Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Goals Lead Balloons

                                  A goal without a plan is just a wish.
                                  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
                                  French writer (1900 - 1944)

A successful mandala
Fun is always my goal for the children I teach yoga to. I've found the best way to achieve this is to have a lesson plan for every class. Despite that, even the best laid plans don't always work, and factors out of my control sometimes change everything. Several weeks ago, New York was having a heat wave. The children at the day camp I am teach at were exhausted from the 90 plus degree heat & wanted nothing to do with the active games I had planned, and understandably so. My lesson was based around mandalas: we would make human mandalas out of our bodies, an actively that has always been very successful in the past.  The expression "lead balloon" fits the students reactions to this quite well. I was able to get the older children to participate early in the day, but the younger children were not interested at all once the sun came out. It was back to the drawing board for me, but luckily drawing boards can hold a lot of inspiration. We started playing "chalkboard" instead.

 Chalkboard is a great game that's played in pairs. One child draws a picture on their partners back, like a sun or a tree, and their partner tries to guess what is being drawn.  And let me tell you, what a difference from the physical games I was trying before! There were smiles all around this time, and everyone stayed cool. 

Children playing chalkboard

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Day camp and changes of plans

Today, I taught that class at the day camp I mentioned last post. The original plan was to teach two classes of about 50 kids each, but rainy weather forced us to change our plans. I ended up teaching all the children in their individual camp groups- about 10 or 15 kids each.  I had the privilege of teaching over 100 kids yoga, most of them complete first timers.

I started the class with something I call 'transforming'. This is a child-friendly way  to introduce the proses of movements flowing into each other. After that, we went through the steps of tree pose, which led nicely into a game of bean bag tag (always a crowd favorite, despite how difficult it can sometimes be). Kids walk around with a bean bag balanced on their head, and if it falls off they are 'frozen' in place until another child hands the bean bag back to them. Some fun variations I've used include walking backwards, sideways, or holding tree when frozen. Next, I had all the kids stand in a line shoulder to shoulder, and go down into down dog. This forms a tunnel, just wide enough for a child to crawl through. Each child did, going back into down dog on the other side once their done to keep the tunnel going. Our last activity was 'foot ball', passing the ball around the circle with their feet. I added more balls of different sizes depending on the age and skill set of the group. I love watching the students trying to use their problem-solving skills when the balls cross. Always entertaining!

I ended, as always with relaxation.  I'm always a little shocked at how much the kids seem to enjoy this part of the class. It was a struggle to get them to sit still when I first started teaching! The turning point came when I realized that a child's perception of time is very different than an adults. Remember how long 10 minutes could seem when you were 5 or 6? The trick is to keep the time intervals short and the directions clear "close your eyes and don't move anything but your breath until I finish counting to 10'. This is much more manageable. After that, you increase the time frame: count to 20, or even 30, depending on your group of kids.  For younger children, I often enforce this point
with a visit from the  "yoga fairy".  The "yoga fairy" is very shy, any movements or noise will scare her away. Children laying very still will receive a kiss on the toe.

Please feel free to share any comments or thoughts you have on children's yoga. I love hearing from all of you!

That's all for now! Until next time, Namaste.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Story telling through yoga

I often use books in yoga classes, using the story to relate to that days theme and the theme to the poses. Not all books work well in a yoga class; for instance, you wouldn't want to use a Harry Potter book or anything similar. I've always had the most success with simple plots. Books with a lot of information and a busy plot limit a child's ability to use their imagination & engage in the story. I am always on the look out for books to use in my classes, & I found this gem a few months ago off Pinterest. I wanted to share this delightful story that I had the opportunity to review by Giselle Shardlow, Luke's Beach Day. Giselle is the author of 4 yoga inspired story books, all of which are well written and perfect for basing classes and themes around. Here is the link to Giselle's website:

All of Giselle's books may be purchased from her website as well as Amazon.Com.

Next week I am teaching at a  day camp to a very large group of children. Working with big groups present a challenge, but also opens up many different possibilities. I can't wait to tell you how it goes. 



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bag of Tricks

I never teach a yoga class without my bag of props. Regardless of whether or not I plan to use them in the lesson, there are some things I bring to ever class no matter hat. 


In my classes, my students learn quickly that the balls I bring aren't meant for hands-  We use our feet instead! I love watching the reaction of the students when they first experience literal 'football'. I generally have them all sit in a circle, knee to knee leaning back on their hands so the feet can be maneuvered in the air. The ball is then passed around the circle solely by the kid's feet and toes. This is not only a great way to build core strength, but a good way to center a rowdy class and a lot of fun for everyone on top of both. 


A bag of small plastic animals is a must for any children's yoga class.  Students can pick one out a cloth bag, and then go into a pose they come up with based on that animal. We always talk about the animal as well, for instance discussing the tail of the squirrel or the trunk of the elephant. Kids are always eager to show off how much they know. 


Foam letters are always tons of fun to work with, with any and all age groups. With younger children, I feel they get the most out of it when we focus on how the letter is constructed. The sharp point in an A, for example, or the double-humps on the M. The older ones enjoy acting out words that start with the letter; B for bird, F for frog, and, in a particularly memorable class, R for dead rat. This is easy to work into the theme of the lesson as well. You can tell the class that the words need to relate to things on a farm, or around a school, or what you would find on a beach. This is an easy activity that gets the kids moving and makes them think creatively. 

And those are the things that never leave my bag of tricks, unless of course one of my daughters takes them out for whatever reason (I will never understand why a 16 year old and two 12 year olds find foam letters so entertaining). Next post, I'll get into how I handle down time. Trust me, this is harder than it sounds...

Friday, May 31, 2013


I have decided to start a blog after reading,benefiting and admiring other blogs about children's yoga. Ones I've admired include Donna Freedman's 'Yoga in Our School' blog and Ohmmazing 'Kids Yoga', to name just a few. Thank you so much for always being so generous with your lesson plans, I have gotten countless ideas for my own classes from them. Sometimes I use a basic idea from your those plans, while other times I am inspired to create my own.I hope to share my ideas and experiences as well. 

Let me introduce myself: My  name is Danielle Meehan. I am married and the mother to 3 daughters, 15 year old and 12 year old twins. I teach yoga to both adults and children.  Though I love teaching yoga to any age, I have found teaching children the most challenging. When I started down this path, I had never imagined just how difficult it could be. My goal is to encourage my students to have fun while moving their bodies and opening their minds to new ideas. Accomplishing this while keeping classes fun and under control requires lots of planning, creativity and some quick thinking. Though I prepare a lesson plan for every class, sometimes despite even my best efforts the kids have ideas of their own. When this happens, I depend on my "bag of tricks" to fill in the blanks. 

My next post I will delve into that particular bag, and exactly how to use it to keep rowdy kids engaged. 

Until next time, Namaste.