Kids love bubbles. Its no secret. From babies to older children, the little circles of soap are magic. Those of you who have taken our early childhood classes know we end each class with “resting and bubbles,” and if you’ve sent kids to camp, you know we often bring out the bubble wands during playground trips and outdoor time, and sometimes even during sivasana. We don’t just do it because it makes the kids happy–though that is part of the reason. There are a ton of benefits to using bubbles with children.
Visual Tracking: From the earliest age, babies are developing their visual tracking skills. (Simply put, visual tracking means moving the eyes from side to side/up and down, or following an object across the visual field. Think about when your eye doctor asks you to follow their finger or pen light.) Because they’re so eager to watch and follow the bubbles, its effortless tracking practice. And, because the bubbles move slowly, it feel easy and can be more deliberate, helping to cement neural pathways. Why do we want our children to practice visual tracking? Its a necessary foundation for reading, writing, math, and balance, not to mention tracking objects for athletics like soccer and baseball.
Proprioception & Spatial Awareness: If you’ve ever watched a toddler move around a room, you’ve seen how easy it is for them to get tangled up in their own legs (that’s a lack of solid proprioception–or understanding the position and weight of their body and limbs) or suddenly walk into the corner of a clearly visible coffee table (that’s a lack of solid spatial awareness). Through interacting with bubbles as they float by, children get to practice sensing how close they are to the bubble and how much effort it takes to pop it. When caregivers are involved as well, kids are able to begin putting words around the space they and the bubbles are in. Bubbles can be next to, beside, behind, in front, above, over there, up, down, by another child …
Hand/Eye Coordination: It takes a surprising amount of mental work for children to connect their body with a moving object. For babies and toddlers, the experience of trying to pop bubbles with their hands and feet (or even knee, elbow, or nose) helps them to both identify their body parts and practice connecting them with an object in space. When children are older and able to blow the bubbles for themselves, they have the added challenge of inserting the long wand into the narrow bottle, which adds a fresh new level to the coordination challenge.
Breath Control: Breath control is a huge part of yoga, even during early childhood classes. Having an understanding of and control over our breath helps us regulate our nervous system and control our emotions. While we have plenty of activities we can do to encourage children to work with their breath, blowing bubbles is one of the easiest. It’s goal oriented, and since kids want to blow bubbles, it doesn’t require any selling on the part of the caregiver. Children get to experiment with how different types of breath effect the bubbles. A large breath makes more bubbles than a small one. Too slow or gentle and nothing happens because the breath doesn’t move the soap. To hard or fast and nothing happens because all the soap flies out of the bubble wand. Blowing satisfying bubbles requires being mindful and breathing just right!
Language Development: Anyone who spends time around children knows that the best way to build their language skills is to speak to them. Bubbles offer an easy topic of conversation with a diverse variety of useful words–colors, speeds, sizes, numbers, locations and directions. While younger children may not use these words for months or years, it helps them to understand the world around them and build their understood vocabulary. The buh- and puh- sounds are also easy for very young children to access. (Its why babies will generally learn to say bye-bye well before they say hi.) That means that bubble and pop are easy words for them to learn and say, which leads to babies and toddlers who feel like they’re accomplishing something, and who are encouraged to practice speaking.
I regularly have parents compliment my “bubble technique,” and they’re never more than half kidding. From a professional bubble-blower, here are a few tips to try at home. First, invest in good bubble juice. The stuff from the dollar store doesn’t cut it. My favorite is Gazillion, and I buy it by the liter on Amazon. Super Miracle Bubbles and Fubbles are more budget-friendly, and work well enough. They’re not quite as magical as Gazillion, but it hurts less when you watch your toddler dump a jug out on the sidewalk. And speaking of toddlers spilling bubbles, Fubbles No-Spill Bubble Tumblers and Buckets are a lifesaver. I love them for babies and toddlers because I want them to focus on getting the bubble wand into the container and blowing the bubbles, without having to think about how they’re holding the jar. For older kids, I phase these out, because I’m ready for them to start learning about the cause and effect of not being mindful of their bubble juice. Lastly, environment matters. Humidity and wind are not your friend. For the best bubbles, work inside away from ceiling fans and air vents, or outside on a day with lower humidity and less wind.
Jessica LaGarde has been teaching creative movement in the metro area since 2005 and is passionate about helping children discover and explore their bodies and the world around them. She was trained by Joye Newman, MA to teach preschool creative movement for Kids’ Moving Company, a Bethesda-based creative movement/perceptual motor therapy studio. In 2017, she completed her Baby, Toddler, and Children’s Yoga Teacher Training through Childlight Yoga. In addition to working with preschoolers, Jessica is a registered massage practitioner and is trained in infant massage instruction. She has practiced massage for over twelve years and taught massage as part of Potomac Massage Training Institute’s professional training program. Outside of the movement space and massage room, she enjoys cooking, knitting, sewing, gardening and exploring the outdoors with her daughter.