We had the wonderful opportunity to interview Jamaica Stevens, founder and executive director of JAMaROO Kids. JAMaROO Kids “specializes in developmentally appropriate dance, music, art, and yoga for young children” in child care and school settings. The program actively promotes creativity and movement by offering educational activities through on-site classes, trainings, YouTube videos, and children’s books. So let’s take a dive and learn about the importance of yoga, dance, and movement for children.
What made you get started with JAMaROO Kids?
I was a preschool teacher for 7.5 years and had a background in dance, music and theatre. In 2004 I decided to leave my position teaching to create and teach developmentally appropriate enrichment classes for young children full-time. Now we have a team of educators that work with 150 different schools, childcare and community venues.
What sort of activities/products/programs does JAMaROO Kids offer?
We provide weekly dance, music and yoga classes to schools and community venues. We also have a free YouTube channel we developed for children, families and educators where we upload new content twice a week. This fall we’ll be launching our new online teacher training program to help teachers better integrate dance, music and yoga into their daily curriculum. In addition, we partner with Barefoot Books, a children’s publishing company that specializes in diverse books and products for young children. Through this partnership we use their products in our classes, sell them on our site and pass on teacher discounts to educators in the community.
“Children of this generation live in a fast-paced world often surrounded by stress and anxiety. Yoga can help counter these pressures and teach children how to be present and relax.”
What does JAMaROO Kids promote?
Dance uplifts, unites, and empowers children. Dance provides children with an opportunity to express their individuality while developing gross motor and fine motor skills. Through our dance activities we will also help children develop their cognitive and social skills. Dance serves as a great form of exercise and can help young children start to understand musicality. It provides them with an opportunity to work on developing coordination, balance, flexibility, strength and spatial awareness. It serves as a wonderful tool for improving gross motor skills, cognitive and social development. Dance and movement activities are one of the best ways for young children to develop body awareness and can also build their self-confidence. Many dance and movement activities help children develop bilateral coordination and master crossing the centerline. Through dance we as educators can expose children to cultures form around the world and help them have an appreciation for world music.
Yoga is a fun, healthy, education, and challenging yet a non-competitive activity that children love. Yoga serves as a great way for children to build concentration, focus and coordination. Children of this generation live in a fast-paced world often surrounded by stress and anxiety. Yoga can help counter these pressures and teach children how to be present and relax. Many yoga practices can also help children become more mindful and grateful. It can often boost a child’s self-esteem and confidence. Yoga is a lifelong skill that children can take with them as they face different challenges in their life. Yoga also can be a great form of exercise. It is one of the best ways to build flexibility and balance which in turn can help children thrive in many sports as well as reduce the chance of injury. Through practicing yoga children can often build patience not only with others, but with themselves and better understand how their body works.
What would you recommend to a child care provider who wants to implement dance, yoga, mindfulness, etc. into their child care program?
I think the most important thing is not to feel intimidated if you haven’t ever done yoga or dance before – there are so many resources available online, like our YouTube channel, and many of these resources are free. You may have to test out different activities to find what works best in your center. Remember every group of children is different so what works with one group of children may not with another. Try not to get discouraged if what you have planned doesn’t work out, and try something different. Remember to have fun!
There are also lots of products now on the market to help teachers and parents lead yoga and mindful activities in the classroom. We well some of these on our site but educators and caregivers can find products like this many places. Having a product like a set of yoga activity cards or a book can help a provider feel more confident trying something for the first time with their students.
“When we create curriculum we are always looking at ways to maximize the educational experience for the children and provide them with different ways of learning.”
What type of enrichment activities should child care providers implement into their homes and centers to promote activity and movement?
I think music, yoga, dance, art and cooking are all very important enrichment activities for young children. In part because each of these activities provide children with different ways of learning and, as we know, all children and adults learn differently. Through these activities an educator can integrate math, science, early literacy, fine and gross motor development. When we create curriculum we are always looking at ways to maximize the educational experience for the children and provide them with different ways of learning. I have also found that through working in small groups with my students doing these types of enrichment activities, there are plenty of opportunities to help children better understand their peers, practice empathy and foster social and emotional development.
What are the most popular classes JAMaROO Kids has to offer?
Music & Movement tends to be our most popular class, but Yoga has continued to become more and more popular each year as parents and educators learn about the benefits it can offer young children.
Have you observed (or do you have a success story of) a transformation in a child that participated in daily yoga, dance, and movement classes in a child care setting?
Over the years I have had the opportunity to witness many transformations that children have made through attending weekly dance, music or yoga classes. I think the most common is an increase in self-confidence. I have also seen children that were struggling with gross motor development increase their balance and coordination tremendously.
“I would recommend finding simple ways to incorporate yoga or dance into your daily routine at home. Doing a couple yoga poses before bedtime or in the morning after brushing your teeth is a great way to integrate these activities into your daily life and reinforce healthy habits.”
How can parents incorporate yoga, dance, and movement activities at home (outside of child care)?
If you cannot find a yoga or dance class near you, I would take advantage of all the free resources online. YouTube is a great, free resource along with your local public library. Many counties have a Children Council that also provides free resources for parents, caretakers and educators.
I would recommend finding simple ways to incorporate yoga or dance into your daily routine at home. Doing a couple yoga poses before bedtime or in the morning after brushing your teeth is a great way to integrate these activities into your daily life and reinforce healthy habits. Dinner time is a great place for discussions about mindfulness and being grateful and breakfast is a great time to set intentions for the day. These are tiny little habits that can really help a child grow into a positive, mindful adult.
If you are ready to get started with some of these movement and creativity activities for children, check out JAMaROO Kids! You will be provided with resources to implement this idea into your own child care program. We encourage you to take a moment to add movement into your day today!