Kids have so much energy….until they don’t. When little ones complain that they’re too tired, sometimes they really are tired and other times, it might be their way of saying, “I’m bored,” “I don’t want to do that,” or “I’m sad.” At this point in the year, as we approach darker days in the Northern Hemisphere, we all fall into fatigue more often. So this post is for little yogis, but also for yogis of any age; it’s for parents, teachers, caregivers, and anyone who wants some yogic pick-me-ups that are fun and simple.
Sometimes when kids get that tired, glazed demeanor on their little faces, they just need something to hook their attention. There’s an art to finding what grabs kids’ attention, and part of that comes with knowing your little yogis. The other part of it is knowing some age-appropriate activities that have appeal for children. You know your young yogis, so I’ll share a few activities here for engaging them when they’re bored, tired, or just having trouble focusing and participating.
If they’re truly tired, or having trouble focusing, it can help to bring their attention to small things: small movements, gentle sounds, little yoga props (a.k.a. toys that are props). For instance, I like to use pompoms or tiny plastic butterflies and have kids lie down and put these on their bellies. These little props help bring focused attention to breathing more fully as we watch the belly rise on the inhale and lift the pompom or butterfly, and bring it down as we relax on the exhale.
Two other props I love (and kids love, too) are tingshas and Hoberman spheres. Everyone loves to have a turn to ‘ting’ the tingsha. We sit in a circle and pass it around so everyone gets a chance to strike those little metal discs together and make a ringing sound. Specify how many times each kid gets to ring them (Once? Twice? Three times?). If kids have a hard time waiting their turn, you can add another layer of participation, perhaps have everyone exhale or chant “OM” or another sound each time the tingsha rings.
We play in the same way with Hoberman spheres. As we sit in a circle and pass it around, everyone gets a chance to expand it on the inhale and shrink it back down on the exhale. While one kid does this, everyone else can inhale and exhale with them, or inhale and chant om or another sound on the exhale. Again, it’s helpful to specify how many times each kid gets to expand/contract the sphere so that everyone gets equal turns. You’ll probably find a kid that wants to expand and contract it really fast, so encourage slow movements.
The breath is one of the more subtle movements we have in yoga. Even if you’re trying to hold steady in a yoga pose, there’s the breath! So when we’re dealing with tired yogis, it can be a tool for focus that doesn’t require a lot of physical effort. It’s also a proven way to energize the body and mind.
Some of my favorites for helping kids reinvigorate are Bunny Breath, Locomotive Breath, Lion pose, and Vowel Breath (Lay in Extended Child’s pose. Inhale and come up on your knees, arms in the air, and say “A” as you exhale down into extended child’s pose again. Do it again for “E”, again for “I”, again for “O” and “U”)
Other great ways to bring some energy to your little ones are to bring more focus to lengthening inhales while moving through postures. Think of chest openers like Bridge pose, Mountain pose (with arms raised overhead), Fish pose, or Camel pose. Opening the front of the body invites a deeper inhale and more energy.
Music gets into our bones; it helps us move and sometimes to be still. You might choose slow, relaxing music, like the music you would use during Peaceful Garden to bring relaxation and rest to your little yogis. You could also use that same music to encourage slow movements as you move through slow sequences.
Then there are times that you might use energetic music to spark your young yogis’ energy. When tiredness and boredom bring sluggishness, movement is in order and music is such an effective and fun way to hook kids’ attention. One of my go-tos is Every Little Cell In My Body is Happy. It’s hard not to feel joy and energy when we do this one!
Movement or Stillness?
The challenge is this: how do you know if your kids need movement or stillness when they’re tired? It gets more complicated when some of the kids in your class (if you’re a teacher) are tired while others are wired. In that case, I usually try movement because it can work both ways: it helps energize fatigued kiddos at the same time it can help hyper ones burn off their extra energy. This works well for yogis young and old, so give it a try for yourself and discover your favorite ways to energize and calm. How do you know if you are wired or tired? What works for you in each of these situations?
When little yogis are truly tired and not up for energetic movement, stillness can help. The trick with kids is making stillness engaging and fun. Unless your yogis are older kids, it hardly ever works to just say, “Okay, get into such-and-such pose and hold it!” There’s got to be some engagement on the level of imagination and purpose. Kids like fun, creative reasons for holding poses.
Here are some creative approaches for helping your young yogis to enjoy stillness:
- Freeze dance. ntersperse stillness with movement. Have them do a yoga pose of their choice or yours whenever the music stops.
- Keep expectations realistic. If you’re hoping to have kids be still for minutes on end, you might be disappointed! I always feel pretty successful when I can get a group of 4-5 year olds to sit in (almost) silent meditation for 10-15 seconds. It sounds like a ridiculously short amount of time, but it still gives them a taste of silence and stillness.
- Use imagination! Guide kids through pretending they are trees, rocks, or flowers (luckily, we have a yoga pose for each of these).
Like what you read here? There’s so much MORE to explore and learn with Kidding Around Yoga. Check out our website for our live and online teacher trainings, Yoga Alliance-approved 95-hour RCYT trainings, specialty online courses, original music, merchandise, and SO MUCH MORE! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAY).