Toddlers. They are truly the hot messes of the kid world. One minute they are smiling and laughing, the next minute bawling on the floor because you had the audacity to tell them they have to put their shoes on. For most of us grown-ups, toddlers can be truly exhausting.
Introducing toddlers to yoga can seem daunting. It's hard to imagine getting them to sit still for 25 seconds let alone a 45 minute yoga class. Movement for young children is so incredibly important however, and with all the benefits that yoga can bring your youngster, getting them moving in significant and meaningful ways will truly help to build a healthy foundation for the rest of their life.
Yoga provides so many benefits to children. It promotes focus, relaxation, fine and gross motor skill development, positive social interactions and team work. Yoga also helps children tune into their bodies; to become aware of their bodies in space, to learn to listen and identify their feelings, and it helps children build a positive body image.
Here are 3 simple ways to introduce toddlers to yoga:
- Put a new spin on story time. I have many favorite children's yoga books (click here and here to find two of my favorites) and I think books are the perfect way to introduce children to yoga. Whether its a book that will help them get their sillies and wiggles out during the day, or perhaps its a soothing night time yoga book before bed, books are an awesome platform to bring yoga to the whole family. Make yoga part of your daily story time. You will be surprised how much kids love it and find delight in getting to move their body as you read.
- Make it a family affair. Let's face it, we could all use more time in the day to move our bodies. Yoga is a really fun way to get the whole family moving. This doesn't have to be an hour long yoga session. Taking 15 minutes to play games as a family moving, dancing and stretching is a perfect way to get the blood flowing, reconnect with each other and create healthy habits all together. This can be as easy as talking about favorite animals and trying to see if you can all move like that animal. It might mean putting on some music and then pausing the music to see if everyone can make a shape with their body when the music stops. Find a feather or even a tissue and see who can blow it around the floor with their breath. Don't be afraid to be silly and remember that it doesn't have to look or be perfect.
- Find yoga in your community. Many studios have childrens or family yoga classes. Perhaps keep an eye out at your local library. Can't find any yoga in your community? Create your own! I know so many awesome parents who, when faced with a deficit in their town, have made it happen for their kids. Invite a couple friends and their kids over for a playdate and do 10 minutes of yoga as a group before the kids head off to play. This is a great way to introduce kids to yoga in a free, fun and supportive environment with people they know already.
Most of all, remember that toddlers (you already know this) have a short attention span. So don't feel badly if your little one drifts off to do something else after a few minutes. Even a few minutes of movement is important and the older they get, the more they will get engaged with it. Have fun, be silly and please, whatever you do, don't tell them to put their shoes on ;)