Arrgh Matey…. Pirate-Themed Kids Yoga Lesson Plan Ideas & Adapted Yoga

Arrgh Matey…. looking for activities to keep the Monkey Mind Pirates off your ship this summer? Activities that can be adapted for a wide range of ages, needs & abilities? Follow this OMazing Kids treasure map to find the Isle of Calm and a summer filled with pirate-themed yoga, affirmations, relaxation, crafts & more!

Week 1 of Camp ClapHans at the JD McCarty Center primarily had kids with ADHD. After reading through the campers registration forms, I knew that my usual “storybook” approach to yoga would not be the best choice for the older group of boys at camp that week. So I jumped out of my comfort zone & planned some freestyle yoga storytelling with a little structure based on the Monkey Mind Pirates workbook & CD. As I was setting up, I overheard the boys commenting “yoga is for girls”, “I don’t like yoga”, “Do we have to?”. Fearing a mutiny, I calmed & centered myself with yoga breathing & listening to a few tunes from my playlist as I continued setting up. When I set out the Hoberman Sphere & the Vibratone, two of the boys were drawn like moths to a flame. {Ahhhh….. the magic of yoga props!}. Before I knew it, the rest of the boys were seated on mats intrigued by what we were going to do.

To set the stage for our yoga adventure, I played “Welcome Aboard” by Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate and read this script from the Monkey Mind Pirates in my best “piratey” voice:

We went over the “rules of the ship” with this visual support….. we didn’t want anyone to fall out of the ship or have to walk the plank….. Arrgh!

I also used a visual support to show the kids that we would be breathing through our noses (like smelling a flower) and blowing our breath out through our mouth (like blowing out a candle).

We rolled up our treasure maps…… the key to making this a pleasant experience is to ALWAYS ask permission first. Ask who wants to be rolled up. Most kids love this & it is very calming to them. But some kids are fearful of trying it. In this class, I had two boys who were hesitant to try it. One ended up asking to do it after he saw the others enjoying it. One sat and watched. He kept a look out for Monkey Mind Pirates as the rest rolled up in the maps. By honoring his choice to not be “rolled”, it opened up the door for him to feel comfortable participating in most of the activities later in the class.

wrapped up like a map during yoga

The kids were in charge of how long they wanted to stay rolled up & if they wanted to repeat the activity.

wrapped up like a map for yoga and storytelling

Doing a breathing activity from Monkey Mind Pirates…..

This boy initially insisted he was NOT going to do yoga! He didn’t even want to sit on a mat……. but after a few minutes of watching from afar look who got on the pirate ship and ended up LOVING yoga. In fact, staff reported that later in the week he was one of the ones using the 3 strategies we learned to ward off Monkey Mind Pirates as a means to self-regulate. A great example of how yoga is so much more than just having fun in that moment…… it’s also about helping kids discover tools they can use to feel calm and empowered every day 🙂

Monkey Mind Pirates wanted posters

Activities & poses on our Monkey Mind Pirates adventure: rolled up treasure maps, Gyan Mudra spyglass, seated twist to look for Monkey Mind Pirates (Sir Winston, Ansel the Antsy & Lady Bronte. I made a “wanted” poster for each Monkey Mind Pirate so they would know what we were looking for. The Monkey Mind Pirates CD comes with some trading card sized pictures but these were too small to see in a group setting. One of the campers asked if the Monkey Mind Pirates were puppets….. gotta love a child with Aspergers Syndrome’s ability to immediately infer that from the wanted poster pictures! I explained that the real Monkey Mind Pirate puppets were sailing elsewhere but we never knew when they might appear. Fortunately he bought my story… or at least humored me and we kept going with our adventure), raise the sail (triangle pose), pirate flag waving in the ocean breeze (crescent moon), setting sail on our pirate ship in search of the treasure in the “Waters of Calm” (boat), sun shining down (breathing activity pictured above), laugher yoga (the tip for taming Winston), breathing (the tip for taming Ansel the Antsy. I added the Hoberman Sphere), 1-2-3 counting breath + mindful listening (the tip for taming Lady Bronte) {we practiced each of the 3 taming tips several times as we sailed. They knew to look out for a Monkey Mind Pirate when I sounded the Vibratone & held up one of the wanted posters. Made my heart smile to see how quickly they remembered & did the tip for each one}, X marks the spot (star), digging for treasure (woodchopper), treasure chest (seated forward fold), gyan mudra gold doubloons, guided relaxation (using the Relaxing on the Beach mp3 from Relax Kids). At first the boys were a little wiggly but they quickly calmed and a couple almost fell asleep. Remember, this was a group of boys with ADHD who rarely experience that level of “calm”. The calmness was so noticeable that the Camp ClapHans assistants asked if I could come do yoga with the boys every night! I reassured them that they had learned the 3 tips for taming Monkey Mind Pirates along with the boys and that they could use the strategies with them throughout the day & night 🙂 Ahhhh…. yes mateys that is the true treasure found in the “Waters of Calm”.

The girls group in Week 1 went on a beach-themed yoga adventure with “Ladybug Girl at the Beach”. I chose NOT to do a “pirate” class with this group since I knew one of the participants very well after having worked with her in outpatient speech-language therapy. This particular child has a VERY difficult time distinguishing between reality and imagination and would often assume alternate personalities. So I was pretty sure the pirate theme might trigger some swashbuckling aggressive behaviors in her. I also did NOT pass any props (Hoberman Sphere & Vibratone) in this class since this particular child has a history of damaging things. Of course the girls group had no idea that I had chosen a different theme for that reason and LOVED the adventures of Ladybug Girl. (I’ll be including yoga ideas for that book in a summer-themed post soon). The reason I share this is to remind folks that knowing info about kids before doing lesson planning will help guide you in making good choices in customizing a class to best match those kids’ needs.

Ladybug Girl looking out at the big waves in the ocean through the Gyan Mudra binoculars (FYI…. this is not the child I was describing above. She was one of the other campers. It made my heart smile to see how well she already knew how to do yoga! When she saw the seagull in the book she spontaneously went into Pigeon Pose….. one that I have a difficult time getting into myself.)

Week 2 of Camp ClapHans primarily had kids with physical disabilities. Because I had reviewed camp registration forms & knew several of the kids from seeing them as outpatients as JDMC, I chose a book that would lend itself well to these kids developmental levels, interests & physical needs. I played “The Porpoises and the Pirate Ship” by Brent Holmes & “Welcome Aboard” by Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate as I set up for the group to set the scene. We still did a pirate theme. But this time it was all with seated poses with the book “There Was An Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish” by Jennifer Ward. The kids chose whether they wanted to stay in their wheelchair or get down on a mat with a camp assistant to support them.

{Note for SLP’s: The repeated & cumulative lines, big vivid illustrations & humorous descriptive vocabulary has made “There Was An Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish” a new “fave” to use in speech-language therapy! I scanned the pirate & cut out his lower teeth to make room to “feed” him & made story props for each item he swallows in the story. These are also great to use for receptive & expressive language, sequencing & story retelling. For kids yoga, I wrote pose ideas on the back of each one with a fine-tipped permanent marker after I laminated them. The prop on the far right is for the repeated line “Yo Ho Ho! Watch his belly grow!”. It’s great to attach to a BigMack or other single message voice output communication aide (VOCA) for kids with minimal verbal skills to be able to participate in “reading” the repeating line. Get the free printable story props in this PDF: There Was An Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish story props}

{Update: 7/4/13: The illustrator, Steve Gray, generously posted a couple of illustrations on my Facebook page to use as coloring sheets after the author contacted him:

There Was An Old Pirate Who Swallowed a Fish – coloring sheets

Ok on to what we did in yoga…. This child is doing the pose for the pirate ship mast (a seated version of mountain pose with hands up and together for a tall, straight mast). It made my heart smile to see him using his iPad to tell his outpatient PT at JDMC that he wanted to go back to camp this week 🙂

It’s fine to take a rest on the pirate ship…….

Blimey but that fish was slimey!

Adapted activities & poses specifically chosen for this group of kids (all were done while kids were seated in whatever position was comfortable for them): ocean breath, gyan mudra spyglass, pirate (“Arrgh” breath + moving fist across midline on each side), fish (clasped hands together at midline & wiggled them in a modified sign for “fish”), blimey that fish was slimey (palming to wipe off the fish slime), “yo ho ho watch his belly grow” belly breathing w/ Hoberman Sphere (this is a repeated line at the end of each page), bird (stretch arms behind like wings), treasure map (roll arms around each other forwards & then back), gyan mudra gold doubloons, treasure chest (seated forward fold), plank (seated cross crawl, foot stomping or patting on legs as “footsteps” depending on that child’s ability to move their lower extremities), sail (seated side bends as a modified version of triangle), mast (a seated version of mountain pose with hands up and together for a tall, straight mast), pirate ship (boat with lots of support from that child’s camp assistant. The two boys in wheelchairs had a recline feature on their chair so they were able to participate). Because all the poses were done seated, they flowed easily as we repeated them through the cumulative story. I paused at key times to see what the kids would remember……. so fun the see their delight at remembering the word + pose. At the end of the book we sank to the bottom of the deep blue sea like the pirate in the book with a guided relaxation (using the Under the Sea story from the Imaginations: Fun Relaxation Stories and Meditations for Kids book with the Pirate Ship sound from the Relaxing Sounds Of Nature Lite free app (gentle sounds of a pirate ship creaking, waves & seagulls) and a weighted fish toy to ride on the waves of each child’s breath). After relaxation we listened to the song “Seven C’s” by Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate and talked about the “courage” it took for them to come to camp and try so many new things (if you haven’t heard this song yet you should….. a really cool way to incorporate some yamas/niyamas into a pirate themed class! “there’s COURTESY, COMPASSION and a bit of COURAGE too. With CLEANLINESS and CLEVENESS they’re good for me and you. Plus CHEERFULNESS and CHARITY now that makes Seven C’s.…”). We used a gold doubloon & treasure chest prop to talk about treasures inside each of us. As each child said or signed what they were good at or liked about themselves, they added a gold doubloon to the treasure chest. I left an “I’m more precious than gold coin affirmation” page with the camp assistants to offer to the kids during their journaling time later that day so they could write or draw additional things about themselves and their new camp friends.

These were just 30-minute classes so we didn’t have time to do a pirate-themed craft. But I found several online that would be fun to do. See this printable for the coins & treasure chest we used plus more fun ideas: Pirate coin affirmation printables, crafts, activities & coloring pages

Piratey Playlist:

  • Rockin’ Ron the Friendly Pirate CD
  • Monkey Mind Pirates CD
  • Sea Tunes for Kids CD by Brent Holmes
  • Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Swashbuckling Sea Songs CD
  • Disney’s Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me) Instrumental by George Bruns
  • Rockin’ & Rollin’ On the Ocean by John Archambault & David Plummer
  • A Yogi Went to Sea by Kidding Around Yoga
  • Reiki Whale Song CD by Kamal (lots of great songs featuring whale sounds for relaxation)
  • Pirate Ship sound from the Relaxing Sounds Of Nature Lite free app
  • Plus I have lots of songs about individual ocean animals to use if needed

Please remember to keep kids individual sensory needs, developmental level, interests, etc… in mind when choosing particular music to use in a class.

I purposefully did not bring any pirate swords or hooks since those would naturally lead to kids wanting to have swashbuckling sword fights.

I’d love to hear your ideas for more “pirate yoga”! Feel free to leave a comment below or on the OMazing Kids Facebook page 🙂


Angela Moorad, MS, CCC-SLP, IAYT, RCYP-2

Speech-Language Pathologist

Founder of OMazing Kids, LLC – inclusive wellness activities for kids of all abilities

Radiant Child Yoga Certified – Levels 1 & 2



Contests & Giveaways on Facebook:






Boardmaker Share:


OMazing Kids LLC is an organization that promotes inclusive wellness activities for kids of all abilities. The blog and social media pages share information about books, DVD’s, CD’s, games and other products specifically designed for kids wellness, mindfulness and relaxation, product reviews & giveaways, lesson plan & activity ideas, research, kids wellness in the news and a connection corner with listings of individuals doing adapted yoga and those offering trainings.

NOTE: Please ignore any ads that appear below the crayons divider bar. This is a free blog site & I have no control over ads appearing here.

crayons divider