*Today’s blog was written by Whitney James, a former KAY kid and recent high school graduate*
About twice a month I babysit two little girls whose parents are some of our family friends. The girls are 7 and 5 so getting them to calm down and stop running around the house can sometimes be a bit of a hassle. Luckily, my mom’s a kids’ yoga teacher so I decided to try different activities to see what the girls would like and what would calm them down.
This game is one of my favorites to play with the girls because they get so excited when it’s their turn to be “Yogi” and make me do different poses. Basically, Yogi Says is Simon Says, except instead of Simon, the leader is Yogi. Of course, before the game starts, I had to teach them the basic yoga poses (down dog, tree, eagle, etc.), and sticking with about 5-6 poses keeps the game simple, but it also keeps the girls thinking about which pose is which and which pose will come next. Mixing in different generic Simon Says movements (stand on one foot, touch your nose, etc.) also makes sure that the girls maintain interest in the game and don’t get bored so quickly. I was surprised the first time when I played this with the girls because it kept their attention for a while (a while in terms of small children, however, is much different than a while in terms of older children and adults).
This is something I picked up from volunteering as a counselor at Camp KAY over the summer and is a surefire way to keep my girls entertained and giggling (and for them to get some exercise at the same time). I can play the song, or since I’ve babysat for them a few times now, I just let the older girl run the salutations because she likes to add in different poses throughout the routine. Something that the girls really enjoy doing is making the salutations go progressively faster, until, eventually, someone falls over (generally it’s me) and they regress back into fits of giggles and beg me to stand back up and continue. For some reason, they also like to pretend that they are a different movie or different TV characters while they are leading the routines. The 7 year old likes being SpongeBob (I’ve also introduced them to some tv shows from when I was little), and the 5 year old has a soft spot for attempting to be Olaf from Frozen (a little girl obsessed with a Disney princess movie, it’s shocking!).
Bed Time Techniques:
The girls have to be in bed by 8:30 per their parents’ instructions but working with two small children around bedtime poses some challenges. They would much rather run around and harass their dog than lay quietly in bed, and I don’t blame them! Something else that I learned from being a KAY counselor was to have a mindfulness circle right before bed to calm down and reflect on the day, and believe it or not, the girls always jump right in and relax when I pull out the talking stick (which I brought from home one of the first times I watched them). One of the girls holds the talking stick and I ask them questions about their day, such as, ‘what was the best thing you did today?’, ‘what was something you learned today?’ or even ‘what was something that happened today that you didn’t like very much?’. I also participate and this bedtime ritual gets the girls reflecting on their day and how they can improve. By the time all three of us have talked, the girls are worn out and ready to get into bed. When they have trouble sleeping I remind them to take deep breaths and just focus on breathing.
While these things may seem small and insignificant in the whole scheme of things, I hope by slowly teaching the girls about mindfulness, yoga, and reflection they will lead more peaceful and happy lives, and also help the other children around them to do the same.