Teaching kids’ yoga classes is different from teaching adults. Try these five strategies to prepare yourself for a successful, fun-filled class.
Teaching yoga to kids? Catch your own breath before class, experts say. “Kids’ classes are different from adults’,” says Susan Verde, kids’ yoga and mindfulness teacher and author of the best-selling I Am Yoga children’s book. “There is a lot of conversation and play throughout class. As a teacher, you need to be able to go with the flow and change things up mid-class.” She suggests taking time before class to sit and meditate, focusing on the breath, as a way to ground yourself, connect with yourself, and cultivate calm and kindness.
While preparation is the key to success in so much in life, it’s important to cut your expectations some slack when teaching this ancient practice to young ones. “Have a plan—and an open mind,” Verde suggests. “Creating an age-appropriate class for your kids with a good mix of games, breathing and posture will help you as a teacher feel more organized and confident. That being said, be prepared for your plan to go right out the window, based on the needs and energy of your class. You may find something entirely different works better than your original plan. It’s not perfection, it’s practice—even for a teacher.”
“You may have a great lesson plan but setting your own intention allows you as a teacher to bring grounding energy into the class,” Verde says. “Intentions, such as today I will connect with (a particular student), help to prepare you for a positive experience. If you are going through something difficult in your own life, setting the intention of getting through a class with kindness towards yourself is important to steady yourself and therefore steady your students and model self-compassion.”
“I’m a storyteller, so the first thing I do to prepare to teach is devise a theme,” says Mary Kaye-Chryssicas, owner of Buddhaful Kids Yoga. “Perhaps the topic is inclusion or having a strong voice. I’ll jot down a topic on index cards and relate a story of someone, or a story about my childhood that is relevant and relatable. I use humor to capture kids’ attention, so that I can deliver an important message. Each class, the kids cannot wait for my story. I use stories to help kids see themselves in a situation before it happens, so that they know what to do and feel more empowered to do what’s right. Some kids are frozen in fear or experience self-doubt, so hearing about others’ experiences helps with their decision-making.”
“Nothing crazy, just simple, clear-cut expectations that children have to follow,” says Amy Ballard, who teaches kids yoga for Silly Sprout studio in Litchfield, Connecticut. “I have a rule board I bring with me to class that lists my top three rules: be safe; have fun; and stay on your own mat. If children know what is expected of them before the activities begin, you are setting yourself up for success. Have clear, concise consequences for their own safety if the rules aren’t being met.”
“Get into the games as if you were a child also,” Ballard says. “When the children see you participating and having a great time, it encourages them to get up and join, even the shyest child will break out of their shell if the teacher is being a goofball with the class! We want kids to fall in love with yoga and incorporate it into their lifestyle for the great physical, mental and emotional benefits it has to offer. Keep it fun!”
“I always plan a different Savasana meditation script—sometimes the theme is around friendships, homework stress, being positive or manifesting your dreams,” Chryssicas says. “I like showing kids and teens different strategies to relax as they drift into a meditative state. Everyone learns differently so changing it up is important.”
About Our Writer
Erika Prafder is a veteran writer and product reviewer for The New York Post and the author of a book on entrepreneurship. A long-time yoga enthusiast and Hatha yoga teacher, she edits KidsYogaDaily.com, a news source for young yogis. The working mother of three resides in a beach community in Long Island, New York.