I know every word to the theme song for Paw Patrol. I can recite Goodnight Moon forwards, backwards, upside down, and inebriated. I spend the majority of my days creating with play dough, kicking balls, singing nursery rhymes, and playing make believe games with plastic toys. There are a myriad of reasons behind my participation in all of these activities, the most important being that they interest my children. I repeat. They interest my children. When the sun goes down and the babies are tucked in to bed, you will not find me re-reading Goodnight Moon for the kajillionth time. As it turns out, I have a few interests of my own and none of them involve pups who save the day.
A few weeks ago, upon returning home from a date night with my husband, I entered into my home to find my sister-in-law engaged in a yoga session with my two-year-old daughter. My daughter was following along to her auntie’s lead, grinning from ear to ear. I was riveted by this beautiful scene, and I asked myself why I had not thought to teach my daughter yoga in our time together. The answer was fairly obvious; because yoga is an interest of mine it did not occur to me that it could be of interest to my children. That, and I am so hyper-focused on cultivating my children’s interests that my own interests take a back seat. Call it a casualty of parenthood.
So there I stood watching my daughter one-leg-balancing and downward-dogging like a boss—completely engaged in one of my favourite activities. In that moment, I realized that spending time with my daughter engaged in an activity that interested me could potentially be something we could both enjoy for many years to come. We have been practicing yoga together a few times a week ever since.
There have been a few ‘bumps’ in the road to getting my two-year-old to practice yoga (when aren’t there ‘bumps’ when trying to get a toddler to do something that does not involve chocolate and tv), but here are some things that have helped us in our attempts to master yoga with toddlers:
Catch Their Interest
Kids like to see their parents happy. Crazy but true. Seeing you engaged in something that makes you happy is guaranteed to pique your child’s interest in that activity. My daughter witnessed me happily doing tree pose in the kitchen, forward fold after folding laundry, and taking a few deep breaths during story time, and after each observation she immediately asked “Mommy what are you doing?” Her curiosity was piqued, and she became excited to do these same things too.
A typical yoga class lasts anywhere from 40-90 minutes. In other words, WAY more time than a child’s attention span. Our first yoga time together lasted no more than 10 minutes. We did some deep breathing, practiced some easy poses, and then the yoga mat turned into a fort. We started small, kept it easy, and we had a blast.
Make it Kid-Friendly
I am fortunate in that my interest is easily made into a kid-friendly activity. Because many yoga poses are named after animals, my daughter was completely engaged in mooing while practicing cow pose, meowing while arching in cat pose, and barking while stretching in a downward dog. Deep breathing was made fun by picturing a plate of chocolate chip cookies in front of us and breathing in the sweet scent. Making your interest kid-friendly doesn’t have to be complicated, and the internet is full of ideas for adapting various activities into engaging experiences for children.
Maintain a Sense of Humour
The experience you have while doing an activity you love may be much different when your child joins you. It may take a longer amount of time to complete, it may not be as relaxing, and it may be frustrating at times. For me, it was all of the above. Once I let go of the idea of a traditional yoga practice and embraced the idea that yoga can be silly, it was much more enjoyable for my child and I. We make a lot of goofy animals noises, sometimes we fall off balance, and we don’t take our yoga practice too seriously. Most importantly, we laugh. A lot.
Introducing my toddler to doing something that I cared about has been rewarding on many levels. Not only is my daughter benefitting from the stretching and breathing that accompany a yoga practice, she is also learning to try things that may not have initially been of interest to her—a skill that will benefit her in years to come.
Though engaging in a personally interesting activity with my toddler has not minimized the amount of time we watch Paw Patrol or the number of times Goodnight Moon is recited in our house; it is a welcome and wonderful change in our dynamic to be spending time together doing something that we both enjoy equally.