These calming breathing techniques for kids are great strategies for supporting self-regulation and calm behavior at home, in the classroom, and beyond!
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If you live or work with kids, chances are you’ve encountered a child who struggles with self-regulation. He may have poor frustration tolerance, difficulty interacting with peers appropriately, or trouble with maintaining appropriate behavior depending on the expectations of the environment.
There are lots of great games, activities, and strategies that can be used to support the development of self-regulation. One of our favorite self-regulation strategies might be the simplest – no setup, planning, or complicated materials required. What is it? Breathing!
10 Calming Breathing Techniques for Kids
Studies have shown that focused, diaphragmatic breathing can be correlated with reduced heart rate and overall arousal levels. And while it may seem like an abstract or difficult concept for kids to understand, it’s actually amazing how easily kids pick up on breathing techniques. Often, adding a visual prompt or a visualization component to a breathing exercise can be helpful for kids.
Here are some simple but effective calming breathing techniques for kids…
1 || Infinity Breathing
Visualizing an infinity symbol, or even tracing the symbol with one finger while breathing in and out, can be a helpful tool for kids to achieve a smooth, even breath cycle. Have kids inhale as they follow one half of the symbol and exhale as they follow the other half.
2 || Balloon Breathing
Another helpful breathing technique is to have kids visualize a balloon inside their bellies. As they breathe in, the balloon expands and as they breathe out, the balloon deflates. One of the best ways to help kids with this visualization is to use a Hoberman Sphere – expanding it as kids breathe in and compressing it as they breathe out.
3 || Alternate Nostril Breathing
For this breathing exercise, kids bring attention to their breath by holding one nostril closed as they breathe in and then holding the other nostril closed as they breathe out.
4 || 4 Count Breathing
Have kids breathe in for a count of 4, then pause to hold onto the breath for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, and pause when the breath empties for a count of 4.
5 || Counting Breaths
For an even easier version of the technique above, simply have kids count their breaths until they get to 10 (counting 1 on the inhale, 2 on the exhale, and so on). Then, have them start over at 1.
6 || Beach Breathing
This is one of our favorite breathing visualization techniques. Have kids imagine that they’re standing on the beach. As they inhale, have them imagine that they’re drawing a wave up onto the sand. As they exhale, have them imagine the water receding back into the ocean or lake. Repeat.
Have kids hold up one hand or place the hand on their desk or table. Have them place the index finger of their opposite hand on the outside of the bottom knuckle of their pinky finger. As they breathe in, have them use their index finger to trace up the outside of the pinky finger. As they exhale, they trace down the other side of the finger. Then inhale – up the ring finger, exhale – down the other side of the ring finger. And so on until they get to their thumb.
8 || Draw a Square Breathing
This one adds a visual component to the 4 Count Breathing described above. On their desk or table, have kids trace a horizontal line with their fingers for a count of 4 as they breathe in (the top of the square). Then, trace downward to form the side of the square as they hold the breath for a count of 4. Then they trace horizontally again to make the bottom of the square as they exhale. And finally they trace upward to form the other side of the square as they hold their breath out. Repeat.
9 || Making an Object Move With the Breath
This is a great one to try with younger kids! Have the child lie on the floor with a toy or other small object resting on her tummy. Tell her to try to make the object rise and fall slowly by breathing deeply.
10 || Movements and Breathing
Yoga for kids is a perfect way to pair movement and breathing. Slow, thoughtful movements can help with pacing and timing of breathing. This Rainbow Breathing exercise from Go Noodle is another great way to use body movement with breathing.
We also love these awesome Printable Breathing Exercise Cards from Childhood 101!
Other Ideas for Promoting Calm Behavior in Kids
Other Fun Ways to Explore Breathing With Kids
Most of us go through our day without ever stopping to notice and truly experience our breath. It takes a real effort to slow down and take the time to tune into our breathing. But when we do, we can see and feel the benefits of a calmer body and clearer mind.
There are many fun ways for kids to experience what it’s like to pay closer attention to their breath. Here are a few of our favorites:
2 || Feathers and cotton balls – Try blowing feathers or cotton balls off of the table onto the floor!
3 || Straws – Can kids blow bubbles into water?
4 || Mirrors – Have kids try to breathe onto a mirror to fog it up!
Do you have any tried and true breathing techniques for kids? We’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments below!
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