After teaching children of all ages for over 25 years, Jennifer Takahashi has come to understand the value of rich, creative experiences — and that every child has a right to them.
Her experience working in both education and as an artist led her to start The Grateful Dandelion Atelier, a yoga, mindfulness, storytelling and art studio specifically made for kids. Since quietly opening her doors at 4640 Jewell St. in August, Takahashi has been leading classes in everything from nature observational drawing to fiber arts to pirate-themed yoga. While a yoga class might seem like a difficult thing to get kids to participate in, she’s found a way to make it fun and imaginative.
“I call it YIM — yoga, imagination, and mindfulness,” Takahashi said. Each class includes a story component with real-world facts that tie into the different poses and centering techniques the children are doing. And rather than try to get them all to be still for Shavasana, the students are instead told a story without an ending. Then they’re asked to close their eyes and imagine what happens next.
“Often when they’re putting on their shoes, they share with each other how their story ended,” she said. “It’s good for them to know that you don’t always have to be entertained and that a screen doesn’t always have to be the producer of creative ideas.”
Classes at The Grateful Dandelion Atelier are for children ages 3 1/2 and up and typically include no more than seven to eight students because Takahashi feels that the kids learn best in a small group. And when they’re in a smaller environment, she often sees them learning things from each other.
“You learn best when you feel a connection,” she said. “It's fun when there's a multi-age group because then they're learning from each other. And it’s not always the bigger kids teaching the little kids; sometimes the older ones learn something new from the younger ones.”
And her classes are not just for kids; Takahashi also hosts an occasional Creativitea Night for adults to come and spend some time flexing their creative muscles. While that wasn’t her original intention with the studio, she found that adults need to set aside time to express themselves just as much as children do.
“I think our society right now is at a crossroads, and we need to figure out a new pace,” Takahashi said. “It’s sad that we’re tired by Wednesday with jobs where we're just waiting to punch the clock. We need to be drawing more balance in our lives and it’s important for both adults and kids to have these make-a-mess moments.”
To see a list of classes available at The Grateful Dandelion Atelier, visit thegratefuldandelionatelier.blogspot.com.