I always begin my classes by having the kids lay face down on their mats in Crocodile pose with their foreheads resting on their hands. Whenever your forehead touches something, it automatically sends a signal to your brain to calm down. I find that most children can benefit from a moment or two to be still (or at least to try to be still) at the end of the school day before we begin class. I am a classroom teacher, so, I myself LOVE to join them in this pose! My body absolutely craves this pose while I am watching and waiting for them to get settled down. After racing around all day, it feels great to lay there and do nothing, even if it is only for 30 seconds.
Once everyone is lying quietly with their eyes closed, I put on a quick costume. We love costumes and accessories at my house (and in my classroom), so I have lots to choose from. If you need to start your own collection, thrift shops are a great place to pick up a few fun items. I keep my eyes open throughout the year for that special something that I simply can’t do without. And now with the fabulous Kidding Around Yoga song, the Yogi Shake, I have a great excuse to add to my stash. I picked up a few new things at the half-price day at Goodwill over the weekend. You can’t beat that deal!
For my class earlier in the week, I had put on a black cape and purple witch’s hat, so today I will wear my silver cape and wizard hat. The children who were in class earlier in the week all think they know what I am doing when I ask them to be sure their eyes are closed. But even they are surprised when I say it’s time to sit up in criss-cross applesauce, and I am wearing something new. I loved surprises when I was a kid, so I try to recreate that wonderful feeling of anticipation and excitement for my students.
I have a small cauldron filled with little Halloween trinkets that are hidden under several plastic grocery bags partly shredded into strips. Even though we use reusable bags for all of our shopping, we still end up with some plastic bags occasionally. I wanted the cauldron to have a bubbling, smoky feel, so re-purposing some unwanted bags was the perfect answer! Some of the Halloween creatures in the pot are from Party City, but some of the things I had around the house or I made them. The gate is from craft sticks hot-glued together and the eyeball is made out of a ping-pong ball. You can buy the eyes at Party City, but I really didn’t need a whole dozen of them. I had a spare ping-pong ball, so it was free.
The first year I did this activity, I had to spend a little extra money to get the cauldron set up since all of the things from the store came in a pack with 8-12 items. I put the extras in a plastic pumpkin. At the end of class, I had the child close their eyes and pick out one thing to take home – kids just love little things they can fiddle around with! After that first year, my cauldron has been stocked up and ready to go year after year.
I have a small, rubbery, bendy skeleton that I came across a few years ago. He sits in Lotus pose while we do our poses. The kids get a big kick out of him! I play Monster Mash, the original version from way back, for a few minutes.
So now, on to the real fun . . . for this class, the children take turns reaching into the cauldron and pulling out something. We then do a pose to match the item. Some of the items lend themselves to be real yoga poses and for others, we have to use our imaginations and get creative. The children are much better at that than I am, which is one of the reasons I love working with children so much. They never cease to amaze me!
You might come up with different things, but here is what I have in my cauldron:
- Owl – reach across body to grab the back of shoulder, look at shoulder. Pranayama: Inhale through nose and exhale to make hooting sounds (Do the other shoulder).
- Halloween Cat – hiss, arch back, meow, and snarl loudly!
- Ghost – wavy, floating arms. Pranayama: Inhale through nose, exhale ghost sounds. Repeat several times.
- Mummy – walk stiff-legged like a mummy all wrapped up.
- Pumpkin – Squat and point their face toward the ground, putting their hands in Namaste/prayer on the back of their head to be the stem. When they are quiet enough to hear me, I ask them if they know what the stem is for. I want to make sure they understand that pumpkins grow in a field on a giant crawling vine AND can be made into pumpkin pie, helping them to understand where food comes from.
- Frankenstein – walk stiff-legged with arms extended out.
- Tree pose – Pretend it’s a windy night and make some creaking noises.
- Witch Finger – How do witches sound? Pranayama: Inhale through nose and exhale a cackle! Repeat several times.
- Triangle Pose for the witch’s hat.
- Gate Pose & Reverse Gate – with lots of squeaks & creaks
- Bat – Because I have fewer children on Thursdays, we are able to do “legs up the wall” to pretend we are bats hanging/sleeping upside down. They love it!
- Spider – Partner pose (back to back, move arms & legs)
- Shark’s Tooth – Shark pose – on belly with hands clasped behind back.
- Snake – Cobra pose
- Frog – Squat at the back of the mat and hop to the other end. Do several times.
- Vampire Teeth – Let them decide what to do for this.
- Dracula – Let them decide what to do for this.
- Skeleton – Let them decide what to do for this.
- Fly/Bug – Dead Bug (Happy Baby)
- Eyeball – Eyes Around the Clock – Rub hands together to create friction and heat, hold them over your eyes, then move your eyes up and down, down and up, left to right, right to left, and diagonally. I have heard different things regarding eye exercises for kids, so I contacted Dr. Sorkin, OD, FAAO, FCOVD Board Certified in Visual Therapy and Child Development. He is a Behavioral Optometrist and is located in St. Petersburg, Florida. I asked him about eye movements for children and he assured me, it is fine for children to do these movements.
Make sure you have enough to be sure there are at least two things still in the cauldron when the last person takes his/her turn. Depending on the size of your class, you might have time to have the kids help you rearrange the items they pulled out into an order that would make a good “flow.” Explain to them that a flow is one that does all the standing poses first and then all of the poses of the floor or all of the floor poses first, followed by the standing poses. Then have the group test their order by redoing the poses to see if they really do “flow.”
If you have more time, here’s a fun game to play. Have everyone sit in criss-cross applesauce and scoot closer together, so they are just about knee-to-knee. I have several soft-sculpture, stuffed Halloween decorations (like stuffed animals): a witch, a ghost, and a pumpkin. They’re either still around from my kids or from a thrift shop. We all lean back on our hands and lift our legs similar to our legs in Boat pose. Then, I start the game by passing one of the stuffed toys to my neighbor using my feet. They have to take it using only their feet, no hands allowed. Depending on the size of the group, you can start passing another toy. At some point, you can say “reverse” and they have to change the direction of the passing. You can discuss the meaning of clockwise and counter-clockwise. I always tell the kids clockwise is the direction a clock usually moves and that the only time a clock might go the other way (counter-clockwise) is if it is a haunted clock at Halloween. The kids have to pay close attention to pass the items without dropping them, while also being ready to receive another toy from their other neighbor.
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