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How to Teach Yoga for Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Grade-Schoolers

Learn how to teach yoga for toddlers, preschoolers, and grade-schoolers. Help them develop strength and flexibility at a young age for long-term benefits.

A baby girl on a bed, doing a Cobra Pose naturally.

Did you know children can do yoga poses without being taught? Look at that infant above. She’s doing a Cobra Pose. 

Yoga asanas come naturally to children. As a yoga Instructor, you will not have much difficulty teaching them poses. They are fearless and have no qualms about falling or pulling a muscle.

Although teaching yoga to toddlers and young kids may seem daunting, it is a beautiful experience. Plus, teaching them young will have long-lasting benefits.

Why Teach Yoga Early

A female yoga instructor leading a kids yoga class at an indoor school gym.

Teaching them young may sound cliché, but it makes sense when teaching children good habits such as practicing yoga. It’s a lot easier to build good habits than breaking bad habits. Also, these good habits are more likely going to stay with the kids as they grow up.

They naturally learn faster than adults because the prefrontal cortex of the brain in children is more developed. They can easily remember information. 

Benefits of Yoga for Toddlers and Young Kids

Toddlers and young kids will benefit from practicing yoga in many ways. Here are just some of these benefits.

Yoga Improves Kids’ Confidence

According to a study conducted in 2014, yoga for toddlers and young children improves self-confidence. As the child learns new poses, they become more aware of what they can and build self-awareness. The awareness that they can do poses is what gives them self-confidence.

Yoga Improves Kids’ Concentration

Young kids, especially toddlers, have a short attention span. Yoga affects neural patterns in the brain. These patterns improve concentration and focus in kids and adults. The increased circulation of oxygen to the brain through breathing exercises and postural alignment improves mental capacity.

Yoga Manages Kids’ Stress

Two little girls practicing yoga on a sunny day outdoors.

Like adults, toddlers and young kids also feel stress. Many changes are happening in their brains and bodies, and these changes can be stressful. What’s making them more stressed is that they cannot understand what they feel yet, so they cannot fully express it.

Through yoga and meditation, the young ones can learn to relax, sit still, and notice how they feel. Once they become aware of these feelings, they can start recognizing what they are feeling and maybe start self-regulating. To be able to self-regulate is a valuable skill, especially when kids turn into adults.

Yoga Improves Kids’ Physical Health

Yoga asanas improve children’s flexibility, strength, and stamina, and they benefit adults practicing yoga. They also increase balance and body awareness. 

Yoga Promotes Kids’ Creativity

The ancient yogis mimicked animals, trees, the ocean, and more using their bodies. They used their creativity to create asanas. Practicing yoga helps children improve their imagination and creativity by encouraging them to explore their bodies.

My kids have made hundreds of poses in my kid’s yoga class—from Lamp Pose to Laptop Pose to Nightmare Pose. 

How to Teach Yoga to Children

An adult woman doing a yoga pose with a girl and a boy on a white fluffy carpet.

Teaching yoga for toddlers and young kids is very different from teaching yoga for adults. One difference is that children, especially toddlers, have a short attention span. They cannot stay still for long periods of meditating.

They also cannot do a 60-minute yoga class. Here are tips on how to teach yoga for toddlers and young kids to make your classes safe, fun, and effective.

General Guidelines in Teaching Kids Yoga

To teach kids yoga, whether toddlers or preschoolers, here are some general guidelines that you can follow:

  • Plan out your class. Toddlers and even older children can be easily overwhelmed when learning new things. Make a plan and provide them structure before starting the class. Give them predictability so they can relax and enjoy. In my kid’s yoga classes, I always begin and end the same way. I also tell the kids what we are going to do. But of course, these are kids you are teaching. Always have Plan B, Plan C, or Plan D in case of Plan A not working.
  • Divide them into age groups. Toddlers are very different from preschoolers and grade-schoolers. 
  • Limit the class to 20–45 minutes based on the age bracket. The younger the child, the shorter the class. This is based upon their attention span.
  • Like in an adult yoga class, start with basic yoga poses before advancing into more complex yoga poses.
  • Try to give each one an equal amount of attention. 
  • Teach yoga to kids as a form of play. They are inherently active and creative. Let them express their energy and creativity in many ways during the class.
  • Minimize using the Sanskrit terms of the yoga poses. Use the English names of the poses, such as Snake, Frog, Tree, and Butterfly.
  • Teach basic pranayama exercises. 
  • Take a few minutes to check in with the kids before you start the class.
  • Let them know they don’t have to do the poses perfectly. Encourage them to explore instead of perfecting the poses.
  • Always cheer them on. 

Yoga for Toddlers

Children can start practicing yoga as early as two years old. If the child can follow instructions, they can undoubtedly practice yoga. Here are some tips on how to teach yoga for toddlers:

  • Limit the class to 20 minutes. If you have to extend the class because you think it’s too short, do it gradually. For example, after two weeks of regular yoga practice, if you think the toddler shows improvement and still has the energy and focus to practice, extend the class to 25 minutes.
  • Start with the basic movements on repeat.
  • I found that toddlers aged 2–3 are a perfect fit to learn yoga. They can grasp instruction and listen to their bodies. They know when they can’t do the poses. They can also communicate what they feel. One-year-olds can do some poses but don’t know how exactly they got there. 
  • When they first start, I recommend a parent or a sibling come with the toddler to the class. It’s a good bonding moment and to avoid separation anxiety. 
  • Focus on poses named after the most common things in their lives: Sun, Stars, Tree, Bird, Water, and Mountain.
  • Avoid poses that put pressure on the head or neck, such as Salamba Sirsasana. Toddlers don’t have great balance yet. They may injure themselves trying to do headstands. 
  • Avoid adjusting their alignment. Let the toddlers move at their own pace.
  • Use their toys as their props. When doing pranayama, ask the toddler to put their favorite toy on top of their belly. Doing this will help them become aware of how the stomach rises up and down as they breathe in and breathe out. You can also use them when verbally cueing the poses. For example, you can tell them to bring their favorite toy up high when doing an extended Mountain Pose.

Appropriate Yoga Poses for Toddlers

An adult woman teaching a young girl how to do a yoga pose on a wooden floor.

  • Easy Pose
  • Mountain Pose
  • Cat Pose
  • Cow Pose
  • Rat Pose
  • Dog Pose
  • Tree Pose
  • Frog Pose
  • Butterfly Pose

Yoga for Preschoolers

Once the child reaches 3–4 years old, he is now considered a preschooler. Preschoolers can develop basic life skills and show independence. They also start developing fine motor skills and gross motor skills, making it easier for you as a yoga instructor to teach them yoga asanas.

Moreover, they are now more aware of their needs and wants. Here are some tips on how to teach yoga to preschoolers:

  • Preschoolers are more likely to throw tantrums than toddlers because they are now more aware of what they want and need. Build an emotional connection with them in the yoga class so they can trust you to teach them.
  • Show them how poses and exercises are done and let them explore, even if they’re not perfect. They are natural explorers. Allow them to be just like that so they can be aware of their own body.
  • Encourage them to be aware of how they feel when practicing pranamaya, asanas, or meditating.
  • Know that they have their way of participating. They may look like they are not, but you will find out they are.
  • Partner them up so they can develop social skills. But never force them. 
  • Be a listener and let them guide you instead of imposing what you want them to do. Preschoolers learn more from experiencing things rather than being taught what to do. They are curious and imaginative. Plan your class according to your goal. Let them know that goal and allow them to guide you toward that goal.
  • As always, focus on playing.

Appropriate Yoga Poses for Preschoolers

A preschooler doing a yoga pose on a gray mat indoors.

  • Easy Pose
  • Mountain Pose
  • Cat Pose
  • Cow Pose
  • Rat Pose
  • Dog Pose
  • Tree Pose
  • Frog Pose
  • Butterfly Pose
  • Bridge Pose
  • Cobra Pose
  • Rainbow Pose
  • Dragon Pose
  • Chair Pose
  • Boat Pose
  • Happy Baby
  • Rock Pose

Yoga for Grade-Schoolers

By the time children reach the age of 5, they are now considered grade-schoolers. Grade-schoolers are highly active. They have a hard time sitting still, but they need recess and breaks for their cognitive functioning. Here are some tips on how to teach yoga for grade-schoolers:

  • Grade-schoolers are usually eager to please their teachers. As a yoga teacher, you will not have much difficulty teaching them how to do yoga poses. 
  • They are now more sensitive and may quickly feel overwhelmed with their emotions. They may have quarrels with their classmates because they are eager for your attention. Try to give each one equal attention. 
  • Use praises. Since their social and emotional characteristics are developing, they are sensitive to criticism.
  • Grade-schoolers reach the peak of self-talk between six and seven years old. Teach them to recognize negative self-talk through mindfulness. Avoid using phrases such as “I can’t,” “I never,” and “I always” in front of them. Try your best to be a model of positive self-talk.
  • Their large muscle control is superior to their fine coordination. Grade-schoolers will be able to do many yoga poses, but not as deeply as adults. Focus on basic yoga poses that require them to use multiple muscle groups such as Chair, Downdog, and more.

Appropriate Yoga Poses for Grade-Schoolers

A little girl doing a yoga pose on her orange yoga mat.

Grade-schoolers can do most poses toddlers and preschoolers can do. Because their large muscle groups are developing, you can teach them more advanced poses such as arm balances and inversions. But start with primary arm balances and inversions.

  • Locust Pose
  • Upward Bow Pose
  • Candle Pose
  • Three-Legged Pose
  • Crow Pose

3 Pranayama Exercises for Children

The breath is still essential even when teaching yoga for toddlers, preschoolers, and grade-schoolers. However, most traditional pranayama exercises are strenuous for children to understand. Here are some kid-friendly pranayama exercises you can teach your children:

Dragon Breath

How to Do the Dragon Breath

  1. Have the children sit in their most comfortable seated position.
  2. Inhale through the nose and exhale with the mouth open, like a Dragon.
  3. Repeat for 5–10 cycles.

Flower Breath

How to Do the Flower Breath

  1. Bring the wrists, thumbs, and pinky fingers together. Spread your fingers wide.
  2. Imagine this is your favorite flower. Bring your favorite flower close to your face. Inhale to smell the flower.
  3. Purse your lips to exhale as if you’re blowing the petals of your favorite flower.
  4. Repeat for 5–10 cycles.

Unicorn Breath

How to Do the Unicorn Breath

  1. Come to your hands and knees. Bring your left pointer finger on top of your forehead while folding the remaining fingers of your left hand. 
  2. Inhale through your nostrils. Exhale with pursed lips and extend your left arm up.
  3. Repeat for 5–10 cycles.

Yoga Games for Children

A young girl doing a yoga pose on a blue yoga mat indoors.

Yoga Freeze Dance

How to Do the Yoga Freeze Dance

Play music and let the children dance. Once the music stops, call out a yoga pose and let them freeze in that pose for a few seconds. 

Yoga Spelling Bee

How to Do the Yoga Spelling Bee

Ask the children to spell their names using their bodies. 

You will be surprised by the new poses they can make. You can also make this more fun and challenging by letting them choose words they can find around the room. If you have a theme, you can use words that describe the theme instead of their names.

Yoga Challenge

How to Do the Yoga Challenge

Challenge the kids to do poses that require them to touch the mat or the ground with some parts of their body. 

  • 1 knee and 2 hands
  • Belly
  • 2 feet and 1 elbow
  • 2 forearms and 1 foot
  • Buttocks, 2 feet, and 1 hand

This game is more appropriate for children who have been practicing yoga for a while and know many poses. 

 

Teaching yoga to toddlers, preschoolers, and grade-schoolers is challenging. But once you see the benefits that yoga gives to children, you will feel fulfilled and grateful for the experience.

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