I chose the images below knowing my audience (3-6 year olds), and had them printed in varying sizes from Walgreen's Photo. I had to sacrifice some edges because of cropping constraints, but it ended up being an easier and cheaper option to printing in color and enlarging, which often results in pixellated images. On index cards, I wrote the artist's name, the title of the piece, and the year completed, and put all of these up on the walls in the space where I teach before class using poster tack (yes--it's a lot of prep!). I get thirty minutes each with six classes, so I got to try out the class a few different ways, and heard lots of interesting commentary from the children as well as great feedback from their classroom teachers. Keep reading to find out what I taught and learned!
As the children settled on their mats, they were full of questions about the pictures on the walls. I explained that we were going to talk about art, because art is very similar to yoga in that it allows us to express ourselves and explore our feelings. I told them I know they are all artists (they agreed!), and we passed around a paintbrush instead of a talking stick, and they each shared what they love to draw the most. Curious about what preschoolers like to draw? Rainbows, princesses, dragons, Anna & Elsa, cars, butterflies, rabbits, cats, lightning storms, and a lot more!
We used different parts of our bodies to paint in some of the traditional sun salutation poses. I turned on Bob Marley "Jamming'" (from the B is for Bob album for kids--reggae has been helping me deal with this long winter and it always gets the kids moving) and we started by dipping our paintbrushes (hands) into buckets of our favorite colors on the floor. We made circles over our heads with our hands, and pretended to paint a wall in front of us, up and down, up and down. We painted the floor around our feet, our toes and our knees (Forward Fold and Monkey Pose). Then we smeared paint on our stomachs and got down on our mats to paint the mat with our bellies (Wiggling Snake Pose). In Downward Dog, we lifted our back legs one at a time to paint circles in the sky. Next we walked our hands back to our feet and did a Frog Squat, where we stuck our tongues out and "painted" with our tongues! (Make sure to put your tongue back in your mouth before doing any frog jumps!)
Yoga/Creative Movement: "Trip to the Art Museum"
We talked about going to the art museum. I told them museums have a rule about not touching the art (not a bad thing to practice, plus I didn't have time to laminate my images and I'd like to be able to use them for a while). I invited the students to walk around the room and look at all of the pictures, and talk about what they saw. We spent a few minutes discovering the pictures, asking questions and making observations. Several of the children were immediately drawn to the Grandma Moses piece ("I LOVE horses!") as well as Roy Lichtenstein's "Explosion" ("What IS that? POP? BOOM?"). One student pointed to Monet's "Bridge" and told me that his mom has been there, and other students instinctively started making swooshing wave gestures with their hands and arms as they stood in front of Hokusai's "Great Wave."
We returned to our mats and did a pose (or three or four) for each picture we had looked at. With kids this young, it isn't as important to sequence the class like you would for adults (those little gummy bodies can spring into any shape at any time), but I've ordered them more or less as I would for an adult sequence. These are just suggestions, and so many more poses could be interpreted through these pieces!
- "Petunias" by O'Keeffe: FLOWER POSE. Sit with knees bent and out to sides. Slip hands under shins and lift legs, balancing on seat. Option to have the class sit in a close circle and hold hands (difficult for younger children).
- "The Elephants" by Dali: DALI'S ELEPHANT POSE. We started by doing our typical elephant shape, swinging our arms with hands folded and stomping, but the children were very curious about why these elephants' legs were so long. I told them that Dali liked to draw whatever was in his imagination, even if it did not look like real life. One girl created a special elephant pose, and I loved her version and did it with the rest of the classes. Stand on tiptoes, fold forward and place fingertips on floor. Walk delicately.
- "Checkered House" by Grandma Moses: HORSE POSE. From Downward Dog, kick legs up behind you.
- "Chair" by Van Gogh: CHAIR POSE.
- "Explosion" by Lichtenstein: SQUAT/JUMP. Start in Malasana Squat Pose. Count backwards from 5, and jump up, stretching arms and legs in every direction in the air, yelling "POW" or "POP" or "BOOM" or whatever your students decide is the right exclamation for the picture!
- "Sunday Afternoon" by Seurat: DOWNWARD DOG, MONKEY (I was very impressed that some of the students found the monkey on the leash as it's hidden in the shadows!), RIVER POSE (seated forward fold), BOAT POSE, TREE POSE.
- "Tar Beach" by Ringgold: Faith Ringgold grew up in Harlem, and this picture depicts her family spending time on their rooftop in Harlem. My students could tell that it was New York City, and we talked about the lack of public space and how people create their own outdoor spaces where they can. PICNIC TABLE POSE (Upward Facing Table). Talk about your favorite picnic foods.
- "Great Wave" by Hokusai: MOUNT FIJI POSE, GREAT WAVE POSE (Mountain Pose, Bow Pose/Dhanurasana). In Bow Pose, as the students held their ankles while laying on their bellies and lifting shoulders away from the floor, I went around and held their wrists and ankles, gently rocking them forward and back. It was a new sensation for many of them, but mostly they said it felt good on their bellies (it's a nice stomach stretch and massage).
- "Bridge over Water Lilies" by Monet: BRIDGE POSE.
- "Nu Bleu 1" by Matisse: I told the students the English title of this cut-out, "Blue Nude 1" since I was quite sure they didn't know the meaning of "nude." But they laughed for another reason--they thought I said "Blue Dude 1," which struck them as a hilarious title for a picture. BLUE DUDE 1 POSE (Seated Twist/Ardha Matsyendrasana). We basically mirrored the image of the cutout, with one arm over our head and the other arm at the floor. The kids looked just like the Matisse--it was perfect!
- "Still Life With Guitar" by Picasso: GUITAR POSE (Seated Pigeon). Cradling leg, place foot in crook of opposite elbow, strum shin with fingers.
I had the students get comfortable on their backs for relaxation. I suggested using one finger to draw from your imagination in the air over your head. We listened to "High Tide or Low Tide" from the previously mentioned Bob Marley album, and they drew in the air for a few minutes.
Feel free to comment here or on my Facebook page... what art would you include in a kids' movement or yoga class? What artists do your kids love?
Photos below are captioned with full title, artist and year completed.