Please welcome our guest writer today, Denise Shields, who is a preschool teacher from Virginia. When she had to close her preschool last year due to COVID restrictions, Denise brought her preschool program online to offer a virtual experience to young children. Today, she shares five tips to teaching virtually.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed my in-person Creative Kids Preschool in Fredericksburg, Virginia, in the spring of 2020, I had to get… well, creative to continue to do what I love—teaching our youngest children—and get preschool students excited about learning. I started the free virtual preschool program Creative Kids Virtual Preschool.
Teaching children virtually brings challenges that are different from those in the classroom setting. My goal is to get children ages three to six so interested in educational programs that they ask to do school—and I’m humbled to say that I’ve succeeded with dozens upon dozens of youngsters!
You can use some of what I’ve learned by doing virtual preschool in teaching children yoga virtually, too. And the mindfulness that yoga helps bring isn’t just for grown-ups. Even preschoolers can benefit greatly from all the advantages that yoga offers.
Here are a few tips to help you teach yoga to children virtually.
1. Use Kid-Attractive Themes
Some of the themes I use for preschool are farm life, insects, community helpers, transportation, and seasons. These translate well online when you cannot have children with you in a classroom. Yoga comes to life in a child’s eyes in a more engaging way through similar themes—ocean yoga, superhero yoga, and calm down yoga, as noted on this Kids Yoga Stories site, a good resource for kids to improve motor skills and self-expression with yoga.
For online teaching, themes help our young students branch out into activities such as hands-on projects, and with yoga, a theme helps them visualize and remember the poses they are often doing for the first time.
2. Incorporate Yoga Into Lessons
Yoga is a wonderful way for children to improve their motor skills and become more confident physically. What better way to encourage this activity than to intermingle yoga poses with basic lessons? For example, I use story time segments to help preschoolers to become familiar with today’s most popular children’s books.
Sprinkle appropriate yoga poses into these lessons: Use warrior poses while sharing uplifting tales of characters or real-life figures in history. Let them try “downward-facing dog” and other animal-named poses as they learn about books that focus on our animal friends. The possibilities are truly almost endless.
And again—teaching virtually certainly poses challenges beyond traditional classroom education. But these are the kinds of techniques that improve children’s interest and success in absorbing good habits such as yoga, even as they learn multiple skills and gain knowledge in a multi-layered manner.
3. Get Into The Habit
Why not precede popular preschool activities such as at-home projects and crafts with a “warm up”—and end them with a “cool down”—of yoga that preschoolers can enjoy? Children will immediately begin to associate the new skills of yoga with the fun of the projects they typically can’t stop talking about.
Often, Creative Kids Virtual Preschool students extend the lessons they learn online to their daily lives, singing songs they know from my puppet assistant Ollie the Crow while they play around the house. Isn’t this the goal of starting our littlest ones with yoga? They soon will be able to do the poses and techniques on their own, and before we know it, they will incorporate them into their play and likely even teach other children what they have learned.
4. Be—Or Have—A Role Model
My puppet Ollie is a popular fellow among our preschoolers. He’s just the kind of role model who gets children’s attention and keeps them captivated and learning their lessons. We all know that preschoolers especially will mimic behavior, and seeing you, a character, a puppet, or other friend do yoga is sure to entice them into trying this healthy hobby.
If you personally do not do yoga—I can’t imagine!—or perhaps are unable to do so, reach out for other resources, people, or characters who can help.
The benefits of yoga are many for adults, and it’s no surprise that even children ages three to six can also see positive effects from the increased mindfulness and positive body movements. I hope these tips for teaching children yoga virtually help you both educate more children and help them develop wonderful habits that will serve them well throughout their lives!
5. Keep Their Attention by Giving Them Your Attention
One of the most challenging things about engaging with children virtually is keeping their interest—this can also be a tall order with in-person teaching! One of the best ways to do this is to talk to them through the camera as if they are with you in person. I ask a lot of questions to keep them active with a lesson, and I pause to wait for their answers. This takes practice, but it’s worth it!
Don’t forget to keep it fun—smile often and use a helper, such as a puppet like Ollie, to give the children another “teacher” with whom they can interact. Showing some yoga poses with a puppet is bound to be pure fun! Also, using another child as a helper to demonstrate the yoga positions gives your audience someone to relate to and imitate. We’ve all seen youngsters show each other new things that they learn. Yoga is a wonderful thing to share!
Finally, keep their interest by prompting their interaction naturally. I often do a week-long project by doing a piece each day and adding to it every day. For example, in my “Farms” series, we built a barn and added animals to the “farm” each day that week. That gives them something to think about and look forward to from one lesson to the next. And invite parents and youngsters to send in photos of the children trying the new yoga poses they have learned. They love feedback from their teacher!
These moves on your part will keep lessons fun and interactive for children—and they’ll love learning yoga so much they’ll just keep coming back for more!
About the Author
Denise Shields has worked with preschool children for twenty-six years, with thirteen years as a preschool teacher. She is the owner and founder of both Creative Kids Preschool in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the free virtual preschool program called Creative Kids Virtual Preschool, which has helped thousands of families educate their young preschoolers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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