*This post was originally published on the Breathing Space blog
Yoga class provides a safe space for babies, toddlers and their caregivers to explore movement milestones, social-emotional development, and connect with each other and other parents and children. Taking class with your tot or toddler can offer some of the following benefits you might not have thought about:
1. Language development – Tot yoga classes expose babies and toddlers to language through words with actions, songs, and attention to body awareness. By connecting movement with language, yoga supports the way language development is already happening in your child’s brain.
“University of Washington research in 7- and 11-month-old infants shows that speech sounds stimulate areas of the brain that coordinate and plan motor movements for speech.” – University of Washington ILABS
“Comprehension of words relies on areas of the brain associated with motor control as well as ‘classic’ language centers, researchers report.” – Neuroscience News
2. Sensory stimulation and awareness – Babies need tons of sensory input to train their brain to process information. By engaging in unique physical play during yoga, babies stimulate their vestibular and proprioceptive systems as well as senses of touch, hearing, and sight.
“Stimulation through the senses of touch, hearing, seeing, smelling, and tasting directly affect the sensory neurons and help in establishing these connections. According to research, an infant’s brain is producing 2-3 million synapses per second!” – Bright Hub Education
3. Vestibular and proprioceptive input – These two senses related to movement and touch are so important that they get their own entry. Baby’s vestibular system, which tells him where he is in space, has been developing since just a few weeks after conception. Proprioception tells him where he in in relationship to himself. Our vestibular sensors are primarily in our inner ear while our proprioceptive sensors are in our muscles, joints, and bones. Together, they are make up our kinesthetic awareness. Nearly every pose we do in infant yoga stimulates the vestibular system.
Maryann Harman explains in EarlyChildhood News that movement and early childhood development specialists believe that “[all] learning in the first fifteen months of life is centered on the vestibular system development” and that the vestibular system is very closely tied to language development.
“[W]hen our vestibular system is not functioning properly, we often have auditory processing problems in addition to difficulty with balance, coordination, and eye muscle control.” – PediaStaff
“The vestibular system coordinates eye and head movements. Without this coordination, it may be challenging for children to complete everyday activities such as copying from a white board in their classroom …” – Sprouts Child Development Intiative
While these classes clearly benefit our little ones, the community we create for the caregivers is just as important. Many people are raising their children without family and friends around for support. Baby and toddler yoga reminds us that we don’t have to go through new parenthood alone. This is one hour out of the week designated for being present with our children, without distractions.
Join Megan Ridge Morris, facilitator of the ChildLight Yoga for Babies & Toddlers Teacher Training in four pop-up classes happening at the Yoga Loft of Bethlehem this summer! Learn more and register here:
Jennifer Mueller, MA, E-RYT, RCYT, has been teaching yoga students of all ages since 2008 and directs a children’s and family yoga program in Washington DC. In addition to being a trainer for ChildLight Yoga® and Yoga 4 Classrooms®, Jen holds a variety of children’s yoga certifications. To learn more about Jen, click here.