Yoga for kids is a lot like yoga for adults – it’s fun, it’s calming, and it stretches the body and the mind. Here’s how to teach a beach-themed yoga class to kids from toddler age up to teen:
Always open with a grounding exercise
Grounding exercises help to bring attention together and calm your participants. Just like in an adult yoga class, starting a kids yoga class with a grounding exercise is a great way to get the group on a common wavelength and ready to work together through the yoga poses of the class.
For my beach themed kids yoga class, I started with a Take 5 breathing exercise: Encourage participants to hold up one hand like a starfish, with fingers spread apart. Have them wiggle their fingers to envision the limbs of the starfish gently moving in the water. With the other hand, point the index finger. Slowly trace from the base of the thumb up to the tip, while cuing yogis to breath in. Pause at the top of the thumb and direct them to slowly breath out as their finger traces down the inside of the thumb. Then continue to trace the outside of of each finger of the hand, breathing in as the pointer traces up, and breathing out as the finger descends down. I like to do a full ten (10) breath cycles to get the full effect, tracing all 5 fingers of the hand and then backtracking back to the thumb in the same pattern.
Kids yoga is fun with a themed story to match
For kids yoga, I like to open with a story that matches the theme. For this beach themed class, I read the students Saving Tally: An Adventure into the Great Pacific Plastic Patch from Amazon’s Kindle eReader. It’s a short read about a turtle and a crab who encounter plastic trash in the ocean while exploring the coral reef. It helps teach kids about the dangers of trash on the beach and the shared responsibility of keeping our ocean friends safe from plastic in the sea. And it includes several characters that have fun, kid-friendly yoga poses to emulate.
Try to keep the story short and sweet – less than 5 minutes is ideal. That way you can get back to the yoga!
Match yoga poses to characters in the story or the theme
For this beach themed class, we began in tabletop position, on all fours, like a crab. I had the kids start at the back of their mat and crab-walk on hands and knees to the top, then pause and look around to open the neck, before crab-walking back to the bottom of the mat. If your yogis have a lot of energy and are acting restless, repeat your crab-walk a couple times to tire them out before moving on to the next pose.
We did dolphin pose next – from hands and knees, I instructed the kids to straighten their legs behind them and send their butts up to the sky, Most pushed up to their hands first, to downward dog. I gently encouraged them to lower their elbows while keeping their butt up in the air, and then encouraged them to make their favorite dolphin noises. This got them to look up and around while in the pose, opening the shoulders and neck, and also elicited some laughter and helped make the pose fun and engaging.
From dolphin – which can be tiring – we came down onto our bellies for shark pose, or in locust pose (Salabhasana). Have kids squeeze their buttocks before lifting their upper body and legs, with arms by their sides. Encourage them to imagine a shark fin on their backs, and wiggle side to side as they swim under the surface of the ocean, balancing on their bellies. Then extend feet up behind them and grab ankles for bow pose, or Dhanurasana, like a seashell on the ocean floor.
We then flipped over onto our backs and extended our legs straight up into the sky like seaweed on the ocean floor. The kids stretched their arms up too, waving arms and legs straight up above them. Then I had them sit up and extend legs and arms straight out like a boat, into Navasana.
There is really no limit to the number of poses and movements you can tie into your theme if you get creative. Once I ran out of sea animals, I had the kids stand up in Warrior II and pretend to be surfers. Then reverse their warriors and imagine themselves sailboats on the surface of the water. Work with the time and attention span and be receptive to suggestions and requests from the crowd, too. And don’t forget to close in savasana, everyone’s favorite!
For more kids yoga pose variations, story ideas, tips and tricks, follow my Yoga for Kids Pinterest Board, where I save resources related to teaching yoga to kids of all ages.