My two boys are of the very active, slightly rambunctious and incredibly inquisitive variety. They have short attention spans, unless they are really hooked. It is scary when it comes time to turn off the TV. What is the hook going to be? The scariness is compounded now that they are at the age where they bicker with one another if they are bored. But, I know, after two shows and seeing my kids’ eyes glaze over, I cannot bear hearing the prattle of the cartoon characters any longer. So, I make the proclamation: “After this show, boys, it is time to turn the off the TV.”
“Okay, Mom,” they chime together.
Once the TV is off, it’s wonderfully quiet and they amble around the apartment for a few minutes. It’s easy to feel at a loss, as they look at me, shrugging, “ What should I do?”
I have learned through my experience as a yoga instructor to 3-5 year olds that I have to think on my feet. It can dissolve very quickly into total chaos. Preschoolers have tremendous imaginations, so I can keep them engaged by allowing them to help build a storyline. It doesn’t have to be linear and neat, the way we envision a story. We can begin on the farm–doing our cat and cow poses–and blast off to space from there. It’s most important that I am flexible in my teaching and don’t get hung up if an exercise doesn’t turn out exactly as we thought it would. After all, all experience is a learning experience.
I channel my flexibility and experience, when my children ask me, “What should I do?” I usually turn the question around and ask them what they are thinking about and go from there. Improvisation is key.
With my four-year-old, Gael, it’s all about physical play. I let him lead the story line as I get out the yoga mats and any other props we might need to explore our bodies on this adventure. All the time, I am probing him with questions. Teaching preschool children yoga or even basic calisthenics–jumping jacks on a rainy day–builds physiological, mental and emotional awareness. Why does your heart beat faster after we do the jumping jacks? What muscle are you stretching along the back of your leg? How do you feel when you lie on your back and close your eyes? Then, the only question for me is: “Can I keep this up for 25 minutes (because he can)?”
My six-year-old son, Hayden, is a challenge and is a bit more easily bored too. He is a science brain. I have found my niche with him allowing him to make kitchen chemistry projects up. First off, I set up rimmed baking sheets for him to work on (and get over the mess before it’s even made). It all began with a fabulous concoction called Wizard’s Brew, which we made with baking soda, vinegar, glitter and food coloring. There’s also the milk, dish soap and food coloring swirly mixture in a shallow dish, that keeps him entranced for at least twenty minutes. I can integrate math into his measuring of the ingredients. Now he keeps a science journal where he writes down his results. He explores and asks questions. I let him get out whatever ingredients he wants to try (as long as it’s not my fancy balsamic vinegar) and go to town mixing and making.
My husband hooks Hayden in with music. He’s already learning to play piano, but is also quite comfortable experimenting with other electronic instruments. Hayden showed an interest in computers very early on, which we nurtured and positively directed as best we could. He can pretty fluently navigate complex synthesizers with some direction. Initially, I resisted his interaction with technology so young, but have embraced that my children are of the digital age and will master their tools of technology in a different way than I did. He naturally explores patterns and math in his music-making, and my husband lets him have at it!
In the end parenting has brought me to work on overcoming so many of my fears. My fear that there will be toys all over the floor. My fear that I will cook something they don’t like. My fear that I will not be enough mother, wife, daughter and myself at all times. But mostly, as I’ve discussed here, my fear that I will not offer my precious offspring enough substance to grow on. I am not an incredibly intellectual person, but I am creative. I have learned to improvise and not be afraid of turning off the TV to see what we can make happen.
Brett was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Atlanta, Georgia. She has lived in Brooklyn, New York for ten years with her husband, and now their two delightful, engaging boys (ages 4 and 6.5 years old). Brett loves the energy and collaboration of living in the amazing community she’s found in Bedford-Stuyvesant. From a very early age, Brett became aware of the relationship between mind, body and spirit. She studied ballet, modern and jazz dance throughout her growing years, then entered the serious study and practice of yoga in 1996. In 2004 she deepened her practice by completing yoga teacher training at New York’s thirty year old esteemed studio, Kundalini Yoga East. Brett enjoys many forms of yoga, including Bikram, Hatha, and Kundalini, along with the sacred chanting of Kirtan. Most of all she has enjoyed turning her focus to the playfullness and creativity of teaching children’s yoga. In addition to working extensively with her own children, she developed her own yoga after-school enrichment program for 3-6 year old children, called Little Stretch, in Brooklyn in 2008. Her other love is visual creativity and by day she designs textiles for girl’s clothes.