In one of my first preschool teaching jobs, we kept a zipped canvas tote bag in the circle area. We called it “the surprise bag,” and we kept it stocked with books and symbols of songs and games (a frog for one song, a pinwheel for a favorite game) that were “sure things” with the kids in our room. On days when our lesson plans weren’t catching the kids’ attention or snack was late and we had a low-blood-sugar uprising on our hands, we’d take out the surprise bag and draw everyone back in to a more focused, happy place with a crowd-pleasing story or activity.
I would definitely have put this book, Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas, in the surprise bag. I tried it out with a few groups of kids this week, and it was a big hit across the board. The fact that it encourages kids to move in a silly way, do “face yoga,” and even includes some intentional breathing (kids pretend to blow out a pretend bug that has landed in their mouth, which is a great opportunity to remind them about deeeeep breaths in and loooooong breaths out!) makes it a perfect fit for a children’s yoga class.
In my opinion, the very best “sure thing” activities end with the kids in a quieter state than when they started. So, my only disappointment is that the last page of the book, while funny, leaves the kids in a keyed-up state, making silly, scary faces to chase away a bug and a giant frog.
(Also, some tender-hearted sweeties in one class wanted to tell the bug that they weren’t really scary and that it was okay to come back – awwww!)
One way to transition the kids into a quieter place is to immediately move into a round of “Yogi says” with the main postures used being: bug (bug on its back = happy baby pose), frog (prayer squat), savasana when the book ends. That helps kids focus back on the teacher’s words and siphons off some more energy. During one of the savasanas, you can quietly transition the kids to the next activity.
Have fun with this one!