Preschool Yogis

Yoga is a great way to build preschoolers skills in a group setting.

Yoga is a great way to build preschoolers skills in a group setting.

The benefits of yoga transcend generations! As moms and dads find the calming, strengthening, and rejuvenating effects of yoga,  preschoolers are finding their own magic in the poses of the ancient art.  Preschool teachers, daycare professionals, and camp counselors are tapping into down dog and tree pose to help bring order to their classroom in a fun and engaging way.  Yoga lends itself beautifully to the preschool or daycare setting because it is so adaptable and inexpensive and requires no special training (2). For young children, yoga mats aren’t even necessary. The whole room is their yoga mat!

Some studies suggest that yoga improves children’s motor skills, balance and core stability (2). When teaching yoga to children, have fun with it! Encourage imagination and as much gross motor activity and full body movement as possible to facilitate movement of large motor groups.  Use words like up, down, forward and back to reinforce directionality and lay the groundwork for letter formation.

hopping and jumping build strength and balance.

hopping and jumping build strength and balance.

Check out this video for hopping yoga: yoga.hopping

Balance poses can be adapted so they are fun for children, such as pretending they are a tree swaying in the wind, a kitten with one paw lifted, or an egg rocking on the edge of a table.   Yoga poses that feel like pretend play to children are really helpful in building strength and equilibrium. Tree pose is a great yoga pose to teach to preschool children to help them build a stronger sense of balance.

start tree pose as seeds...

start tree pose as seeds…

have children grow into trees and reach their branches toward the sky...

have children grow into trees and reach their branches toward the sky…

children can then balance on one foot and sway in the wind.

children can then balance on one foot and sway in the wind.

Yoga poses that require weight-bearing through hands and arms have been found to improve fine motor skills and handwriting in preschool children (3).

Try cat pose or table top with your preschooler to encourage weight-bearing through their hands, arms and shoulders.

Cat pose is a great way to add weight bearing through hands and arms.

Cat pose is a great way to add weight bearing through hands and arms.

check out this video for cat pose: Yoga.cat2

table top is also a good weight bearing and core stabilizing pose for children.

table top is also a good weight bearing and core stabilizing pose for children.

Check out this video for tabletop pose: yoga.tabletop2

Yoga poses with pre-schoolers also help with self-regulation and mindfullness, encouraging better attention and learning in pre-school (4).  Because of the developmental benefits, yoga can serve as a positive outlet and help remedy undesirable classroom behavior. It has been recently discovered that preschool children significantly decrease undesirable classroom behavior as their motor skills improve (1). Yoga lends itself beautifully to the group setting because the children can stand in a circle so they see everyone and can model off of one another.

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Teach yoga with all the children standing in a circle.

Teach yoga with all the children standing in a circle.

The possibilities of yoga poses for this energetic age group are endless and with a little creativity, yoga can enhance learning and imagination in addition to critical motor skills (2).  Encourage kids to move their bodies like animals for movement of large muscle groups and creative play.

crocodiles, elephants, ducks… lots of animals are fun to act out.

crocodiles, elephants, ducks… lots of animals are fun to act out.

Check out this video for crocodile pose: yoga.crocodile3

jumping like a frog or kangaroo builds strength and balance skills.

jumping like a frog or kangaroo builds strength and balance skills.

Check out this video for frog pose: yoga.frog

Because so much of the child’s body is in contact with the floor or carpet for a large part of yoga, tactile sensitivity and sensory processing skills are enhanced as well by the practice of yoga (2).

Snake pose provides a lot of skin to floor contact, building sensory processing skills.

Snake pose provides a lot of skin to floor contact, building sensory processing skills.

Yoga poses can also help to build flexibility in young children and keep muscles limber and symmetrical (2).  Several yoga poses encourage stretching and flexibility of muscles and joints.

stretching with a partner or mommy is always fun!

stretching with a partner or mommy is always fun!

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Check out this video for some yoga stretches: yoga.stretching2

Yoga can be used to reinforce letter formation by having children make their bodies look like letters, such as T, P, L, V either standing, sitting, or lying on the floor.

Letters are fun for preschoolers to re-create with their bodies.

Letters are fun for preschoolers to re-create with their bodies.

The benefits of yoga become realized in as little as only 20 minutes of yoga per week for 10 days (5).  It does not take a long time for essential skills to be fostered by the practice of yoga, so integrating yoga into a preschool class or summer camp will yield quick results for the lucky kiddos who partake!

As academic demands continue to grow, budget constraints limit access to safe playgrounds, and children are spending more time on technology, yoga is a great way to get children up out of their chairs and provide them with some healthy movement and fun group interaction every day.

References:

  1. Bala, G., Katić, R., & Krneta, Z. (2011). Do kinesiologic activities change aberrant     behavior in preschool children? Collegium Antropologicum, 35(4), 1007-1015.
  1. Bubela, D., & Gaylord, S. (2014). A comparison of preschoolers’ motor abilities before and after a 6 week yoga program. Journal of Yoga & Physical Therapy, 4(2), 1-4. http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2157-7595.1000158
  1. Lawson, M., Cox, J., & Blackwell, A. (2012). Yoga as a classroom intervention for preschoolers. Journal of Occupational therapy, Schools and Early Intervention, 5(2), 126-137. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19411243.2012.713755
  1. Razza, R. A., Bergen-cico, D., & Raymond, K. (2015). Enhancing preschoolers’ self-regulation via mindful yoga. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 24(2), 372-385. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10826-013-9847-6
  1. Telles, S., Hanumanthaiah, B., Nagarathna, R., & Nagendra, H. R. (1993). Perceptual Motor Skills, 76(3 Pt 2), 1264-1266. http://dx.doi.org/10.2466/pms.1993.76.3c.1264

 

 

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