Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tree Pose for 'Back to School' - Having good balance benefits a wide range of classroom skills.

By Sue Heron – Training Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin and Paediatric Physiotherapist

The summer draws to a close and our children creep back to school - but this does not mean the physical activity needs to end. 
In a recent study, early years specialists at Loughborough University found that many reception children are experiencing problems with their balance and co ordination Rebecca Duncombe, who led the study, commented
‘A child’s physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading – all skills essential for school'.

Tatty Bumpkin Tree Yoga activity is a fun way for your child to develop their balance skills. Specifically the pose ca help your child to: 
  • Go up/down stairs safely and quickly in crowded situations
  • Change quickly into/out off their PE kit 
  • Try new activities in the playground or on the sports field. 

Tatty Bumpkin's Tree Pose 

Start by being a tree swaying in the wind
  • Be safe - Always check with a health professional if you have concerns about whether Tree pose is suitable for you or your child. Find a clear place on a non-slip surface e.g. mat or carpet, where you can do tree pose without bumping into anything.
  • Take off socks and shoes – your child will get more accurate sensory information through their feet. 
  • Try to do tree pose along with you child – slowly and carefully so they can copy you. Your child will love to do the activity with you and moving with your child is a powerful way to strengthen the bond between you both. 
  • Start by guiding your child to stand with their feet hip width apart, stretching their arms out to either side – as branches. 
  • Now ... imagine the wind is starting to blow.Take a few deep breaths, blowing out softly, and gently rock onto one foot and then the other. Then, take one foot a little way off the ground. See below for why this is an important step.
  • As your child gains confidence, they can rest the sole of their raised foot against the calf of their other leg - Tree pose. Do make sure your child does not rest their raised foot against the knee of their supporting leg as this can strain the knee joint.  

Tatty Bumpkin Tree Pose
  • If your child holds their thighs together, or wraps one leg round the other, as they lift their leg off the ground, it may be they don't yet have sufficient core stability to do the pose accurately. If this is the case, it is best to break the pose down into smaller steps. Try the activities below to help them perfect their balance skills.  

Tree Pose in Smaller Steps! 

When trying to stand on one leg, young children often don’t realise they have to first shift their weight onto one leg - only then can they lift their other leg off the ground. `
Here are some useful tips on how to encourage this weight shift:
  • Be a tree in the wind. Start Tree pose by encouraging your young child just to sway side to side with their arms out wide – like a tree in the wind. As they do this your child will be automatically learning how to transfer their weight from one side to the other. Start with little rocking movements then see if your child can move further over to each side! 
  • Be a tree on a hill! 
    • Place a low sturdy box, or a pile of 1-2 big books, in front of your child, on a non-slip surface, to make a low step. Initially, you may need to give your child some support as they step up/down. See note below on how to do this.
    • Encourage your child to step up with one foot onto their 'step'. See if they can hold this position for a few seconds - then guide them to bring their foot back down. 
    • This stepping activity helps your child to learn the subtle weight shifts they have to do to stand on one leg and to negotiate stairs
    • Start with a very low step then increase the height just a little as your child gains in confidence. 
    • Once your child has had a go at stepping up/down with one leg see if they can do the same thing with their other leg. 
  • Offer support by holding the trunk of the tree. Your child may need some extra support as they try to do Tree pose for the first time. If this is the case, rather than holding their hands, kneel down alongside your child and support them by holding them round their hips. If you support your child in this way they will be able to use their arms to balance – much more normal. 
  • Be a tree with tiny roots! If your child is getting the idea of moving their weight onto one leg, but has not yet mastered taking one foot completely off the ground, see if they can do Tree pose with one foot flat on the ground and just the toe of their other foot on the ground. They can rest the heel of their raised foot against their main supporting foot. 

Spark Imagination - Make Tree Pose Fun! 

Make it fun! Tree pose is essentially about standing on one leg, but to make this activity fun and motivating for your child, suggest they try being an apple or orange tree! 

Give your child two apples/oranges to hold in each of their outstretched hands.
The weight of the fruit will help your child to become more aware of their arm movements - and so help them to balance.

Tatty Bumpkin Apple Tree

Tree Pose Progressions 

Remember you can practice Tree Yoga activity throughout the day. For example, you can be a tree: 
  • Whilst standing in a supermarket queue! 
  • Just after you have brushed your teeth (using the sink for support if needs be)
  • When you are passing a tree whilst out for a walk. Pick up two leaves, hold them out wide in each hand -  then copy the tree you are next to. 
Practice little and often is the best way to learn a new skill! 

Maths and Tree Pose 

For a nice maths activity which could be played whilst doing Tree pose see

Love Tatty Bumpkin x

Find out about your local Tatty Bumpkin class at Or, ask your child’s nursery if they are doing Tatty Bumpkin Yoga activity sessions as part of their day. All our sessions are linked to the Early Years Foundation Stage and the Scottish Pre-birth to 3 years and Curriculum for Excellence. 

A New Start with Tatty Bumpkin?  

Or, maybe, you are thinking of a new career which gives you:
  • The opportunity to work with kids
  • A great sense of job satisfaction and
  • Flexible working to fit around your own family
Find out how you could be trained to deliver Baby and Tatty Bumpkin classes in your area at:

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