Try to do fish pose (if possible) along with your child, because:
Children learn a great deal from watching and copying
As you move with your child you nurture the close bond between you both
It gives you a chance to have a stretch!
Do look after your body – if anything hurts do stop. If you are not sure whether Fish pose is suitable for you – consult a health professional.
How to do fish pose
Find a non-slip mat, or an area of carpet, where you can do the pose with your child.
Make sure you both have enough room to avoid bumps and knocks. Take off your socks and shoes. It’s far better to do fish pose with bare feet.
To set the scene you may wish to spread out a strip of blue fabric on a non-slip surface in front of you – this is the river for you to roll down! Your piece of fabric should not be too long, just enough for a couple of rolls.
Guide your child to lie down at one end of the fabric, with their body straight against the edge. Once they are straight, encourage them to roll down the fabric, like a fish rolling in the river!
If your child finds it hard to start rolling, gently help them by guiding their feet to cross over each other in the direction of the roll.
Your child can also try rolling with you or a friend. They may find it easier to roll with someone else. Lie down alongside each other, decide which way to roll, then roll down the fabric side by side.
Don’t allow your child to roll for too long, as this can lead to them becoming over-stimulated and finding it difficult to calm down.
Young children may find it hard to roll in a straight line due to a variety of reasons, including:
lack of practice
difficulty with planning the rolling movement
interference from their ‘baby’ reflexes (primitive reflexes)
their mature ‘postural’ reactions (balance system) not yet being fully developed
muscles on one side of their body being slightly more active than the other side
easily becoming dizzy due to their vestibular sensory system being either over or under active
Usually with practice, children quickly get the idea of rolling in a fairly straight line. If your child is older (4-5 years) and they are rolling very crookedly and you are concerned with other aspects of their development, speak with your health visitor or GP.
The benefits of fish pose
1. Refine and stimulate the vestibular sense
Just as our hearing sense tells us about sounds around us, our vestibular sense tells us:
Which way we up we are – are we upside down or the right way up?
Where our head is in relation to our body and the ground
Whether we are still or moving and which direction we are going.
Young children instinctively know what movements their bodies need to develop healthily. Because a refined vestibular system is so important for the development of the mind and body, young children tend to enjoy spinning, jumping and swinging activities. All of these stimulate their vestibular sense. However, it is best to guide your child to do these activities for a just short time, as doing spinning, jumping games for too long can result in over-excitement.
Vestibular activities help your child to:
Refine co-ordination and balance skills As your child grows, and changes their body shape, it’s important they build an accurate ‘body map’ in their mind – their body schema. This mental map tells your child how their body parts relate to one another and work together. A refined body map gives your child a deep inner body confidence – enabling them to tackle a wide range of tasks in different situations.
Manage their ‘levels of alertness’ The vestibular sense, in some ways, is the ‘volume control’ for our body. Activities which strongly stimulate the vestibular system (jumping, spinning, swinging) will make your child feel more alert. Whilst activities which do not stimulate the vestibular system – or only gently so e.g. rocking slowly or just lying still, will help your child to calm down. As your child rolls in fish pose they will not only be refining co-ordination skills they will also be gently alerting themselves. Hence fish pose makes a great ‘movement break’.
2. Increased awareness of the ‘midline’
As your child rolls in fish pose they will have to cross the ‘midline’ of their body again and again. If your child is more aware of their midline – they will be able to do more complex activities such as dressing quickly or writing more easily.
3. Strengthen tummy & spinal muscles
As your child rolls from their back, onto their front, they will be largely using their tummy muscles. As your child move from their tummy, onto their back, they will be largely using their back muscles. Consequently, rolling encourages your child to work their tummy and back muscles alternatively in quick succession. This builds up great co-ordination between these two main muscle groups which is important for your child’s overall stability and balance.
4. Develop balance reactions
Each time your child moves, they develop mature balance reactions. These are sometimes known as ‘postural reactions’ and keep us safely up against gravity. They are ‘automatic’ responses similar to reflexes. Rolling in fish pose is a great way to develop these postural reactions.
A more challenging fish pose
If your child is confident in fish pose they can try rolling opposite you, or a friend. In this activity your child will be rolling with their arms above their head, this is harder to do.
Lie down opposite your child so you are facing each other.
Wriggle away from each other so you can both put your arms above your heads but keep your finger-tips touching.
Decide which direction you are going to roll in, then see if you can roll together – keeping your finger-tips touching. (Rolling with arms above your head is harder to do)
Alternatively your child can roll with a group of friends to be a ‘conveyor belt’. For this game everyone lies down, shoulder to shoulder as before, place a soft toy on a child lying at one end, then the group has to pass the toy down the line just by rolling- no hands allowed!
Rolling as a pair or in a group helps to slow the roll. It’s also a great bonding & teamwork activity.
A less challenging fish pose
If your child is younger (under 2 years) they may enjoy rolling down your legs!
Find a comfortable place to sit – either on a mat or a clear piece of carpet. You may find it comfortable to sit up against a wall – so your back is more supported. Be careful to protect your back whilst you are doing this activity with your child.
Stretch your legs out in front of you.
Then guide your child to lie across your thighs. Encourage them to keep their arms by their sides and make sure their head is ‘free
Start the pose by rocking your child gently side to side- so they get the idea.
Then, if you both feel comfortable, gently guide your child to roll down your legs and back towards to you. Support and guide your child at their hips and shoulders as they roll. Be careful to protect your back whilst you are doing this activity with your child.
Another fish pose adaptation
This adaptation of fish pose is alternatively called the sausage roll pose and is a great way to encourage your child to roll!
How to do sausage roll pose:
Settle on the floor with your child on either a yoga mat or a folded blanket or sheet.
You may have to roll yourself up in the mat/blanket first so your child gains confidence. They will, no doubt, love to roll you up themselves!
Giving your child plenty of reassurance, lay them on the mat/blanket so their head is clear.
Ideally your child should have their arms tucked inside, as this gives them a greater sensory experience. However, they will probably prefer to have their arms free as well, so that they feel more in control!
Then gently and slowly (so they can experience the rolling movement), start to roll your child up in the mat/blanket, checking all the time to make sure they are happy.
Once they are completely rolled up, ask them what they would like on their sausage roll? Ketchup? Firmly but gently stroke down your toddlers sides so they feel a gentle squeeeeeze! Pickle? Firmly but gently pat down your toddler’s body so they feel the pressure of your hands moving down their body through the mat!
Then gently and slowly unroll your child, so they have a chance to experience the rolling movement the other way.
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