. ‘Ring Around the Rosie’ morphs into ‘Ring Around with Yogi’s’.
A toddler class has lots of hugs and kisses! Throughout the class, parents and caregivers are encouraged to celebrate every attempt at a pose by their child. Teaching yoga to children should be a fun, silly and playful time. Corrections of a child’s yoga postures generally do not occur until the age of eight.
Swami Saryananda Saraswati says, “The yoga experience for the child of this age should not come through lessons but through play.” He adds, “While enjoying the play with the children, the yoga teacher does not want to simply entertain but to provide an environment for utilization of all yoga activities for unfolding and balancing the total personality of the child. As the child grows older and enters school, the presentation of yoga can take on a more structured form.”
Yoga for Children Teachers
We’ve all read about and many of us know first-hand the benefits of yoga for children. Do you think you would be interested in teaching yoga for this age? Who is considered the best suited to teach toddlers?
Below are generally accepted attributes of teachers for young children:
- You feel passionate about working with children
- You enjoy being with children
- You are patient, calm, loving and warm
- You have a sense of humor
- You are flexible, creative and organized
- You are self-aware and positive
There are a number of organizations available to provide teacher training for children’s yoga. For further information please refer to Yoga Alliance’s website.
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