If there is one thing I've learned in my seven years of teaching yoga to children it is to expect the unexpected.
I am reminded of Forrest Gump's famous line, "Life is like a box of chocolates, ya never know what you're gonna get." Leading kid's yoga classes is much the same way; you just never know what you're gonna get!
Fear not though, there is a solution to all of the unknowns and surprises that may be thrown your way and that is PRESENCE. No matter what location you are teaching at, no matter what age the group is, and no matter who is in the room YOU are the anchor that keeps it all together. Leading an effective kid's yoga class means being present and learning to go with the flow of what's in front of you.
To put it another way, teaching kids yoga is a yoga practice in itself.
I thought I'd share two recent situations that I did not expect, and how I adapted in the moment.
1) A child who is older than the age range of the class shows up.
I've been teaching a Story Time Yoga class geared towards 6-24 month year old children. While this age range is in my class description, I have had a few kids show up who are 3 years old. A 3-year-old is at a very different place developmentally from a 6-24 month year old so this could be a challenge.
To adapt to this situation, I asked the older child to be my assistant throughout class. For example, when I led partner boat pose for baby/toddler & caregiver I asked the 3 year old child to be my partner. I then showed another version of partner boat pose to the class. This gave me an opportunity to make the older child feel included and special, and also demonstrate to the caregivers in the room the "big kid" version of the pose.
2) I expected a big group and only 2 kids showed up.
Last week I was expecting 5 parents and children to attend class, and only only 2 showed up. At first I was disappointed thinking that class may not be as fun without a larger group. However, I quickly saw the positives of what was in front of me.
I was happy to see that the children were a similar age, so I took this as an opportunity to connect the parents. I left extra time during free play so the parents were able to talk about their kids and it turned out they were planning to send them to the same day care! Also, one of the children took some of his first steps during class! It was a smaller class than I had expected but a very special one nonetheless.
To end, I'd like to share a quote from a book I love called Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Plum Village Community. If you're interested in learning more about how to be present while teaching this is an excellent read!
"To hang out, then, is to simply be with a child. It is to let the child reveal to us who she or he is: how he talks, her voice, how he moves about, what she wants to play, his smile, her face with all its expressions, what he dreams, her total being. It is being open to accept what is being offered and improvise with it, so as to be playful yet caring. Let our interactions be a moving meditation."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Remember, if things go differently than you expect remember to breathe and look at what's in front of you- you're bound to find beauty in the unexpected.