Backyard Yoga Play Dates grew out of my desire to find a yoga class my girls could attend together. After exhausting all local possibilities, it dawned on me that I could create exactly what I was searching for--right in my own backyard! Yes, I'm a certified kids' yoga teacher, but that's by no means a prerequisite. If you're not sure where to begin or what to do, I've got you covered. I've researched and developed the tools for you. All you need to do is play! Let's get started.
Step 1: Gather Your Community
I recommend creating a private Facebook group and inviting your friends to join. Make sure everyone knows they are free to invite their friends to join as well. After all, this is about building community and making connections.
Step 2: Choose a Manageable and Consistent Time
Choose how often you want to host a play date. It may be once a summer or once a month. For my play dates, I chose one Friday each month of the summer from 9AM-10AM. For my community, this seemed like the best time slot for families with young kids to be free from other planned activities. Once a month kept the kids excited and didn't over-extend my time or my friends' time. Notice I also limited it to one particular season (summer makes the most sense in Wisconsin, given the climate and school break). You can always add special events during other times of the year. I've added a Halloween play date, as well as a Spring play date where we made nesting balls.
Step 3: Format
The format I highly recommend is 30 minutes of "structured" play followed by 30 minutes of "free" play. It's pretty easy to achieve full engagement for the first 30 minutes, and then the kids have a chance to play together and connect during the free play time.
Parents can choose to either participate along with their child(ren) or to hang back and get some much-needed adult conversation. There is no right or wrong, it just depends on what the mommy (or daddy) needs that day or what the child feels most comfortable with.
Step 4: Choose your Location
I love hosting in my backyard because it's convenient for me. If I forget something or a guest needs something, it's all readily available (for the most part). You want a backyard that has enough open space for yoga, along with some potential for open play. We happen to have a playset, tire swing and water table. Anything works. The goal is to provide an environment in which the kids can play amongst themselves.
A park would also be a great venue. When seeking a park location, look for a grassy area near a play structure. Try to keep the location as low stress as possible--away from busy streets or open water and free from blind spots. Anything that would cause parents to be on high alert for the safety of their children is a no-no. Adjacent play structures come in handy when younger siblings choose not to participate. They can freely entertain themselves on the playground while the older child participates in yoga, and the parents can easily keep tabs on everyone.
Step 5: Create the Event
Once you have the time and location figured out, create the event on your private Facebook page. This is important so you can track who is coming and who is not.
Make sure to mention in your event posting that participants should bring a mat or towel with them. It's good to have a few extra on hand, but ultimately you don't want to be responsible for that part of things.
Step 6: Keep it Simple
This is where I come in. Planning a kids' yoga class can take some time, especially if you like to keep everything within a chosen theme. I've developed inFLOWgraphics to do all of the heavy lifting for you. inFLOWgraphics are pre-planned, themed kids' yoga classes that take you from opening breath to final rest. All of the work is done for you, from book and song suggestions to poses and games. Like I mentioned in my introduction, all you need to do is play.
Step 7: Share the Fun
I have many talented friends, and I'm sure you do, too. When I first started hosting these monthly play dates, I asked my friends if they wanted to share their talents/passions with the kids. One of my friends led a 30-minute dance class one month, while during another month a friend led yoga for me. Your friends could lead a craft, design an obstacle course, or run a boot camp. These play dates do not need to be limited to yoga.
Step 8: Be YOU
Make this your own. Adapt it to fit your personality and passions. I like to use a mix of music, story, and child-led interaction. I also find freedom in switching it up if the kids need it, so I always have a song, game or activity in my back pocket in case we need to shift the energy.
I like to use a Bluetooth speaker and playlists that are all set to go on my phone to provide the music for each class.
Have friends take and post pictures to the Facebook group. This always adds to the fun.
Invite friends to bring popsicles or fruit to share afterwards--they usually offer anyway.
Shine your Light Challenge: This is something I created as a closing to all of my classes. Challenge the kids to go out and shine their light that day. You might ask them to give 3 hugs or 5 smiles throughout the day. These challenges are included in every inFLOWgraphic.
If you have any futher questions or want to share your experiences with your own Backyard Yoga Play Dates, please comment below, message me, or reach out @backyardkidsyoga on Facebook.
Peace + Play