Yoga for the Early Childhood Education Classroom and at Home with Little Ones
During the holidays, travel, being here there and everywhere, I was finding myself needing a new outlet for Little Bee’s bursting energy, and for a new activity for little ones at play in the afternoons when the cold weather only had us outside for short spurts of time.
While running the daycare, we had gotten in a really great habit of doing yoga as a group and it was such a fun way to participate in an activity together – each child in their own way, but each happily taking part.
Not only was this an incredibly calming activity (check out the other activities I love that have a surprising calming effect despite giggles), but it was enriching social-emotional development (more on that here) by supporting self regulation among other things that I will list below.
This was exactly what we needed during the midst of holidays, being overtired and over travelled, and slightly irritable – I won’t say which one of us was impacted most by this…
11 Benefits of Yoga for Children
- Develop body awareness
- Learn breathing techniques that are huge in supporting stress, anger and upset in other areas of life
- Learn the early stages and benefits of meditation (or simply being quiet in the mind)
- Build concentration, focus and determination
- Enhances flexibility, coordination and balance
- Can be done just about anywhere and anytime – so as stressful or overwhelming moments occur we can support children by using yoga poses to refocus them.
- Improves patience and mindfulness
- Feel included in a group activity (environments for everyone post)
- Increase confidence, self-image and self-respect.
- “Finger Yoga for Children” is an excellent way to improve fine motor skills.
- We know the power of creating a wonder-filled environment (more on that here) and a yoga practice very much supports what we are working toward in early childhood education.
13 Benefits of Yoga for Educators
- Inexpensive way to incorporate activity into the classroom (with few materials needed: a mat or simply the cleared space for each child is more than enough)
- After establishing this as part of a regular or occasional routine, educators can use these approaches to support further social-emotional skill development.
- In moments of challenge in the classroom, educators and parents can turn to these learned skills to support the child in self-regulation.
- In an effort to increase physical movement in our homes and classrooms, yoga provides an easy and inclusive way to do so.
- Blends beautifully into other activities and creates a wonderful transition tool: for older children working toward a focused activity, it’s a great way to gather them in a group, create concentration and then end with them in a sitting pose. For younger children nearing naptime, this may be a wonderful way to have them work their way to the floor for quiet time.
- Using yoga music as a signal to children for calming and quiet is a handy technique to refocus a group when needed.
- Provides a wonderful opportunity for educators themselves to focus their breathing, develop patience, and encourage mindfulness during the hectic day.
- Improve your own (in addition to the children’s) energy during the day by uplifting that afternoon crash, or preparing for the end of the day wind down.
- Doing an activity like this with the children creates an incredible connection – even if as an educator, you already practice yoga outside of work hours you get the added benefits of stress relief and inward breathing. Joining in the learning journey during an activity like this sets the stage that learning is an ever evolving process – which is an incredible message for children.
- The social-emotional skill of focused breathing is incredibly helpful for teachers, parents and educators to enrich as a way to improve posture, attention, focus, stress relief, anxiety, and overwhelm. It becomes a useful tool in dealing with stressful situations and allow you to feel empowered in your ability to respond in a meaningful way.
- Allows you to see where children need support or have made great strides in their gross motor development, listening, following directions, and focusing their energy.
- As we learn more about what it means for both students, educators and parents to create a wonder-filled environment (post on that here), we see the value in setting the stage, and modelling those techniques that support focused and mindful learning through play, all of which yoga contributes toward.
- As educators, we are often hard on our bodies; lifting children, sitting on the floor in criss-cross apple-sauce which is no longer comfortable after…. A certain age or so… and yoga give us those full body and focused stretches that are critical to care for the body that cares for others.
Yoga in the Classroom Backed by Science
There is a wealth of information, reports and studies on cognitive neuroscience in young children when experiencing yoga as a part of their regular routine, but the benefits make themselves very clear after practicing for even a short amount of time.
During my own practice with the children I came to find:
Additional Benefits of Including Yoga as part of your Early Childhood Routine
- Yoga can be an incredibly inclusive practice, creating environments that welcome everyone, with every ability and need (more on that here).
- It is very inexpensive to practice yoga. Although having a yoga mat or towel for each child sets the tone, it isn’t really required. Following the lead of the teacher/educator is more than enough. We loved to include music or video but it wasn’t necessary.
- It can be done indoors but is especially fun outside in the fresh air.
- Additional learning: body part names, making shapes and letters with your body, learning awareness and space.
- We know the power of music to bring the level of excitement up in a room, but using mindful music such as yoga or meditation music we can support the energy of the children and wind down at appropriate times.
- Yoga is an incredible tool to support regulation of emotion, attention, thought and behaviour; critical for the well-being of educators, parents and children alike.
- It doesn’t take away from the power of play, but rather leads us to new ways to learn through play: moving like lions, stretching like puppies, or kitties, slithering snakes on the ground, crouching like frogs, etc.
- It was a genuinely fun activity that we all looked forward to each day, or every other day and was a wonderful way to come together as a group, share in smiles, laughter and the excitement of everyone taking part in their own way.
Check out these other posts with great book lists!
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