By Lucia Lecuna
With the cold days knocking at our doors faster than we thought, I started reading about Pilates and Yoga to help me prepare and gain more interest for indoor activities. Actually, I discovered not only I will get benefits, but I can adapt and guide my kids to be more active and gain strength, balance and have fun with simple exercises.
My kids are closer to Lego than video games, at least at home, but if they don’t have too many options or they remain inactive for two hours, I am the one that starts to worry. How can we motivate our kids to get more active with a fun and inexpensive option, without pushing them to do a task.
There are lots of great body positions either in Yoga or Pilates, that can be easily performed by young kids, making them laugh, move and exercise without noticing your guidance. Yoga postures make kids see the world in a different perspective, imagine a fantasy and perform different characters or animals in the natural environment.
All you need is some indoor space, and a mat to work on. Imitating the walk of their favorite animal, like the Elephant, frog, eagle, fish, dog or even Dinosaur, will be a lot of fun for many minutes. You can set some music for the background, with a low volume, and counting seconds to hold on an animal walk.
Prepare the room:
Probably you will need to move some furniture and fragile objects. This is an adult task, but some older kids can help specially to set things back where they were. The room has to be in a comfortable temperature, not too warm or cold.
Beware of hanging lamps or electrical cords, like the telephone ones. Some of these activities can include jumps and crawling.
Houses also have lots of distractions. It is better if you turn off the TV, computer or video games.
No shoes or socks. Socks are nice during these cold days, but can make you or your kids slip and fall, and you don’t want an accident. Actually, pediatricians are promoting bare foot, specially at home, which develops the toddlers feet arcs.
Use comfortable leggings, shorts and shirts. It’s easier with stretch clothes or tight t-shirts’, that wont go to your face when standing upside down..
Create an agenda:
A very basic one. It could be a list of the positions you will do, such as the warrior, the dog, or the monkey. 30 minutes might be enough time for small toddlers and kids. They will probably want more, but you can always repeat apposition or get inspired in the moment.
Tell your kid to seek the position of a frog that is resting. They have to bend both knees and put their hands next to their feet. This is a very comfortable position for most of the kids. Then at the count of 3, they have to jump as high as they can. Do it 10 times, allowing 5 or 8 seconds to rest between every jump. If you are doing this with your kid, you can make him/her follow you to different spots in the room.
Can be done with a kid and an adult or with two kids.
Locate yourself back to back, sitting on the floor. One kid will relax over the other, while that kid tries to touch his/her toes. They have to do it slowly, and not pushing all their weight over the kid that is below. This is a great stretching position. Allow them to bend their knees if they feel pain.
With legs, arms, hands and hips, slowly draw circles. You can hold hands when doing this and move coordinating the movement with music.
Gently circle your arms, on top of your heads, breathing in when you put them up, and breathing out when your arms come back down. It can be done in the beginning and the end of the routine.
The Robot squeeze:
Put your shoulders up to your ears, first 5 times with one, holding 5 seconds for each. Then pull both and walk around lifting your toes, and straight legs, feeling like a robot.
Starting with the hands in a prayer position, standing up. Lift your hands stretching them over your head. Then exhale and fold forwards bending your knees and put the hands in front of your feet, keeping the palms of both feet and hands flat. This could make them feel some stretching on the back of the knees. Kids are usually more flexible than adults but let them bend their knees if they want to. You can try the Elephant walk when joining this position with your kids. You can make them follow you until you reach a certain spot slowly, as Elephants do.
Staring with both knees and hands on the floor, as a crawling baby, fingers wide and spreading the body weight into each hand. Breath in and out, lift the knees of the floor and draw a triangle with your body.
You can make them walk around like dogs, and even lift the legs one by one, and then the arms. Also, you can move using different speed levels, not as a “car race”, but making them feel the possibilities their body has when rhythm is included.
NOTE: There are several books at the Library that can help, even created for the family and kids. You can also register for a Yoga-Pilates program with your children. As the body learns you will need more and there is always some risk to get injured if you are trying to perform a complex position at home. Check local programs!