As much as I loved Harold and his magical crayon, I discovered my own medium for interpreting my dreams for others to see was not painting or drawing, but movement and dance. A love of movement was the central theme through my childhood, teenage years, into college and beyond, as an avenue of self-exploration and expression, and has now become a fulfilling career. My personal and fortunate experiences of being exposed to and involved in literature, music and dance from an early age are what make me so passionate about inspiring preschoolers to imagine, read, move, create and share.
One of my favorite things about my job is allowing and encouraging young children to let their imaginations take over. They come up with incredible things that teach and inspire me, as well. For toddlers and preschoolers, the line between reality and imagination is often very thin and blurry. I'm frequently asked by my little yogis, "Is it real?" For example, we sometimes use ping-pong balls as our baby turtle eggs. We sit in Turtle Pose (a variation of Kourmasana), and I place a ping-pong ball between the arches of their feet, and they keep it warm by curling their bodies forward and resting their forehead on the "egg." Then we take our eggs for slow turtle strolls--without using our hands or feet, and just our soft breath to move the eggs gently across the floor. Every time we do this activity, at least one student asks me if there are really baby turtles inside the balls. I love that they are even considering the possibility that their yoga teacher brought real baby turtles for them to play with! The world is a wondrous and magical place, seen through a child's eyes.
This creativity and openness can be fostered in many ways--art, music, dance, movement--providing the groundwork for an expressive outlet through adolescence and adulthood.
Here is a lesson plan that is based on "Harold and the Purple Crayon," and includes creative movement, art, literature, yoga and music. The class can be adjusted to fit the length of time available, and also adjusted for different ages.
"Harold and the Purple Crayon" by Crockett Johnson
A box of crayons
Your choice of music (differing rhythms, tempos and instruments can be fun, or keep it dreamlike and peaceful)
Roll of newsprint or other large sheet of paper
Warmup: Drawing Practice
Let each child pick out a crayon and return to their mat (Use a finger if giving out crayons is not appropriate for the age level). Start by having them mirror the movements you make with your crayon as you pretend to draw, beginning small, playing with straight lines, circles, curlicues, dots and shapes. Start to make bigger and bigger "pictures" and take up more space, switch the crayon to your other hand, etc. If you have time and your class is smaller, let each student take turns being the "art teacher."
Creative Movement: Draw Your Dream
Turn on some music and encourage children to follow their crayon (or finger) around the room, drawing imaginary paths, environments, creatures, or the things they see in their dreams.
Yoga: Harold and the Purple Crayon (I like to read each page as we go but you could just summarize instead)
Harold draws a moon and a path to walk on.
Moon Pose: Stand straight with feet together, arms overhead with palms touching. Lean from one side to the other.
Path Pose: Supine, full body stretch. Add a leg to the side (supta padangusthasana) so Harold can turn.
Harold draws an apple tree and a dragon to guard the apples.
Apple ("Rolling like a Ball," sit on floor, hug knees and roll up and down along spine)
Dragon Pose: Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), with claws stretched up to the sky, making scary faces and growling.
Harold draws an ocean and a sailboat, and then drifts ashore.
Ocean Waves: Lie on belly, move arms and legs like the rippling waves.
Sailboat: Navasana (Boat) with arms overhead, palms together as a sail, let arms move side to side in the breeze.
Anchor Pose: Vasisthasana (Side Plank)
Harold draws a picnic of pies, and a moose and porcupine to help him eat the pies.
Slice of Pie Pose: Upavistha Konasana (Seated Wide Legged Stretch), add your favorite filling and fold forward like the crust on top.
Moose Pose: High Lunge with hands held next to head, thumbs at temples and palms face forward and fingers outstretched like antlers.
Harold wants to get back home, so he draws a mountain to get a better view, and then a hot air balloon.
Hot Air Balloon: Start in a crouch and begin to inflate, circle arms overhead and puff cheeks out, floating around the
room on tiptoes.
Harold draws a house and then a city full of tall buildings and windows, and asks a policeman for help.
House: Partner pose, kneel or stand facing each other and press palms together like a rooftop.
Skyscrapers: Move very close together, stand tall with arms up, maybe on tiptoes, like a crowded city.
Police Officer: Warrior 2 or Triangle Pose, point finger of front (top) hand to show Harold which direction to go.
Harold finally finds his home and his own cozy bed
Savasana/Relaxation: Encourage children to get comfortable and play some soothing music or a lullaby, as you walk around the room to "tuck them in"--give their shoulders a squeeze and/or lightly brush their forehead with a small paintbrush. If I'm "painting" the students, I ask what color they'd like to be and then tell them to stay still for a little bit to let the paint dry!
Post-Yoga Activity Ideas
Buddy Drawing: Get partners and take turns drawing pictures on each others' backs with a finger. Guess what your partner was drawing! This can also be done as a group in a circle.
Art Path: Unroll the newsprint and let children move with a crayon along the paper, stopping if they want to draw something along the way.