12 Tips for a Smoother Pre-Grounded Class
I chose to create 12 Tips for a Smoother Pre-Grounded Class for 2 reasons:
- I’ve been teaching yoga to preschool students for 6 years and have learned, firsthand, some things that work and others that don’t with my students.
- Teaching preschool yoga is intimidating to many teachers, so having a list of tips to try may minimize that fear.
I included many of the things I do on a regular basis in my classes that make managing young kids easier and result in my having more time to actually teach.
Tip #13: The most important tip, however, is to be yourself. When you read a list of tips, if you read something that doesn’t sound like you or you know you won’t feel comfortable doing, don’t do it! Young children have an amazing capacity for seeing through you and will know when you are pretending to be something or someone you are not.
1. Mark the mats
Use a wide tip Sharpie and draw a big X in the center of the mats (if they are your mats). Children this age have a difficult time with spatial awareness. “Sit right on top of the X”, tells students exactly where you want them.
2. Use the X mentioned above to space students’ feet
Make the X around 6 inches in size. For preschoolers, this is roughly hip width. When they stand, they put the X right between their feet. They are the correct width and parallel.
3. Get them moving
Make your class format routine. Repetition is great for this age. Organize this routine so that students are moving as soon as possible. First, get them moving and then introduce your theme. They will listen better once they’ve moved.
4. Use child sized props
A bath towel is, proportionally, the size of a yoga blanket. A foam building block is the right size for a yoga block. A bag of foam building blocks is inexpensive but doesn’t come with a lot of large rectangular blocks. Different sized blocks can be hot glued together to make all large rectangles.
5. Give them a blanket to sit on
Students this age can be wiggly trying to sit still. While sitting in easy pose, many will draw their feet under and bounce around. Most don’t need it anatomically, but sit them up on a blanket (see towel above). This makes it difficult to bring their feet under and they will find it easier to settle. This can be an alternative to marking the mats if you place the blanket where you want students to sit.
6. Set up the space so students can face each other
This age child is very social and relies heavily on visual cues. They need the feedback of seeing they are doing the right thing and knowing that others see they are doing the right thing. By facing each other, they can make eye contact sitting across from a good friend rather than sitting next to the friend and possibly creating disruptions.
7. Use balancing buddies
To balance better, we focus our gaze on something unmoving to find our drishti. Students this age have a difficult time simply staring at the wall. If you can place stickers on the wall at eye level or beanie babies on a window ledge it will give them something concrete to focus on.
8. Be brief and consider doing the pose
Save the wordiness and poetic quality for older students. Developmentally, this age student cannot process too many instructions at once. You will lose them if you talk too much. “Stand. Ground your feet. Open your heart. Tada arms.” This will get better results than, “Stand up with strong, steady legs, pressing heavily into all four corners of your feet. Inhale to breathe your side bodies long, exhale to shine your heart forward. Extend your arms by your sides with open expressive hands.” We’ve been told to not do the pose when we are teaching. As long as you can keep an eye on students, do the pose initially and give your brief cues as you do the pose. Do it once, and then monitor the students in the pose, giving feedback and corrections.
9. Don’t worry about left and right (or use rubber bracelets)
Say, “Step one foot forward.” Then, “Step the other foot forward.” Or, “Step one foot forward. Now lift the opposite arm.” Opposite is a concept this aged child can understand. For Twisted Together, use rubber bracelets (Livestrong bracelets). When students enter class, put a bracelet on one wrist. They can reach across and grab their partner’s hand with the bracelet, then the one without the bracelet.
10. Make it concrete
When introducing an abstract yoga concept, think of something concrete to compare it to. Grounding feet or hands can be really, sticky glue or even suction cups. Drawing energy up through your hands or feet is slurping or sucking through a straw. Drawing in to the midline is like hugging. Have them practice hugging with feet, arms, legs, etc. Thread your hand through a space can be, “See the cave opening here? Stick your opposite hand into the cave.”
11. Use sounds
It can be especially hard for this age to be perfectly quiet. Give them sounds as cues, instead of words. Have them use the sounds. If you want students to ground their hands or feet, instead of repeating the same verbal cues over and over, use a slurpy, suctiony sound each time you want them to ground and have them join you. “Ok, now, [ground] slurp, slurp.” “Slurp, slurp”, is more fun than, “Press evenly into all four corners and press your finger pads into the mat.”
12. Keep Savasana “active”
It doesn’t have to be physical, but this age child has a very hard time being absolutely still. Keep their minds occupied by reading a meditation to reinforce your theme. Engage them by having them rub their hands together while they lie down, creating frictional warmth. When hands are warm, press them onto eyes, rub again, press heart, rub, press shoulders, rub, press belly, etc. When you plan the movement, you are more likely to maintain control of your class.
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