Children nowadays live in a hurry-up world of busy parents, school pressures, video games, malls, and competitive sports. We usually don’t think of these influences as stressful for our kids, but often they are. The pace of our children’s lives can have a profound effect on their innate joy—and usually not for the better.
Yoga has become quite mainstream for adults in recent years, but have we ever considered sharing the practice with our children? Yoga can benefit kids significantly, and in some ways, possibly even more so than it nourishes adults. Here are just some of these benefits:
Children derive enormous benefits from yoga. Physically, it enhances their flexibility, strength, coordination, self esteem and body awareness. In addition, their concentration and sense of calmness and relaxation improves. Doing yoga, children exercise, play, connect more deeply with the inner self, develop an intimate relationship with the natural world that surrounds them and cultivates a peaceful, relaxed state of body and mind.
The greatest challenge with children is to hold their attention long enough to teach them the benefits of yoga: stillness, balance, flexibility, focus, peace, grace, connection, health, and well-being. Luckily, most children love to talk, and they love to move—both of which can happen in yoga. Children will jump at the chance to assume the role of animals, trees, flowers, warriors.
Here are some fun yoga games for kids that not only teach children yoga, but also help support their learning and development.
1. Mirror, mirror.
This game is a good warm-up exercise to increase focus. One person starts as the leader. The leader chooses a pose to do and shows it to the others. The other players copy the leader’s pose as if they are looking into a mirror. Change the leader with each round of poses, so that everyone has a turn at being the leader.
2. Red light, green light yoga.
One person is chosen as the Stoplight. He or she stands at the front of the room. The other players are the “cars,” and they start at the opposite wall. The Stoplight starts the game by calling “Green light!” The other players then use yoga poses to move forward. When the Stoplight calls “Red light!,” each player needs to be in a yoga pose and remain still. Everyone takes a turn being the Stoplight.
3. Match Yoga Poses.
Place one yoga pose card on each yoga dot. Once everyone has a chance to look at their yoga card, then everyone walks around to find someone else who has the matching color band (category) on their yoga card. Once the partners are united, they can practice the poses to get together.
4. Partner Yoga Pose Practice.
Give out a yoga card to each child. Then, the children walk around to find someone who has the same colour shirt (or eyes, pants, shoes, etc). Once everyone is matched up, the partners practice the poses on their cards together.
5. Rock/Tree/ Bridge.
The children get into groups of three and line up. The first student in each line becomes a rock (do Child’s Pose), second student jumps over the rock and becomes a tree (do Tree Pose), third person jumps over the rock, goes around the tree, and becomes a bridge (do Downward-Facing Dog Pose). The first student (who was the rock) gets up and goes around the tree and underneath the bridge. The students repeat the pattern.
Once you’ve played a few yoga games with your class, ask the children to make up their own yoga games to share with their friends.
6. Pose Detective.
Try to give them a yoga pose challenge, like “Show me a pose with 2 feet and 1 hand only on your mat.”
7. Strike a Pose.
Play music and the students dance around the room. When the music stops, the children strike a pose. The teacher could call out a pose, or try saying, “Show me a pose of an animal that is found in the water, or flies, etc”. Then the teacher plays the music again, the children dance, music stops, and then they practice a different pose.
8. Freeze Dance Yoga Style.
Almost every child loves freeze dance. It’s the game where children get to let loose, shake, twist, turn ,and dance to their favourite tunes and then without any notice, they have to stop their body or freeze when the music stops. There is something about anxiously waiting for the music to stop that brings excitement and laughter to children. You can do freeze dance yoga-style. Simply play a favourite song and have the children dance around. When the music stops, shout out the name of a yoga pose and the students will then have to freeze in that pose. This also tests their knowledge of poses.
Be mindful that if you do a pose that is one-sided, you must have them repeat the pose on the other side. It’s fun to see which moves faster, their minds or their bodies, as they think and try to jump into the pose.
9. Body Shapes.
Draw a shape on a whiteboard or a piece of paper and everyone must try to make that shape with their body. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. A fun challenge in pairs or groups is to see if they can make the shape while working together silently. Good figures to use are circles, lines, and certain letters.
10. Sea /Shore/ Shells.
This is an active game that allows lots of movement while practicing yoga poses that the children know or have learned. Have a long jump rope or some other way to divide your room in half. When the leader says, “sea”, everyone jumps to the “sea” side. When the leader says “shore”, they jump to the other side. When the leader says “shells”, the participants must make a yoga pose. Try going quickly and mix them up. The kids will love it!