My daughter taught herself how to crawl in order to move closer to the couch so she could practice pulling up. A week later she began letting go and braving those first few steps. Fast forward another 3 weeks, and my little baby girl was in full-on sprint mode it seems, and she hasn’t slowed down yet.
As she entered into a sensitive period for gross motor movement, she became less interested in storytime with Mama and Dada. We went about a month where she’d get 2-3 pages into a book and then close it and sign, “All done,” and then run off to work on her newfound abilities — a completely normal development for toddlers! Her body was telling her she needed to move-move-move-and-move-some-more in order to refine and perfect her balance and coordination skills.
But, oh, how I missed my precious storytime with her, though!
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So we changed course a bit and chose to introduce several books that incorporated gross motor movement as part of the story. Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe was an instant hit. She learned about body parts while performing simple body movements, and the pride and joy on her face as she completed each “Can you do it?” challenge was so fulfilling to see. You could witness the confidence in herself growing each time we read the book.
Shortly after, we checked out a yoga book from the library and she LOVED it. We began by simply incorporating Sleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler’s Sleepy Book of Yoga into our regular bedtime routine. We would go through the poses together, holding for 10 seconds each. I would count to 10, while making sure I took 10 nice, deep, focused breaths to match the count. Not only is Lilly able to follow along with the story and perform the poses, but, more importantly, she has learned how to breathe purposefully. There have been times when she’s been so emotionally distraught that I’ve suggested we take a moment to breathe, and the tears stop flowing and she looks into my eyes and says, “Yoga,” and then takes a 3-5 deep breaths — the storm calms, her mind clears, and once that happens she is better able to indicate why she’s upset. Yoga really is such a simple way to gently introduce a self-soothing technique for children of all ages. Obviously, not all emotional outbursts can be avoided (I mean, I am still learning how to control mine at 32), but sometimes just having a simple moment to calm oneself — and that pesky limbic brain of ours — is all that is needed to allow for the more rational side of ourselves to materialize again and communicate our wants/needs/frustrations/grievances/etc.
Movement-based books exercise listening skills, help children learn to focus their attention and follow instructions, and, most importantly I think, provide them with a sense of accomplishment and a greater awareness of their body and its amazing capabilities.
Here are 10 of our favorite yoga and mindfulness books for toddlers:
1.Good Morning Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Wakeup Story 2. Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story 3. You Are a Lion! and Other Fun Yoga Poses 4. Rachel’s Day in the Garden: A Kids Yoga Spring Colors Book 5. The Lemonade Hurricane 6. I Am Yoga 7. Yoga Games for Children: Fun and Fitness with Postures, Movements and Breath 8. Little Yoga: A Toddler’s First Book of Yoga 9. Sleepy Little Yoga: A Toddler’s Sleepy Book of Yoga 10. Yoga Pretzels (Yoga Cards)
The mental, emotional, social, and physical health benefits of yoga and mindfulness are well documented. If you’d like to learn more about how meditation can help children, check out this article from the Child Mind Institute and/or this one from the Mindfulness in Schools Project.
Oh, and don’t forget the child-sized yoga mat. Or else your 2-year-old will be opening the closet and borrowing yours multiple times throughout the day. 😉