There Was an Old Monster – Kids Yoga and Literature

Have you heard the story There Was an Old Monster by Rebecca Emberly? It’s written in the same pattern as the old classic, There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly, but in this version, the monster swallows a tick which starts a cascade of problems for him.

With its vivid characters and fun repetitive sounds, There Was an Old Monster makes a wonderful story to act out in a classroom, living room, or yoga studio. The book is also a great starting point for a whole themed yoga class!

Start by assigning each character in the story a posture:

  • Monster: 5 Pointed Star
  • Tick: Happy Baby
  • Ant: Warrior 1
  • Bat: Candlestick/Shoulder Stand
  • Jackal: Updog
  • Bear: Chair
  • Lion: Lion pose with breath

Practice the postures a few times with your children and then play a quick game of Yogi Says to be sure they have them memorized. Yogi Says is played just like Simon Says. The leader says, “Yogi says be a monster,” and all players come into the announced pose. If the leader doesn’t say “yogi says,” then the players do not do the announced pose. The leader should use the Old Monster poses for the game this time to reinforce the postures.

Begin to read the book aloud (or share your screen and show the video above). When an animal is mentioned, everyone comes into that pose and holds it until another animal is introduced. When the ants make the Old Monster itch, the kids can jump around like they have ants in their pants, too. Or, extend the lesson and have a mini-freeze dance. Play music and let children dance around with big movements. Randomly pause the music. When the music stops, the kids must freeze in whatever position they are in. No moving. No talking. And try for no giggling. Start the music and the dancing up again and continue as long as you’d like.

When the book is finished, it’s time for Toe-ga! Spread pompoms across the floor and children use their giant monster feet to pick up the ants and ticks (the pompoms) using only their toes. You could have them pick up one at a time and place it on their own mat (again, using only their toes) or have them match the color of the pompom to pieces of colored paper spread around the room (blue pompoms go on the blue paper, red on red, etc.). Change up the “rules” however you’d like, depending on the age and ability of your students. Kidding Around Yoga has a fun song specifically for Toe-ga you can download.

Once the pompoms have been picked up, each child uses their collection (you may have to redistribute the pompoms) to create a pompom portrait of a monster straight from their imagination. Take turns sharing their monsters – name, size, habitat, special abilities, diet, and so on. Once everyone has had a turn, children inhale through their noses and exhale strongly to blow the pompoms off their mats and back to the center of the room. This may take a few breaths!

Finally, play a round of Pass-A-Laugh, but instead of laughing, pass a monster sound! Here’s how: all players sit in a circle, fairly close together. Player 1 looks at Player 2 and makes a monster sound (a growl, squeal, whatever the child wants). Player 2 mindfully listens to Player 1’s sound and repeats it back to Player 1 exactly, with the same sound, facial expressions, and gestures Player 1 used. Then Player 2 turns to Player 3 and makes up a new sound. Player 3 listens and repeats it back to Player 2. Then Player 3 makes a monster sound to Player 4, and so on all the way around the circle. Encourage each monster to have a unique sound.

For more ways to blend yoga, mindfulness and literature, take a listen to the Mindful Conversations with KAY podcast!

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 beyond! KAY even offers a 6-hour workshop designed to teach school educators and homeschool families how to bring yoga and meditation right into their classrooms (EduKAYand an online course specifically for families to incorporate these practices in their family’s routine (KAY in the Home)





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Join hosts Kristi Fischer and Kelly Winkler, Kidding Around Yoga trainers, moms, and educators, for some lighthearted and insightful conversations, where we take a deep dive into all things Kids Yoga and mindfulness.

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