A question we often receive from instructors is “can I run children’s Pilates classes?” Studio Pilates graduates are definitely able to instruct Pilates to children, however we don’t recommend instructing children under the age of 10 for Matwork Pilates classes unless you are an Allied Health professional.
When instructing children, there are a number of factors you should consider with this type of class. Here’s our 10 things that you need to know before teaching Pilates to children!
1. Children Tend to Have Much Shorter Concentration Spans Than Adults
It can be challenging to keep the attention of young children for an entire hour’s workout! Consider running 1/2 hour or 45 minute classes so that you don’t lose the concentration of your mini Pilates aficionados!
2. Make the Classes Fun
When instructing children, you need to bring the fun! One way you can do this is to give the exercises fun or silly names. For example, Los Angeles based Pilates instructor, Kim Carruthers renames the Roll Down Stretch to “Elephant with a Trunk” (Pilates-pro.com, 2018). In particular, Carruthers has found that children’s attention is captivated by exercises named after animals. So get creative with names, especially if they’re animal based!
3. Be Prepared to Program Your Classes Differently
If possible, offer kid only classes rather than incorporating children into adult classes. For children, you tend to avoid the basic muscle activation exercises (Side Lying Buttock Series, Glute Squeeze Supine, Lower Trap Activation etc). Children can perform these exercises, however they tend to be a bit more boring and children can find the mind to muscle component challenging.
Instead, multi-joint exercises tend to work better for children (compared to single-joint exercises), as children generally have greater joint flexibility than adults. Some children also have joint hypermobility, making it especially important for them to focus on increasing their core strength and posture.
4. Incorporate Visual Imagery to Stimulate Children’s Imagination
Encouraging children to visualise key cues – including their breathing, alignment and core strength – can help children to perform exercises with better technique and stop them from getting bored easily.
Pilates and dance expert Larkin Barnett describes visual imagery as the following, “Visualisation involves the thought or what you ‘see’ in the mind’s eye. Imagery involves the body or what you ‘feel’ with your senses. Children learn how to tap into their imagination using fun, anatomy-based visual imagery cues…. Tap into the rich imagination of children.” (Pilates.com, 2018)
So encourage children to feel their tummy/leg/arm muscles working and explain what this feels like.
If a child is performing an exercise like “Pelvic Curl”, get them to imagine that their spine is like a strand of pearls and you want them to slowly lift each pearl off the mat, one at a time, till they curl all the way up into the bridge position.
If a child is performing Crab Walking with the Band, get them to imagine that they are little crabs shuffling along on the beach (they can even put their hands out to immitate crab claws!)
If a child is performing “Hug a Tree” on the reformer, get them to imagine that they are giving their mum or dad a big hug and then letting them go.
5. Matwork vs Equipment Pilates for Children
Matwork classes tend to work best for children as they cannot fall off equipment or get fingers stuck in equipment (like springs).
To perform reformer Pilates, children need to be tall enough to lie on the reformer properly ie. when lying with the shoulders up against the shoulder rest, the child’s feet should be able to rest on the footbar.
6. Keep Class Numbers Small
When teaching children,small classes are best (usually not more than 10 children per class). This is to ensure that each child gets individual attention and their technique corrected frequently to ensure safety.
7. Simplify Your Pilates Language
While you still want to teach children about the Pilates Basics, avoiding terms like “T-Zone” can be helpful. Instead, talk to children in easier to understand language such as “draw your belly button in.” Instead of saying “Quads” say “the front of the thigh.”
8. Revise Your State’s Working with Children Guidelines
The requirements for working with children differs from state to state, so it is important to revise the guidelines for the state you are working in. For a summary of these guidelines, see the Fitness Australia website. For example, most states require you to have a Blue Card when working with children.
9. Check with Your Employer to See if They Have Any Additional Working with Children Guidelines
In addition to ensuring that you meet your state’s guidelines for working with children, you should also confirm with your employer whether they have any additional requirements when working with children.
10. Check Your Insurance
Contact your professional indemnity insurance provider to ensure that you are covered to instruct children. Children are often considered a “high risk” demographic and as such, you may wish to chat to your insurance provider to see if they recommend increasing your cover while teaching children.
Matwork Exercises to Try for Children
- Breastroke Arms
- Breastroke Legs
- Freestyle Arms
- Freestyle Legs
- Tricep Circles
- Push Ups
- Pelvic Curl
- Kneeling Sidekick
- All stretches
Fitness.org.au. (2018). Working with Children Check. [online] Available at: https://fitness.org.au/articles/policies-guidelines/working-with-children-check/4/74/20 [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
Pilates.com. (2018). Pilates Programming : Kids Just Want to Have Fun! : Spring 2014 – Balanced Body. [online] Available at: https://www.pilates.com/BBAPP/V/pilates/library/COREterly/2014/spring/pilates-programming.html [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].
Pilates-pro.com. (2018). 6 Tips for Teaching Pilates to Kids and Teens – Pilates Pro – Pilates-Pro.com: The Pulse of the Pilates Industry. [online] Available at: http://pilates-pro.com/pilates-pro/2008/5/13/6-tips-for-teaching-pilates-to-kids-and-teens.html [Accessed 26 Feb. 2018].