Time for a field trip! Head over to http://www.kidsyogastories.com/chinese-new-year-yoga/ to read my guest post on the Kids Yoga Stories blog. Learn about and celebrate the Lunar New Year through movement games, music and yoga. Kids Yoga Stories is an excellent resource with well-written articles and ideas. Bookmark the page and sign up for author Giselle Shardlow's free weekly newsletter!
Pezzettino (Italian for "little piece") decides that because of his small size, he must be part of someone else, and goes off in search of the one he belongs to. After much searching, he comes to the conclusion that he is whole and doesn't need to find himself in anyone else.
Leo Lionni's illustrations are bright splashes of color that draw the eye in, but allow the readers to employ their imagination and decide what creatures the shapes might be.
The book has a repetitive structure which children enjoy, as Pezzettino goes from creature to creature asking if he might belong to them. You might encourage them to chime in at these parts once they recognize the pattern.
Music: I played the album "The Yoga Sessions" by Masood Ali Khan as background music. It has an organic, rhythmic flow that builds, which I thought was a nice soundtrack to Pezzettino's journey.
Materials and Props:
-"Pezzettino" by Leo Lionni, available on Amazon (I got my copy for $0.02) or through a public library
-A length of rope or strong string, tied in a loop large enough for all of your students to stand together inside
-1 square of wax paper (about 1'x1') per student (if your space is carpeted or covered by a rug)
-Optional: a smooth stone for each student (a bag of river rocks can be purchased at a dollar store or hobby shop)
Come Together and Warm Up:
Breathing: TALL/SMALL BREATH: As you breath in, stand tall on your tiptoes and reach arms up. When you breath out, squat all the way down to the floor, hugging knees to curl into a little ball. Repeat several times.
Lay the rope on the floor in a circle shape and ask all of the students to stand inside and then pick up the rope to waist height. Tell the children that they are all part of one "blob," so they must work together and move together. Give them a goal to work towards ("Let's move to the blue wall together. Now let's cross the room to the coats and boots wall. Can we move back to the middle of the room?") and perhaps, experiment with levels and ways of moving, depending on age and coordination. For example, try shuffling along on knees within the rope, or tiptoeing. Eventually have students make their way back to the center of the room, drop the rope and step out of the circle.
Yoga (Alongside reading Pezzettinno)
Introduce Pezzettino, read first page and let all the students learn to say his name, which means "Little Piece" in Italian.
On the next page, Pezzettino comes to the "one-who-runs." After reading the text, use one-who-runs to inspire a warm-up that challenges balance and coordination skills, as well as gets the heart rate up. OPPOSITE-KNEE TAPS: March in place, lifting knees high enough to tap your knee with the palm of the opposite arm's hand. For younger students, use same hand as knee. Older students can try tapping with elbow instead of hand (more oblique engagement).
Then Pezzettino comes to the strong-one. We will try two poses to make our muscles stronger.
PLANK POSE: From hands and knees, step feet back, lifting knees and pressing down into palms and curled-under toes so the body is straight like a plank, or the top of a push-up. For older students, try holding the pose while everyone goes around the circle and says their name, or counts. Remind students not to hold their breath.
WARRIOR II: Step feet wide, bending front knee so thigh/shin form a right angle, keeping the back leg straight and strong. Lift and extend arms, show a strong arm shape (like a muscle-builder).
Pezzettino meets the swimming-one in the water. BIG FISH POSE: Lay on belly and bend knees, pressing heels together with flexed feet to form a tail. Put hands on hips and try lifting elbows to point up like a dorsal fin. Lift shoulders and thighs away from the floor, strengthening the muscles along the spine. Using momentum, rock forward and back across the belly like a fish bobbing along.
Climbing, Pezzettino meets the one-on-the-mountain. Take a few breaths in MOUNTAIN POSE to return to breath and stillness. Feet together, fingertips touching lightly in front of sternum, tall neck. Older students might try closing their eyes to see if they can hold their stability.
For the flying-one, have older students with more coordination try EAGLE POSE: Feet together, knees bent, wrap one leg over the other. Bring elbows to shoulder height and wrap forearms around each other. Sit deeper into the hips. Look down like an eagle looking over a mountain's edge. When ready to "take flight," unwrap arms and legs and flap wings up and down. Younger students can try BABY EAGLE: Feet together and knees together, bend knees as though sitting into a chair. Place fingertips on shoulders, elbows bent like small wings, flap wings quickly like a baby eagle learning to fly.
Pezzettino finally finds someone to guide his search. The wise-one in the cave directs him to the Island of Wham. SAGE'S POSE: Sit on the floor with one leg extended straight ahead and the other knee bent, foot on the floor next to extended leg's knee. The hand on the same side as the bent knee supports the twist, resting on the floor behind the hip, and the opposite arm hugs around the bent knee. Twist torso toward bent knee. Sit up tall and breathe deeply. Repeat on the other side (challenge for older students: try changing which knee is bent without using the support of the hands on the floor, reach to the sky instead as you switch legs).
Pezzettino sails to the Island of Wham. BOAT POSE: Balance on sitting bones, lift toes off the floor with knees bent, reaching arms long towards the toes. Try rowing motions with the hands or make a sail (press hands together over head). BONUS CREATIVE MOVEMENT ACTIVITY: On a carpeted floor or rug, have children partner up. One student sits in boat pose on a square of wax paper (approx. 1' x 1'). For this variation, have the boat pose student hold the backs of their thighs for stability. Their partner holds them by the ankles and slowly slides them across the sea. For my students, who were 3-4, I just took each of them for a ride one by one as the other students sat in a circle waving at Pezzettino as he passed by.
Pezzettino climbs around the deserted island, finding no one--until he becomes tired and falls down a hill, breaking into many tinier pieces. CLIMBING/FALLING/ROLLING: Stand and climb, lifting knees and reaching arms. Then sweep forward into a forward fold and hit hands on to the floor (kids love making this noise). Then, like Pezzettino's little parts, roll around (on mats or across the floor)
Pezzettino puts himself back together and rows all night to get home. MOON SIDE STRETCHES: Sit cross-legged and reach arms over head, palms press. Lean from one side to the other, without tipping over and shine your bright light over the water so Pezzettino can find his way home.
Pezzettino's friends are all happy that he is home and feeling happy. SMILE CIRCLE: Sit in a circle. Let each student have a smooth river stone and ask them to keep it warm and safe in their cupped hands. Just like Pezzettino, we all feel small sometimes and wonder if we fit in. The rock in your hand is also small, but is part of the earth, and although we may feel small sometimes, we are all part of the family of the world--you're an important part of this circle of friends, too! Holding your rock, look around the circle and try to give each of your friends a big smile (allow a moment for this to happen). Let's all bring our rocks to the middle of our circle and make a little mountain.
REST: Find a cozy spot on your mat and feel all the little parts of your body that make YOU--that help you walk, think, talk, dance, breathe and move--let all of the little parts rest on the floor and take a break. You are strong, important and good, just the way you are.
With record lows expected around the nation today and early this week (-20 Fahrenheit before wind chill in my native state of Iowa!), schools are already announcing closures for tomorrow. If you're braving a few days of hibernation with kids, use these poses and activities to warm up, burn off energy and face the IMBOREDWHATCANWEDO's!
-A cup with an ice cube or two (if your house is drafty and just won't warm up, skip this one!)
-Wax paper (2 shoe-sized squares for each child... and yourself! This activity is best with a carpeted area or rug)
-Some crayons for the snowman mandala (see below lesson)
-A beanbag or soft ball for each child
-A cotton ball
-Some music (my suggestions are listed but feel free to use your own or none)
-A yoga mat or towel per person
Silly Little Story
I found this poem somewhere a long time ago and it usually makes preschoolers giggle (and think a bit--the whole "Frosty the Snowman doesn't live forever" concept plays in a bit! Read it for your child(ren) and talk about what happens to snow and ice when it's indoors:
I made myself a snowball, as perfect as could be
I thought I'd keep it as a pet and let it sleep with me
I gave it some pajamas and a pillow for its head
Then, last night, it ran away--but first, it wet the bed!
Ice Cube (Music: Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker or something else upbeat)
Just like Hot Potato, but with an ice cube! Pass it back and forth or around your circle until it's too small and slippery to hand off.
Breathing: Warm Up Your Hands/Cool Down the Cocoa
Hold hands cupped together in front of face and breathe in through your nose and then breathe out of your mouth. Can you make your breath hot to warm up your hands? Repeat several times. Now make a little mug with your hands. Imagine it's full of steaming hot cocoa. Breathe in through your nose and out through rounded lips. Feel the cool breath on your hands as though you are cooling off your hot chocolate. Repeat several times. Which type of breathing feels better to you today?
Penguin-Egg Shuffle (Music: Jump N Move by Mark Criss--Happy Feet Sdtrk)
Stand with your feet close together and put the beanbag, soft ball or other small stuffed animal on top of your feet or hugged between your ankles, the way a penguin keeps their egg safe and warm on their feet. Make your arms straight, hands on your sides like penguin wings and try to move around the room without dropping your "egg."
Snow Salutations WarmUp (Music: Snow Day by Toby Lightman)
-Icicle: Stand up tall and reach arms up, palms touching like a sharp icicle hanging from the porch.
-Snowflake: Fingers spread out, hands float and spin slowly to the floor like snowflakes, land in a forward fold.
-Upside-down Snow Angel: On belly, head, arms and legs lifted, move arms and legs like you are making a snow angel.
-Snowball: Curl up into Child's Pose, knees tucked under torso, forehead resting on ground.
-Snow Dog: Lift up into Downward Dog, an upside-down "V" shape, paws on the floor. Lift one leg at a time and shake it off like a dog trying to shake snow off its paws.
(Return to standing in Icicle Pose and repeat sequence as many times as you can, speeding up and then going in slow-motion)
Wax Paper Ice Skating (Music: Skater's Waltz by Waldteufel)
(Works best with shoes or bare feet, and on a carpeted floor or large rug). Stand on two pieces of wax paper that are each just a bit bigger than your foot. Bend your knees and push down into your feet as you start moving your legs to glide around the carpet. Smaller children might need to hold on to a hand! This is great for working balance and strengthening leg and core muscles.
Yoga Poses for Winter Fun (Music: The Four Seasons: Winter by Vivaldi)
Mountain Pose: Stand tall and firm, fingertips pressed together in front of chest like a mountain peak.
Skier (Chair Pose): With feet hips distance apart, bend knees and sink hips back as you lean your chest forward. Pull arms back as though holding on to ski poles. Lean side to side as you "ski," dodging trees and other skiers!
Ski Lift (Boat Pose): Balance on sitting bones and lift legs. Reach arms out to sides and slightly tip from one side to the other
like you are hanging from the ski lift and swaying in the cold breeze as you ride up to the top of the mountain.
Ski Slope (Side Angle Pose): Step one foot as far behind you as you can and bend your front knee, resting your elbow on your thigh. Reach your other arm up over your head creating an angle like the side of a mountain from your fingertips to your back foot. Hold and count to ten--for ten imaginary tiny skiers to slide down the side of your body! Try the other side too.
Figure Skater (Warrior 3): Balance on one leg and lift the other leg up behind you as you tip forward, shoulders and hips facing the floor. Send your arms out to the sides gracefully like an ice skater. Change legs.
Slippery Ice Splits (Wide-Legged Forward Fold): Stand with your feet far apart and drop your hands to the floor under
your shoulders. Let your feet start to slide further apart until you catch yourself with the elbows on the floor (or fall down
onto your bum).
Sledding and Snow Angels Cool-Down (Music: Frosty the Snowman by Ella Fitzgerald)
Sit at the back of your yoga mat or towel and fold the front edge over your feet and shins. Hold on to the edge of the mat as you lean back at the top of the hill and tip forward toward your feet as you zoom down the hill. Lean from side to side to steer your sled.
When you fall off, lay on your back and make imaginary snow angels by moving your arms and legs.
Snowvasana (Music: Still Nacht by Mannheim Steamroller)
Rest on the floor in whatever shape feels cozy to you. You might want to cover your body with your towel or a blanket. Close your eyes while you feel a soft snowball roll across your face (Mom/Dad: gently brush the cotton ball across your child's nose, forehead, ears, fingertips, toes.
Snowflake Mandala Coloring
Mandalas are circular patterns found in nature. They're fun for kids, as they can color the pattern differently or the same each time they rotate the paper.
Snowflake Mandalas(Google search)
Good luck to everyone in the now-arctic regions of the US this week, and stay warm, active and hydrated!
My mission in teaching yoga to young children is to foster creativity, confidence, and a positive attitude around physicality and motion. A foundation in mind-body awareness sparked during early development can last through childhood and adolescence to create strong, healthy individuals. In moving, breathing and playing together, we are connected in our humanity through the somatic experience. I invite parents, educators, and other kids' yoga instructors to use my sample lesson plans, comment on posts, and ask questions or submit their own ideas!