Ever have trouble sitting to meditate? Me too! As a Kids Yoga teacher, I celebrate even the shortest of meditations I have with my little yogis. 10-15 seconds with a room full of quiet kids is striking! It is enough for them to feel the difference between silence and noise.
But at the end of the day, many kids find more comfort and peace in movement and it is helpful to teach them that movement exists on a spectrum from dynamic and expressive to slow and contemplative. Just as yoga postures and breathing exercises prepare us for seated meditation, we can prepare our little yogis for a walking meditation like this:
- If your group seems very energetic and loud, give them a chance to blow off steam with a fantastic, energetic song like Kidding Around Yoga’s Jogging Through the Jungle, Every Little Cell, or Yoga Slide. Alternatively, do a Freeze Dance with a song of your choice and have them hold a yoga pose when the music stops.
- Next, help them experience the difference between fast, frenetic movement and slow, controlled movement. I like to use the concept of Jell-O to aid the imagination. For example, I might say, “Let’s run (in place or around the room) like we’re going for a jog in the park…okay, now let’s go really fast, like a lion is chasing us! Now, let’s gooooo sloooooow, like we’re running through Jell-O. If your kids don’t know what Jell-O is or they just don’t relate, ask them to pretend they’re running under water.
- Optional: Read a book about fun things that kids can find in nature. Alternatively, you can just have a short chat about what they might find in your area if they are familiar with it.
- Think of an animal that walks slowly and carefully, for instance, a wildcat stalking prey (though we won’t be stalking prey). Or we can talk about how an elephant plods along, slowly but steadily, or a tortoise or turtle. Kids will have much more fun and an easier time walking slowly and mindfully if they imagine they are imitating an animal friend that walks that way.
- Before the walk, take 3 deep breaths together, ask your yogis to close their eyes, and listen to the sounds around them. Ask them to be as quiet as they can and that they’ll know it’s time to talk and share their findings when you give the signal (this can take the form of a chime, bell or other sound you choose).
Depending on your outdoor setting, you may have to scatter some nature treasures around. But if you’re lucky enough to be near a hiking trail or a farm or even a garden, encourage kids to look, listen and even smell…but to save the senses of taste and touch for later when they have a snack or a meal. If it’s too cold out, or raining, or there just isn’t a suitable outdoor nature area, consider creating a pretend nature area with toys or other props. Let your creativity go wild – literally!
Some variations that can help you tailor this activity to your group and location:
- Consider conducting this as a barefoot walk. After all, we usually do yoga barefoot. The sensory aspect of this can help little yogis stay grounded at the same time they learn to appreciate the smaller details of the trail or path they walk.
- A nature walk can be a group activity that is led by you or a leader, but for younger children, walking in such an organized way with such quiet focus is not necessarily age appropriate. With younger yogis (say age 5 and under), it may be best to explain they will have a set time to explore the nature area and that everyone can come back to the circle or yoga mats when they hear the signal (see #5 above). These little yogis will also be more likely to talk and enthusiastically share the treasures they find. In that case, the ‘walk’ will be short and once they reconvene as a group, they can use rocks, leaves or other found treasures as something to hold as the group does a brief meditation together.
- If you choose to lead the nature walk as a group, it can be fun and make the whole process easier if you begin with a simple song or chant that the kids can participate in as you walk. Perhaps use “Peace Begins with Me,” taking a step with each word 5-10 times, then walk silently together. Any other calming song or rhyme can be used. Alternatively, you can play a basic rhythm on a small drum or with claves so that kids take a step with each beat. Always follow with a short period of silent walking so kids can really soak in the natural environment.
Nature walks can be so relaxing and you don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy this simple pleasure in life. All it takes is some awareness and appreciation of nature that can be found almost anywhere, even if it is a simulated nature created indoors with props, toys and nature treasures found on the ground (pine cones, leaves, rocks). Encourage your little yogis to pay attention to their breathing and how their feet contact the ground as they walk. It’s truly one of the many ways to practice yoga off the mat!