By Sydney Solis
Storytime Yoga® was created with Montessori preschoolers when I worked in my children's classrooms. I loved the child-centered theories of Maria Montessori, as well as the cross-curriculum approach.
In regards to using Storytime Yoga® for Kids with toddlers, children of at least three years of age can visualize images and have a greater vocabulary range that understands the symbol that a word represents. They can control their bodies more and take direction. Toddlers do not have this ability yet, so telling an oral story to a toddler, asking them to sit still for a while, just isn’t going to work. I have taught toddler classes in different arrangements, but unless kids are older than three, oral storytelling doesn't work with toddler's yoga.
You can still teach yoga to children and their mothers using story, you just have to approach it from a much more visual standpoint. Here are a few tips.
Teaching Yoga to Toddlers with Story
1) Incorporate toddler children into a family yoga class, where there are older children to work with the Storytime Yoga® story, and have parents around to watch and help their toddler kids. I always allow kids younger than 2 and explain to the parents that it’s fine for them to be here, they just have to be responsible for any outbursts, distractions, etc. Be prepared to deal with a wandering toddler though.
2) Have a toddler only class with significant prop usage and simple stories. Use masks made from paper plates, books, or a fun set of puppets to illustrate the story. Try out a Tabletop Storytelling Felt Board. The point is that toddlers need to see something to associate the meaning with the word.
3) Have a class in which the mother is the focus of the class, and the toddler is able to be in a prepared environment with interaction pointed at them as well. In the toddler classes I taught at the Boulder Recreation center, I made it a place where mothers (or dads) could come, get out of the house and socialize and take a gentle yoga class that was rich in a fun environment for the kids, who would hang around mamma mostly.
I was playful enough with the kids, with animal noises and silly voices, and had the same Namaste songs and breathing I use in older kids yoga classes. Below you will find examples of what I did with the kids.
Have periods where the parent and child can sit, do some finger rhymes, do a little yoga with the child if they choose, and do a story with pictures or a book. This way you are also teaching the mother activities, finger rhymes, etc. that they can do in the home with the child. And that the child will follow in the mother’s modeling.
I gave the mother’s more instruction in the actual yoga poses. It’s a yoga class for them to come and socialize with their kids without having to get a babysitter, and their children are EXPOSED to yoga through the mother. I just believe in TEACHING yoga to toddlers; I believe in EXPOSING IT TO THEM. There are many wonderful programs out there like Mommy and Me, and Itsy Bitsy Yoga that are more interactive in this sense.
Activities I did with toddlers in yoga class.
- I had a large-knobbed wooden puzzle of animals. There was a butterfly, rabbit, dog, horse, cat, and guinea pig. I took the puzzle pieces out first and put them in a velvet bag. Then I would have the kids pick out one piece from the bag. Then we did the pose. I’d instruct the parent more how to do the pose for her benefit. I gave this puzzle away to a friend who had a toddler and regret it because I never have been able to find it again with the same wonderful animals!
- I did the same thing with a Fisher Price zoo as well as a farm set up. I hid the animals, and the kids had to identify what is it? What sound does it make? And we did the pose.
- I did a lot more finger and nursery rhymes.There are those simple finger rhymes as well that are good.Here are the traditional ones at this website.
This was also a nice web site for rhymes.
Any nursery rhymes are very helpful for this age group. In fact, I would just look for nursery rhymes and put yoga to it for them. Get props and pictures, which I will illustrate in a minute.Other favorite nursery rhymesHey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such a sight and the fork ran away with the spoon.
Again, use pictures or puppets or other objects to show them what you mean. Kids this age don’t have the cognitive ability to match the object with the symbol of the word. But this will develop their vocabulary! Bring in a fork and a dish. Run. Have a downward dog laughing.
For the cow pose, for example, hold up a picture, puppet or other object of a cow. You can make these simply by cutting out pictures of cows from a magazine and pasting them on paper and then laminating them.
Then demonstrate the pose and naturally add the noises! You can usually say Moo and then say, “what kind of animal says this?” And they can answer.
- Or try nonsense poemsHiggelty pigglety popThe dog has eaten the mopThe pig’s in a hurry
The cat’s in a flurry
Higgelty pigglety pop
Obviously you can use dog, cat poses, act out a pig or use a yoga pose of your imagination.
It is the rhyme, rhythm and repetition through which children learn. And the little mind makes those neuro-connections with the sounds of language as well. It’s reinforced with the body wisdom by acting it out
- One rhyme I love to do is:
Knock on the door -- knock gently on child’s head
Peek in – point your index and middle fingers at their eyes.
Lift the latch – gently snub their nose
Go in – point your finger to their mouth
Hello Mr. Chinny Chin Chin! And tickle them under the chin.
Another one is:
Round and roud the garden, like a teddy bear – take their hand and make little circles in their palm.
One step, two step – take your finger and walk up their arm in steps.
Tickle under there! – Tickle under their arm pit.
6) I also love to use music. I sang to the parents and children during shavasana, and had the child rest on the mother’s body. I usually sang the nursery rhyme Winken Blinken and Nod by Eugene Field, which I loved as a child and remember the tune from. I couldn't find that tune, so you can make up your own!
7) I allowed the child to play with other materials if they wanted to during the class as the mother practiced. As it’s just impossible or futile to try and get a child to do a pose or hang with mommy if they don’t want to, in my opinion. The parent can choose to help the child do yoga with her or not. I never force anything. I think that is destructive. For the toddlers I had chunky books, blocks, stuffed animals around the room, a la Montessori. Any other percussion instruments you have can be good too.
8) Tell a simple story and tell it using lots of props. Felt boards, puppets, pictures, masks, dolls, whatever you have, use that to tell the story. I would stick with nursery rhymes, three little pigs, songs and simple animal stories.
- The Tailor – a very simple story about a man who keeps making more out of one piece of cloth. Very repetitive and easy.
- The turnip. It’s in African and Russian stories, about a man who tries to pull up a turnip but can’t so a whole pile of animals join in to help him, each not able to, until a mouse finally joins the line and out comes the turnip!
- Check out http://www.story-lovers.com/ for nursery rhyme ideas to add simple poses too. Frogs, pussycats, etc.
More Ideas for Teaching Yoga to Toddlers
1) Try introducing letters and make the shapes with their bodies, using either yoga or simple movement. Show a picture of the letter.
2) Put letters or blocks in a bag. Have the toddler pull one out, and using the letter found, try a pose starting with that letter, or an animal, triangle, etc.
3) Have a bag of puppets with assorted animals for them to draw out and make poses with. Or again, find small objects (choke-proof naturally) or miniatures, such as a chair, bridge, cat, etc.
4) Use Kamishibai cards, traditional Japanese theatre cards. I purchased mine at http://www.StorycardTheater.com/ . They are a bit pricey, and I didn’t like their picture art very well. I make my own pictures to go with it, you can see them in the Six Storytime Yoga® for Kids Yoga Story Kits, and you can too! Draw the pictures yourself! But that way you can TELL the story and still have a connection to the child, while he or she sees the image.
The Absorbent Mind by Maria Montessori
The Secret of Childhood by Maria Montessori
Teaching Montessori in the Home: Pre-School Years: The Pre-School Years
Elizabeth G. Hainstock
Little Yoga: A Toddler's First Book of Yoga by Rebecca Whitford
Sleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler's Sleepy Book of Yoga