Yoga is becoming increasingly popular among children in the western world. With more and more schools and early childhood centres adopting it into their curriculum.
Clinical research has shown that yoga and mindfulness can improve both mental and physical health in children. Yoga is not only a great physical activity (improving endurance, strength, balance and aerobic capacity) it also has many psychological benefits with research showing that children who practice have improved focus, memory, self-esteem, academic performance, and classroom behaviour, it can also help to decrease anxiety and stress.
Research has also shown that it can be particularly helpful with children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by improving the core symptoms (inattentiveness, impulsivity, and hyperactivity).
To help you get started and explore all of the wonderful benefits for yourself we have created three playful interactive yoga games for you to do at home with your little loves.
For this game you’ll need at least two people — the more the merrier!
How to Start
One person plays the Catcher, and the others are the Yogis.
The Catcher stands at one end of the room, facing the wall so they can’t see the other players. The Yogis stand in a line at the opposite end of the room. Or you can play this game outside!
When the Catcher shouts ‘GO!’, it’s time to start.
How to Play
The Yogis have to take one big step forwards at a time. Slowly step one foot forwards, and then keep that front knee bent and lift the arms into the air — into a Warrior position. And then do the same with the other foot, and keep going.
This takes balance, strength, concentration, and patience.
The goal is to reach the Catcher and tap them on the back — but it’s not so easy!
Every now and then the Catcher suddenly turns around to look at the Yogis. When the Catcher turns around the Yogis have to freeze. And if the Catcher sees a Yogi moving, that Yogi has to go back to the start line.
The first Yogi to tap the Catcher on the back wins!
THE WILD DANCE
How to Start
Uninhibited dancing is a powerful confidence builder and wonderful exercise for kids — but many children don’t dance regularly. And it can be really difficult for a young person to put self-consciousness aside and enjoy free movement to music.
So this game is a brilliant way to introduce dance in a structured and safe way, allowing children to build up to the joyful release of uninhibited movement in their own way and in their own time.
Start by creating a playlist of playful, upbeat tunes that make you want to tap your feet. And familiarise yourself with 5 simple standing yoga poses.
How to Play
Without music, guide your child — or group of children — through 5 standing yoga postures. Teach them in a very simple way first so that your child knows how to get into the pose.
And then do each pose again — but this time, add in some additional dynamic movements. For example, in a Warrior pose you might show your child how to raise their arms up overhead with each inhale and drop their arms down to their sides with each exhale. Or in tree pose you could show them how to test their balance by swaying their hips slowly from side to side, changing their centre of gravity.
When you’re ready, put the music on.
And continue to work with those 5 yoga poses — moving through them repeatedly, and each time adding additional movements. Be playful. And start to move to the rhythm of the music.
Once your child is comfortable moving with the postures and the music you can stop leading. Tell them to keep playing around with different ways of moving their bodies within each yoga pose. It can be useful to use the phrase “Experiment with any movement that feels good — even moving in a way you’ve never moved before, or in a way that might look weird! Weird is great!”
When their energy is high and they’re laughing you can encourage them to let go of the structure and move their bodies freely. Be silly; jump around; wave and shimmy and wiggle.
This is a simple game which helps kids — and adults! — to learn yoga poses, as well as working with balance and proprioception.
How to Start
Depending on the number of children playing, you can either use a few sheets of paper or a whiteboard/chalkboard. Set up so that you have something to draw on that everyone can easily see, and pencils, pens or whiteboard pens to draw with.
How to Play
Draw a shape on your paper or whiteboard. Everyone playing has to try and copy that shape with their body.
Start simple — you could draw a shape that requires everyone to stand on one leg or put their arms above their head. And then start drawing shapes that represent simple yoga postures, such as Warrior 2, Tree Pose, and Downward Facing Dog.
As the game progresses you could try more challenging yoga poses or get silly and draw random shapes — kids will love playing around and trying to figure out how to copy funny shapes with their bodies!
We hope you love your new yoga practice. Remember the most important thing is to have fun.