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Keeping Kids Active, Healthy + Engaged Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

6 Ways to Lessen Stress

Manage back-to-school exhaustion and pandemic anxiety with grace.

Here are simple techniques to help us all get back on track using meditation from our friends at LoveHero.

Is it possible that we’ve all forgotten how tiring the first week of school or just visiting the office after being away for so long, really is? The 18-month long new normal’s transition back to the old and connecting with classmates and co-workers in real life has been much harder than expected for some of us. You are not alone.

1. Start with movement

For most young kids, attempting to sit in meditation without any exercise first will be a challenge. Kids understand energy. And, energy can be used as a vehicle to meditate. Start with 5-10 minutes of energetic exercises such as jumping jacks, scissor jumps or running in-place.

2. Use positive language

While exercising, maintain a positive attitude that will get kids thinking about their ability to monitor their emotions and tune into positive feelings. Affirmations such as “I am positive!” work great for this.

3. Use breathing to channel the energy

The next step is to start slowing down the intensity of the exercises and to start replacing them with breathing. Breathe with your belly holding the breath longer and making the inhales and exhales deeper each time.

4. Sit down, breathe and focus on the heart

The other thing that kids understand well is positive emotions. In a sitting position do a few more rounds of breathing, but this time, with the hands on the heart, imagine this energy you’ve built up turning into rays of green light that are shooting from the heart.

5. Become a hero

What good is love if you don’t share it? Kids love being heroes. Use the light shooting from your heart to send love to someone or something that might need it. It can be a group of people (frontline healthcare workers), a person you love, a pet or a plant. Become a hero using your heart to uplift others.

6. Sit in stillness

Finally, sit in silence and stillness for 30 seconds or longer if you can.  It helps to play soothing music at this point. Each child is different, so start small and build your way up.

To practice more yoga and mindfulness, find a live instructor in-person or online from home with LoveHero and other yoga options on ActivityHero today. 

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Featured Posts Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

5 Ways to Start the New Year Right for Kids

After a year of school shutdowns, schedule disruptions, and social isolation, many families may be looking forward to a fresh start. Here are some ideas for kids to take on 2021 the right way with health, education, and mindfulness.

2020 was a challenge for many families, and for many kids that can come with increased stress and anxiousness. Helping children manage physical and mental health is especially important this year. Look for ways to make 2021 their best year yet!

2021 Goals for Kids and Teens

Here are 5 steps towards a year full of growth and joy.

1) Physical Exercise

Exercising every day can help kids manage their sleep schedule, improve their mood, and decrease stress. This can be a healthy habit for the whole family in 2021 – hiking, biking, going for walks, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together. 

Kids Yoga Classes

Other exercise and fitness classes for your child include:

Dance: Kids of any age can participate in a dance class or have a dance party in a fun, safe environment. Many classes are for beginners and explore many different styles of dance, like hip hop, ballet, and jazz.

Martial Arts: Martial arts classes help build confidence, leadership skills, and resilience while providing a fun space to stay active.

Yoga: Online yoga and exercise classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.

See All Fitness Classes on ActivityHero>>

2) Nutrition

Nutrition and healthy eating is important for all ages. Establishing a good relationship with food is knowledge that kids can use for their whole life.

Getting started with cooking at a young age is a great way for kids to start learning about nutrition. Being in the kitchen can also help with independence, help picky eaters, and spark creativity.

Cooking Classes: Instructional classes with expert teachers bring kids through recipes while teaching kitchen safety, cleanliness, and art.

DIY Recipes: Have fun with recipes on your own time, with video tutorials to help you out!

3) Schedule Relaxing Activities

Along with exercise and nutrition, making time for enjoyable and relaxing hobbies has many benefits as well. A new year is the perfect time to explore something new, whether it be art, music, writing, or gaming.

Art classes for kids

Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.

Music Classes for Kids: Music is a great activity that anyone can pick up for fun, whether it’s learning an instrument, singing, or dancing.

In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!

See All Online Classes on ActivityHero>>

4) Mindfulness and Meditation

Look forward to a year of emotional health and reduced stress. Yoga, exercises to reduce stress, and meditation can all help to prepare for the ups and downs of 2021. Even five minutes of breathing or mindful exercises a day can help to develop healthy emotions and resilience.

Kids Mindfulness Classes

See Mindfulness on ActivityHero>>

5) Staying Connected

Many kids had to learn to navigate technology this year to attend school and socialize with friends. Live online classes or calls are a great time for kids to safely interact with each other and work together on fun activities. After feeling isolated this year, it is important to make time to keep connections this year.

See Social Skills and Social Media on ActivityHero>>

Along with encouraging kids to reach out to others, be aware of the risks of the online world. Teach your kids about cyberbullying and staying safe on the internet.

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Featured Posts Mindfulness Parenting Resources Yoga

5 Ways to Manage Stress and Anxiety in Kids

Stress and anxiety is common for both children and adults. Butterflies before a piano recital or feeling nervous about a big test is a normal reaction to a stressful situation or event. As parents, we can’t eliminate stress in our children’s lives – only teach them how to manage it. 

Triggers that can cause stress in children include major life changes such as moving or divorce, family financial problems, peer pressure or bullying, body changes, and worrying about schoolwork. Helping our children form coping strategies at a young age will set them up for long-term success as they encounter education, career, social, and financial decisions. 

During 2020, the number of children expressing stress increased with schedule disruptions, school shutdowns, social isolation, virtual learning, and health concerns. According to a parent survey on ActivityHero in September 2020, 86% of children reported feeling anxious during the prior 6 months. 

Without healthy stress management, chronic anxiety could lead to behavioral and physical symptoms in children: (medlineplus.gov)

  • Decreased appetite or other sudden changes in eating habits
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Nightmares or Sleep disturbances
  • Upset stomach or vague stomach pain
  • Sudden changes in behavior that are out of character
  • New or recurring fears (fear of the dark, fear of being alone, fear of strangers)
  • Clinging, unwilling to let you out of sight (separation anxiety)
  • Not able to control emotions; Aggressive or stubborn behavior
  • Unwilling to participate in family or school activities

Stress management for Kids and Teens

Here are 5 ways to help your child manage every day anxiety and take healthy habits into adulthood:

1) Good Sleep Routines

Sleep is essential for your body and mind to recover and reset from the day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), 9-12 hours of sleep a night is recommended for 6- to 12-year olds. Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep a night. Set a schedule and bedtime routine for consistency. For younger children, this could include a “wind down” time of bath and story time. For teens, limiting screen time and gaming before bed can support more restful sleep. 

2) Physical Exercise

At least 60 minutes of exercise a day can have many health benefits for children, including relieving stress. This is a healthy habit for the whole family – hiking, biking, surfing, or other recreational activities are all great ideas to enjoy together. 

Other fun, non-competitive exercise and fitness classes for your child to manage stress (and burn off extra energy), include:

Kids Yoga

Yoga: Online stretching and yoga classes are a relaxing activity for all ages. In yoga classes for kids as young as 4, students learn basic yoga movements and body awareness.

Dance Party: Toddlers to teens can enjoy a fun dance party, connecting in a safe environment led by an engaging instructor. Many dance and movement classes have fun themes and do not require any previous dance experience.

Karate: Introductions to martial arts classes online do not require previous experience, and can be a confidence builder for children.

We’re here to help your child become even more engaged, strong and optimistic during this unique time.  We know that grit, resilience and laughter have never been more important than right now.

– Family Karate Online

See All Fitness Classes on ActivityHero>>

3) Schedule Relaxing Activities

In addition to exercising your body, scheduling relaxing activities can also relieve mental stress. Art, music, journaling, and other relaxing hobbies all have therapeutic benefits. The most important reminder is to make sure there is zero pressure – these should be purely for fun!

Art Classes for Kids: Art can be a constructive outlet for children of all abilities to express emotions and relieve anxiety. Drawing, painting, clay modeling, and crafts are all great activities.

In addition, any relaxing hobby your child enjoys can help them socialize and unwind. Cooking, theatre & drama, music, LEGO or even making slime could be good options!

See All Online Classes on ActivityHero>>

4) Breathing & Meditation

If your child is starting to feel overwhelmed, teaching them breathing exercises can help them work through their feelings. Taking deep breaths, visualizing themselves in a calming place, and listening to relaxing sounds are all strategies to help them refocus. 

“We started using online classes on Activity Hero after schools closed and I was furloughed. My son especially enjoys Vibras Meditation (now LoveHero). Positive messages and empowerment are so good for kids right now (and always I guess.) The instructor is great and we will continue even after things move to the new normal.”

-Parent Review

See All Meditation & Mindfulness Classes on ActivityHero>>

5) Model Self-Care and Positive Thinking

As parents and adults, modeling self-care and positive thinking is probably the hardest habit to implement. However, our children observe and absorb more of our adult stress than we realize. Some strategies include:

  • Talk with your children about how you have dealt with stressful situations and encourage dialogue about how they are feeling. Tip: Conversations can be more natural if you engage when your child doesn’t have to look directly at you – riding in a car, walking the dog, or sitting on the beach. 
  • Be mindful of your reactions; take a deep breath before responding to stressful situations. 
  • Avoid negative thinking; Model behaviors of self-care instead of self-doubt for your children.
  • Be Aware: Children are spending more time online and it’s important to understand (and teach) the dangers of cyberbullying, social media addiction, and predators. 

If at any time you feel your child may have chronic anxiety or depression, please consult your healthcare provider. Some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety or depression in children could be caused by other conditions, such as trauma. If you need help finding treatment, visit MentalHealth.gov

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Yoga

Benefits of Yoga and Meditation for Children






Practicing yoga can provide kids with physical benefits such as strength and flexibility, but also improved emotional control and a boost of self-confidence. 

By Nicole Nikanorov

Growing up in a high-paced society can be stressful for kids. Competitive pressures from school can cause stress and anxiety to build. Yoga and meditation are great ways to counteract these pressures and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

We spoke with two yoga and pilates instructors to find out how yoga and meditation can help your kids.

Find Yoga Camps & Classes Near You

How does frequent practice of yoga and meditation affect children outside the studio?

The benefits of yoga and meditation flow through the body during classes and continue to flow outside the studio as well. Yoga is “shown to help kids with focus and increased attention span” says Amie Wang, Pilates After School Instructor and owner of Play It Fit, LLC. According to Stephanie Chee Barea, team yoga expert and owner of Mela Yoga, yoga also “helps children to regulate their emotions, teaches them how their body and mind works, and how to handle stress and anxiety” especially since children pick up on the extreme amount of pressure put on being successful. Both instructors agree that frequent meditation allows children to become one with themselves and find groundedness.

Any tips on finding a studio and instructor?

As with any activity, the right instructor can truly make a class special. While yoga might ultimately provide stress relief, introducing your child to a new and unfamiliar environment for the first few times can be a little overwhelming. Both Barea and Wang highly encourage parents to drop in on a trial class, if offered, before committing. If you have a younger child, Barea recommends finding a studio with “age appropriate classes, one where the teacher has a good understanding of where they are at in age appropriate yoga delivery.” Some studios offer classes that incorporate games into their practice to create a playful environment that helps keep children engaged.

What if my child thinks that yoga isn’t active enough?

Some children believe that they will not enjoy yoga and meditation because they picture traditional adult classes. One tip is to look for classes that are adjusted for a younger audience. Some studios integrate art and games into their sessions. Barea uses ice breakers and encourages children to share stories about their lives to “keep kids engaged and connected with their peers”. This builds a community and a sense of belonging that make classes fun.

What kids get the most benefit from yoga?

As with any sport or activity, always try it out before you can determine if it is a good fit. If you see that your child might have a bit too much energy or has trouble focusing, they might benefit from frequent meditation. Both instructors have noticed that children who are dealing with anxiety are getting more recommendations to yoga classes from their teachers and counselors. Barea notices another trend among the children who attend her classes. They are often kids who “don’t feel like they have found a sense of belonging in their school environment”. Unlike other activities and sports, there is no sense of performance-based competition and no pressure to accelerate at a certain pace. Everyone improves at their own pace with the shared goal of relaxation and connecting with their inner selves.

Tips for practicing yoga at home

If you wish to further your bond with your child or have scheduling constraints – here are some tips from the instructors on how to practice yoga at home!

    • Preschool / Early Elementary – Young children love to mirror adults. If you, the parent, practice yoga in your home, invite your child to join you. Focus on breath regulation and keep it short as younger children have a shorter attention span. You don’t have to be a yogi! Even the simplest poses can have a powerful impact.
    • Elementary / Middle – Children in elementary or middle school are more independent and might rather do their own meditation. Barea suggests that parents can help their child “identify the spaces where they are feeling overwhelmed and encourage them to use a yoga related skill to calm down”. Wang also recommends practicing deep breathing and thankfulness at home.
  • Middle / Highschool  – Older kids and teens can benefit from having their own personal yoga mat. Even if they do not get the chance to practice yoga frequently, the mat can serve as a reminder that there is an option for an outlet for their emotions.

Find Yoga Camps & Classes Near You

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Math Mindfulness Yoga

Expert Tips to Ease the Back-to-School Transition ~






Don’t just muddle through the first weeks of school. Use these clever strategies from after-school teachers to help kids (and you) hit the ground running!

By Laura Quaglio

back to school

The first weeks of school loom with equal parts excitement and trepidation. Even though it’s a relief to return to the predictability of the school calendar, it’s tough not to dread the free-form anxiety that can accompany any type of change. Did you get the right binders? Will they have friends in their class? Will they like their teachers … will you? And how exactly did you manage to cram homework, after school activities (even their favorites), bathtime, and books into an evening with an earlier bedtime? Until the rhythm of the new school year is firmly established, you’ve got a recipe for general crankiness at home. It’s understandable. Expected, even. But does it have to be this way? Maybe a little. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make the switch more smoothly.

“Any time you start a new routine or transition to something new, it can bring up fear, anxiety, worry … whatever word you want to use,” says Michelle Wing, founder of the San Francisco studio It’s Yoga, Kids, located in the Presidio. “This happens for kids especially, but also for parents.”

After school program directors like Michelle have some unique insights into helping kids switch gears, adjust to newness, and cultivate a positive attitude. That’s why we asked her to offer some advice on using the ancient practices of yoga and mindfulness to help kids gear up for school, settle down at bedtime, and generally de-stress. We also talked to Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU, about her ideas for rekindling kids’ enthusiasm for learning and their excitement for the activities (after school and otherwise) that will make their coming year great.

Find after school classes near you >>

Back-to-School Tip #1: Use Yoga to Settle Body and Mind

“Yoga engages your brain, your body, and your heart,” says Michelle. That’s why it’s particularly useful in helping people deal with strong emotions and stressful thoughts. Here are a few ways she suggests using it to ease the transition to back to school.

To settle down before bed: Aerobic exercise helps burn off excess energy when kids are having difficulty calming down and falling asleep. Michelle suggests Yoga Jacks (jumping from the Mountain Pose to the Star Pose quickly, like jumping jacks). Have kids do 10 at a time until they’re tired.

Another of her favorites is Mountain Climbers (hands on floor and “running” by alternating knees to chest). Michelle follows these mini aerobic sessions with some peaceful reading time before lights-out.

To relieve stress: Breathing-based exercises are a good fit here. First, spend some time in the Astronaut Pose (lay on floor with legs up the wall and hands on belly, noticing the belly rise and fall with each breath). Just 5 minutes or so may be enough to help them relax.

Also teach kids the Lion’s Breath. This means taking a big, huge inhalation while making the eyes really big, then exhaling fiercely while sticking out the tongue to the chin (resembling a panting dog). Repeat 3 times.

To wake up in the morning: To wake up in the morning: Before getting out of bed, parents can try Body Drumming, in which they tap every part of the child’s body, from the toes to the top of the head, to wake up the body and mind.

Next, they can take a Giant Breath, laying on the back with arms extended overhead, stretching the body from fingers to toes, as though you’re trying to touch opposite walls. Wiggle the fingers and toes, then roll to the side and place the feet on the floor to stand up. Then go brush those teeth!

Find kids’ yoga classes near you >>

Back-to-School Tip #2: Rekindle Kids’ Excitement for School

Emily McCullough, director at San Francisco Math Circle at CSME at SFSU says that the best way to prepare kids to “get back in the game” of learning is to engage their emotions. “Get them excited about the social aspects of learning,” she suggests. When school is in session, they’ll be able to reconnect with friends they didn’t see much in summer, and they can return to fall sports or after school programs that didn’t make it into their summer plans. “Getting kids excited about attending fun after school programs will likely make the back-to-school transition easier,” she says. Ask them what they’re looking forward to in the coming months – or what new activities they hope to try in autumn.

Also reminisce about academic successes from their previous grades. “Remind your students of the fun they had working hard and being challenged,” says Emily. Did they have a History Day project they were proud of? Maybe they created a fun music video about the water cycle for their science class. Think, too, about the upcoming school subjects that might pique their interest. If they love spatial activities like building or drawing, for instance, an upcoming year of geometry may be something to look forward to.

Back-to-School Tip #3: Start Hitting the Books — Informally

To get kids’ intellectual juices flowing, pay a visit to the library or bookstore. “Check out the books on math games and puzzles,” suggests Emily. Or books with fun and innovative approaches to whatever subjects they enjoy.

Don’t worry too much about workbooks or textbook review right now, she adds. “The procedural fluency and conceptual understanding will naturally come back with practice, and they will get plenty of that when they return to school,” explains Emily. “It’s excitement and interest that we need to cultivate.”

happy girl going back to school
Copyright: maximkabb / 123RF Stock Photo

Back-to-School Tip #4: Look into Enrichment Programs

If your student can’t get enough of math or enjoys playing with numbers, puzzles, and patterns in their free time, they might enjoy a program like the “math outreach and enrichment program” offered at San Francisco Math Circle. “We provide rich mathematical content in an engaging context, as well as much encouragement,” says Emily. “The students must bring the rest — energy, interest, and an openness to try new things.”

She adds that an enrichment program might be a great fit for students who once enjoyed a particular subject but now seem bored or frustrated by it. Maybe they aren’t challenged enough at school, or perhaps they had a negative experience in that subject with a particular teacher. You may be able to reignite your student’s love of an “old favorite” subject matter through after school enrichment.

See a list of after school activities near you >>

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Mindfulness Yoga

Tired of Yelling at Your Kids? Mindfulness Tips for Families






Our kids sure can push our buttons! Here, a mom and mindfulness expert offers a 5-step strategy to break the cycle of scolding and find family peace.

By Laura Quaglio

“Mindfulness isn’t really for times when everyone’s happy. It’s a tool for dealing with breakdown,” says Michelle Wing, founder of the San Francisco studio It’s Yoga, Kids, located in the Presidio. “It allows us to push the pause button.” When something stressful happens, Michelle offers these steps: Stop! Breathe. Think. Choose love. Act.

Maybe your child just whacked her little brother because he had her toy. Or perhaps the kids are wrangling over the last cookie or control of the remote. When you feel that tension building up in your body, put Michelle’s steps into practice using the guidelines below. This process is just as useful kids as it is for adults, so teach it to your children, too!

1. Stop!

Ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now?” Pay attention to how stress is affecting you physically. Is it making your shoulders hunch and tighten? Your brow furrow? Your heart “squeeze”? Awareness is the first step in dealing with a tough situation in a mindful way, rather than falling victim to responding with a knee-jerk reaction.

2. Breathe.

Take deep breaths, focusing on exhaling forcefully. “I mean really, really big, exaggerated breaths. It takes three breaths — a full 15 minutes – for cortisol [a stress hormone] to settle down in the body,” says Michelle. Fun fact: This is why the British make tea when they’re facing a tense situation, says Michelle. Preparing tea “properly” takes 15 minutes, she explains, which gives everyone time to calm down.

3. Think.

“Accept the current situation without judgment,” says Michelle. It’s like being a reporter. You might say, “You hit your little brother because he had your toy and you feel angry.” If you did yell, you might add, “And I yelled at you, and that didn’t feel good, did it?” We need to state the facts about what just happened so we don’t let our brains trick us into thinking that “didn’t just happen,” she says. “We want to tell ourselves, ‘Oh, she didn’t really hit her brother on purpose.’ But she did, and now we have to deal with it and figure out why.”

4. Choose love.

Michelle says that this is not the time to admonish. “Every outburst and every stressful moment is deeply rooted in fear,” she asserts. “If you choose love, it will make your next actions more beneficial.” When our kids do something “wrong,” we often know why. More likely than not, it’s because one child feels like they’re not getting enough attention. Or they’re competing for resources like food or a toy. Think about the times that we, as adults, do something that’s not particularly nice, such as when we snap at our spouse. It’s not because we’re bad people, and neither are our kids. We’re just not getting something that we need, and it’s making us scared and upset.

5. Act.

Keeping step 4 in mind, decide what to do next. If a child did something wrong, reinforce the rule. We don’t hit. Hitting is not okay. Then ask: What is it you need? Or: Do you need a hug? Remind your child that if they need a hug or they want their toy back, they can just ask for it. Also try to handle future situations differently. Maybe you will tell your older child that you’ll always be sure to hug her before you pick up the baby. Or maybe you will ask your older child to help you give the baby a big hug. The more loved a child feels, the more secure they will be and the less they will act out in the future.

What if you’re the one who needs a little forgiving? Treat yourself with love, too, and try to figure out what it is that your inner, fearful child needs. Then ask for it. The more you feel loved, the happier you will be too.

Find “Mindful” Activities for Your Kids

Yoga classes offer plenty of additional benefits to mind, body, and soul. To find local after school yoga instruction for your children, visit ActivityHero.

Find kids’ yoga classes near you >>

It's Yoga, Kids
photo credit – ActivityHero provider: It’s Yoga, Kids