Hula hoops are a natural symbol of Yoga: circles represent unity, inclusiveness—and a hole you can jump through, into, and around in creative and fun ways! I also use hula hoops when teaching kids’ gymnastics and creative movement as they provide a clear, external point of reference for kids.
If there’s one really convenient thing I’ve learned through the my kids’ Yoga training, it’s that you can still be creative and original while using well-known, well-loved, classic kids’ songs and games such as duck-duck-goose and and “If you’re happy and you know it…” This is a great way for Yoga in the classroom to use familiar games and songs from typical school activities. This familiarity helps make kids more comfortable and eager to participate and they don’t usually mind the repetition. Here are some ideas for using hula hoops while giving kids a chance to play their favorite games in Yoga class:
- Ring Around the Rosie: This is a variation on the traditional version. In groups of about 3 or 4, each child holds the hoop with one or two hands so that it is lifted off the ground and acts as a sort of “wheel hub” that the kids move as they circle around. Then they sing or chant these lyrics:
“Ring around the hula hoop/stir the pot of alphabet soup,/noodles, noodles/ we all fall down”
On the word ‘down,’ each kid makes the shape of a letter with their body. This is best done if you pre-teach the song by guiding kids through an exploration of making the shapes of different letters with their bodies. Then go over the song briefly, maybe even have it written on a cue card or blackboard so they can learn it more quickly. Rehearse it once to make sure everyone understands, then repeat as many times as you want.
Eeny-meeny-miney-moe: All kids sit on the ground in a circle with their toes on the hula hoop. This in itself is so helpful for groups that have a hard time forming a nice, round circle as the hoop gives them a concrete object to define their circle. Then you, or one of the kids, goes around saying, “Eeny-meeny-miney-moe” while gently tapping the children’s heads. The kid that gets chosen at the end of the rhyme does a yoga pose and holds it. Continue until all kids are in a pose. You might want to specify a pose they should do so that they don’t pick one they can’t hold for a long time. You could also use a different rhyme that is more yoga related (like “Eeny meeny miney moe, catch a Yogi by the toe. If she balances let her go. Eeny meeny miney moe”). Get creative!
Obstacle courses: Set up an obstacle using hula hoops. Spread hula hoops through the room (and add other obstacles, like blocks to walk on or pompoms to pick up with their toes). As they move through the course, kids jump into each hoop and strike a yoga pose of their choice, or you can assign a pose for them to practice in each hoop.
Freeze tag: Just like in traditional Freeze Tag, the player that is “it” tries to tag the other players. If a child is tagged, he/she is frozen in a Yoga pose (their choice or your assigned choice) until another child unfreezes them by touching them. Kids can use hula hoops as home base (where they can’t be tagged, but they have to do a yoga pose while staying in the hoop; again, you can allow them to choose the pose, or suggest specific ones like Tree or Dancer).
One obstacle I have encountered in using hula hoops with younger kids (ages 2-3) is that they often want to grab it, which results in a tug-of-war. Be prepared, as this might happen during the Ring Around the Rosie and Eeny-meenie-miney-moe activities. This has happened for me in mixed ages classes where the older kids understand the rules (i.e., hold the hoop with one hand, jump into it, or use it as a home base) but the younger kids often just want to grab the hoop and run. In those cases, I try to arrange some kind of activity in which the “grabber” gets to hold the hoop for others to go through, as in the Obstacle Course activity explained above. Either way, this presents a possible lesson in sharing, and you can tell kids that helping others and sharing is part of Karma Yoga (doing good for someone else without expectation of a reward).
You can also relate the round shape of the hoops to other similar shapes used in class, such as the round shape made by malas (or mardi gras beads) you use for meditation and chanting, and mandalas if you use those as a related art project. Kids are observant and they will probably point out many other things in class that are circular just like the hula hoops.