Suddenly, you’re practicing yoga at home with your children, and our teachers aren’t there with their stash of props. Curious about what you might want invest in? Below* are what we think are the most important tools in our kids yoga bag of tricks, as well as some solutions you may already have on hand.
Yoga Mat: If you’ve done any research into yoga mats, you know that they range from $7 mats on eBay to $120 professional quality mats. They’ll all get the job done. For the average home practice, especially where kids are concerned, a mid-range mat is great. I like the classic Gaiam mat. They also make some cute kid’s versions, but I generally stick to full size mats, because the kids mats have a limited life expectancy; there’s a good chance your children will outgrow the smaller mat before they wear it out. Don’t want to purchase a yoga mat? Practice on a wood/hard floor, a beach towel, or a woven blanket.
A chime: Children of all ages love the yoga chime. Its a lovely way to clear the space before a class, or when you need to signal a transition in your day. Because this sort of chime has a long ring-time, it can also be used to help children focus. Have them listen to or ring the chime, and then concentrate to see how long they’re able to hear the sound.
Scarves: Any sort of scarf is a great prop for kids of all ages. Babies can use them for tactile input and simple visual tracking. Tots play peek a boo and begin to shake and toss them. In preschoolers, they encourage all sorts of gross motor play, and become dress up pieces, and the oldest children like to just plain dance with them. In class, we often use juggling scarves, mostly because they’re easy to order in sets of 12 and come in a rainbow of colors. They’re inexpensive enough that having a bag of scarves at home may be worthwhile. If you want to splurge, though, Sarah’s Silks makes beautiful hand-dyed play silks. These are larger, opaque, and glorious to handle. If you don’t have scarves and aren’t inclined to buy any, you can use just about any fabric: a winter scarf, a t-shirt, a tea towel, or even a Kleenex.
The Good Bubbles: I have Big Feelings about bubble juice. My absolute favorite is Gazillion Bubbles. I am not kidding you when I say I buy it in two liter jugs. I want quality bubble solution and I want it in a long, skinny wand. (Pro tip: Buy the wands for a dollar at Target, let your kids burn through the bubble juice in ten minutes, then refill it with the quality stuff.
If you plan to give bubbles to your children (great for practicing their breathwork). I love Fubbles Bubble Tumblers as a solution to this problem. They hold just enough solution, and are very hard to spill. Alternately, secure the long, skinny wants to a pole or post with tape or bungee cord, so that the kids only handle the wands.
Pillows or bolsters: Older children and adults can use these as traditional bolsters for restorative yoga poses or during savasana. Toddlers and preschoolers use them as balance beams. Walking or crawling on the unstable surface helps to develop balance and coordination and provides great proprioceptive input, and its just plain fun. If you’re not interested in spending money on a dedicated bolster, firm or fluffy bed pillows will do the trick! If you’re crafty, its easy to roll up a woven blanket or two, then sew a cover to keep them in place. Old sheets work great for this.
A tunnel: During normal times, these are easy to pick up for free or very cheap on neighborhood list serves to at the thrift store. These days, you might feel safer buying something new. Tunnels are most popular with the toddler and preschool set, but you’d be surprised how much fun bigger kids can have with them. Tunnels add novelty to gross motor play for new crawlers, and also help them with motor planning. Actually crawling into the tunnel takes more effort than we imagine. Crawling benefits older children as well, and tunnels can be a great motivator to get down on all fours again. They can also be an easily-compatible hideout when gets get overwhelmed. Don’t want to buy a tunnel? Its not hard to make one! Do you have a few small end tables you can line up for them to crawl through? Can you line up your dining room chairs? Add to the fun by covering the tunnel with some sheets or blankets and you have not only a tunnel, but a fort.
A deck of yoga pose cards: Yoga pose cards are perfect for early elementary aged yogis who are starting to get curious about their own home practice. They can use the cards to learn poses, or to string poses together into a flow. There are lots of decks to choose from, but I have two favorites. Yogi Fun has a set of animal pose cards featuring darling illustrations of each poses, and has two cards for each : one with the description and the other with a picture of the pose. My other favorite is Yoga for Children by Lisa Flynn, founder of Childlight Yoga and Yoga for Classrooms. These cards have photos of real kids in each pose, and the deck also includes cards for breathwork and other yoga activities. Prefer to print your own? Pink Oatmeal and Kids Yoga Stories have collections of pose cards that tie into just about any theme your kids would enjoy.
Color changing candles: If your children have been to yoga camp, they’ve seen our color changing tea lights. We use them for candle gazing meditation and quiet time. We have the children lay on their belly and place a candle in front of them on the floor. While we play relaxing music (Colors by Kira Wiley is a favorite), we instruct the kids to let their eyes go soft and focus on the changing colors of the candle. Its a great way for kids to rest and reset at home. If you want something larger to use for a seated meditation, for multiple children to share, or just because tea lights aren’t your thing, color changing pillar candles also work well. At home, it may also be possible to use a real candle for this exercise (with supervision, obviously), but what I don’t recommend is an electric candle that doesn’t change color. My experience has been that if the flame isn’t “alive,” the changing colors are necessary to hold a child’s attention.
Beanie animals: The old school kind we all used to collect. You probably have one of these in your attic somewhere, but if not, don’t buy these online. If you can’t find one for free on your neighborhood list serve, you can for sure pick one up at the thrift store for a dollar. Beanie animals can be used all sorts of activities. Have your child balance one on their head or another body part in yoga poses when you want them to focus on being still. Pass the animal back and forth using your feet. Or, during relaxation time, turn the animal into a breathing buddy. Rest the beanie on your child’s belly, and ask them give it a ride up and down with their breath.
Craft Pompoms: Ideally in multiple sizes, or plain old cotton balls, if you’re not in to stashing craft supplies. Pompoms are available on Amazon, but if you’re in proximity if a caft store, that’s a less expensive option. These can be used for breathwork. Have your child lay on their belly and blow the pompom across their yoga mat, or in a line across the floor. You can add to the challenge by giving them a straw to blow through. Alternately, they can play toe-ga. Scatter the pompoms or cotton balls and have your child pick them up with their toes, then carry them to a designated spot. Level up by giving them a cup they have to drop the pompoms in to.
And other light things for blowing: Ping ping balls, pinwheels, tissue paper or even tissues. How many different ways can they find to move–or not move–the object with their breath. As I tell my students in class: our breath is our brain’s remote control. You can use breathwork props at home to help your kids calm and settle, focus, or energize. Add balloons to this list for something bigger to blow, and then spend some time exercising their visual tracking skills. Bat the balloon into the air and then see how long they can keep it from touching the ground. Can they keep it up with their elbow? Their nose? Their foot?
A mini-trampoline: This one is clearly a big ticket item, and not directly related to yoga, but I have to recommend it. Trampolines of any size are great for children’s sensory and motor development. The rebounding surface helps improve balance and coordination, and jumping builds muscle and bone strength. The jumping is also calming for sensory-seeking kids (which, lets face it, is most of them). Think back to when your child was a baby, and how any time you stood to hold them, you would bounce. Or the way you would pat their bottom to keep them calm. Jumping on the surface of a trampoline gives the older child–or even an adult–similar vestibular input. It’s both organizing and calming for the nervous system. Just about any mood that’s challenging your child can be shifted with a few minutes of jumping on the trampoline.
*All items are Amazon affiliate links.