The picture book Stretch, published in 2009, is the third book in Doreen Cronin's series for little movers. (You can read more about the series here.) If you compare the covers of Wiggle and Stretch, you can see that the dog from the book has evolved over time. He seems just a little bit crisper and a little bit cuter than he did when the series began, don't you think? He's also gotten even more creative and is now doing yoga!
Today's guest post is by speech-language pathologist and children's yoga specialist Angela Moorad, who is also the founder of OMazing Kids Yoga, LLC. Angela was nice enough to take time out of her busy schedule to share her ideas for using the book Stretch in yoga classes for kids, including those with special needs. Thanks so much, Angela!
I typically develop each of my OMazing Kids Yoga lesson plans around a children's picture book. Books provide a clear beginning and end, and they provide visual information for us to build on during class. Many of the children I work with have special needs, so providing this extra structure is helpful for them.
One of the characteristics I love about Stretch is that it provides opportunities for multiple yoga poses and activities on each page, so it's easy to adapt to the needs of any child or group. The book also provides good opportunities for children to learn new vocabulary, rhyming words, adjectives, inferences, and skills for prediction.
Can you stretch to the ceiling? Can you stretch to the floor?
You can stretch with a whisper, you can stretch with a roar!
Below is a partial list of poses and activities I use with the book. I don't do all of them with every group of kids, but I pick the ones that are the best match for the kids' needs, interests, and abilities on any particular day! All of the poses and activities are inspired by words and images from the book:
- Dog pose: We typically do upward facing dog rather than downward facing dog in my OMazing Kids Yoga groups because of contraindications to downward facing dog for certain medical conditions.
- Cat pose: There is a leopard in the book, so I have the kids do the cat pose, name different body parts, and then pat "spots" onto the different body parts.
- Fish pose: We don't use the traditional fish pose in OMazing Kids Yoga because of the risk that many of our kids, especially those with Down Syndrome, might hyperextend their necks. Depending on the kids in the group, we either do the sign for fish or lay on our bellies and do a swimming motion.
- Mountain pose: We actually do the mountain pose with one arm lifted high, to represent the Statue of Liberty, which is shown in the book.
- We also do many yoga poses for other animals and objects that appear in the book, including a giraffe, mouse, lion, crab, peacock, boat, and tree.
- Blowing feathers: Using white craft feathers that "fluff" at the bottom and have a stiffer top, we notice how just a little puff of air is needed to move the fluffy part of the feather, while a bigger breath is needed to move the stiffer part.
- Apple picking: This stretch can be done either sitting or standing. I have the kids stretch their arms over their heads to reach apples high in a tree. Depending on the kids in the group, I may also hold up a picture of an apple to give them something to actually reach for.
- Namaste yarn game: One child holds a ball of yarn, says something he or she likes about another child in the class, and then rolls the yarn to that child. The second child does the same thing with another child, and this continues until all the children have had a turn. At the end of the game, the pattern of yarn that the kids have formed shows them how we are all connected.
Want to hear the entire book Stretch? Watch Sesame Street's Elmo and Maria read and discuss it during the 2010 White House Easter Egg Roll here. And finally, here is a coloring sheet I made to use alongside the book in OMazing Kids Yoga. We often do simple coloring as part of relaxation at the end of class.
Angela Moorad holds a master's degree in speech-language pathology from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences and has more than 21 years of experience working with children with a wide range of developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders. She also teaches adapted yoga for children with special needs at the J. D. McCarty Center, volunteers to teach children's yoga at Oklahoma City Educare, and founded OMazing Kids Yoga, LLC to promote inclusive yoga for children of all abilities. OMazing Kids Yoga has a Facebook page, blog, and YouTube channel where Angela shares her ideas and experiences.