Breathing exercises for kids to encourage diaphragmatic breathing and shallow chest breaths as effective ways to manage big feelings and deep emotions in a fun way.
I often tell my children to take a deep breath when they are overly excited, anxious about something or seem nervous or scared about something.
Unfortunately, telling children to take a deep breath isn’t very effective because they may not understand what it means to take a moment, take a deep breath and calm down.
Kids really do get stressed out and anxious and overstimulated and they need that opportunity to calm down.
When teaching my own children how to take deep breaths and calm down, I looked up some mindful breathing exercises for kids, and these were the ones that worked best for my children.
See also: 17 Positive Discipline Tools You Need
Mindfulness Tips For Parents
Before you can teach breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to kids, you need to become mindful yourself. Here are some easy mindfulness tips for parents.
Do It Yourself: Learn and practice breath work yourself so you can teach your children how to do it properly. It is far easier to demonstrate a task than explain it using plain words.
Small Steps: You don’t need to jump into deep breathing for long periods of time every single day, right away. It’s best to start small and grow from there. Notice and encourage small breaths, aim for 10 seconds of calm and then before you know it they will become experts on the whole subject of deep breathing the easy way.
Use It Daily: Create good habits within yourself and your kids by practicing mindfulness and simple breathing exercise.
What are the types of breathing exercises for kids?
There are a few different types of breathing exercises for kids that encourage deep breathing. Some examples include balloon breathing, counting breaths, bunny breathing, bubble breathing and feather breathing.
One of the easiest breathing exercises for kids is belly breathing and the best way to learn is through videos of deep breathing techniques.
You don’t need any supplies or gear, and these abdominal breathing techniques can be used anywhere and in the moment whether you’re in a group of friends or on your own for your mental health.
Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids
1. Bumblebee Breath
to practice bumble bee breathing you should be sitting comfortably with your legs crossed, encourage your child to breathe through their nose for a count of 4.
As your child breathes out, encourage them to make a humming or a bee buzzing sound on the exhale.
They can put their fingers in their ears as they exhale. If they close their eyes, they can become even calmer through the process. This is a comforting and calming way to breathe, and a powerful way to release big emotions.
Video Of Bumblee Breathing
2. Tumble Dryer
Another great breathing exercise is the Tumble Dryer. Tumble dryer breathing exercise is really fun for young children.
First, sit in a cross-legged position and have your index fingers pointing towards each other in front of the mouth.
Then when the child exhales, have them move their fingers around in a tumble dryer motion which creates a swishy sound.
3. Dragon Fire Breaths
This is a great exercise that imitates dragon fire breathing. First, have your children interlace their fingers underneath the child. Then have them inhale and lift up the elbows to sort of frame the face.
Then have your children lower the elbows back down on the exhale. This breathing exercise helps build strength and is a good energy producing technique.
It can help us all feel brave or give us more energy when we feel tired which are some great benefits of mindfulness.
4. Hot Air Balloon
The hot air balloon exercise has a relaxing effect and is vivid on imaginations.
To practice, this breathing exercise for kids, sit in a cross-legged position and cup the hands around the mouth. Take a deep breath through the nose and blow ours slowly through the mouth.
As you exhale, grow your hands outwards as if you are blowing up a giant hot air balloon. You can sway from side to side as you admire your hot air balloon!
5. Tongue Tube
This is a fun breathing exercise for kids that can curl their tongues into a tube or straw. When you inhale, suck the air in through your tongue and exhale through the nose. This is refreshing on the throat and very cleansing.
6. Belly Breathing
Belly breathing is simple, is the handiest tool when out and about and involves taking controlled breaths which calms children. First inhale through the nose and ask your child to pretend that they are blowing up a balloon in the belly.
Have them pause for a few seconds and then exhale slowly through the mouth. Take a 2 second pause and then repeat the exercise as needed.
7. Bubble Breathing
The bubble blowing breathing technique is a child favorite. You can use a soap bubbles wand and have your child practice blowing their bubbles.
When children do this, they learn how to breathe properly and this helps manage anxiety and anger. Wait a few seconds before blowing the next bubble. This can be done outside on a nice warm day and is a lot of fun for little ones.
8. Mountain Breathing
Mountain breathing can be completed standing up or sitting down. To start, inhale through the nose and raise the arms above the head. Then bring your palms together above the head and imagine you are as tall as a large mountain. Exhale through the mouth and bring the palms together in front of the chest.
9. Shoulder Roll Breath
The shoulder roll breathing exercise is simple and effective and can be used to calm down angry children quickly. First have the child sit cross legged and then ask them to take a deep breath through the nose and relax the body. Roll the shoulders up to the ears as they inhale and then have your child exhale and bring the shoulders down and back, as far down as they can go.
This feels really good for adults too, and it’s a great technique to try if you’re an exhausted mom and trying to get some sleep!
10. Five-Finger Breathing
The five-finger breathing technique is very popular in schools. Have your child stand or sit with a straight back and open the palm wide with all five fingers spread out. Slowly use the other hand to trace the fingers up and down while breathing and repeat this process for all 5 fingers.
How to Use Breathing Exercises For Kids In The Moment
When big feelings and emotions come up, breathing exercises can help, but how can you implement these strategies?
Connect: Look them in the eye or gently touch their shoulder to really create an emotional connection.
Name the feelings: If the feelings are big like anger, anxiety or disappointment that can be scary so helping your child acknowledge those feelings can help them understand what is happening.
Find a quiet space: your child should have space where they feel safe where they can calm down and get connected with their feelings privately.
Breathe together: Practice using the breathing exercises together and talk through each step.
Give them a comforting cuddle (if they’re ready): Some children like to cuddle and hug, while others need some space and time before they can hug you. Follow them and respect their wishes, and hug when they are ready.
What is Calm Breathing?
Calm breathing is a way to calm children’s breathing (and even adults) using breathing exercise techniques. This is particularly helpful to kids who are feeling anger, anxiety or experiencing stress.
The purpose of breathing exercises for kids isn’t to eliminate anxiety, anger or distress, but to manage it and minimize those big feelings.
Why Calm Breathing is Important?
When children are feeling distressed and are experiencing big emotions, they go into this fight or flight mode which is essentially them believing they are in danger, even if they are not. When children panic, the breathing patterns become more shallow and quick, which makes the anxiety and emotions ramp up farther into the stress of the whole situation.
When we enter the fight or flight mode, less oxygen enters the brain and we cannot think clearly. This makes so much sense if you’ve ever tried to tell a toddler mid-tantrum to calm down and they just don’t seem to hear you.
So to combat this, we need to get the children’s attention and get oxygen back to the brain and instill calm and control back into the moment.
Breathing exercises can help bring your children back into control of their bodies and ease their stresses. If you use calm down corners as a means of calming your children, make sure you breathe with them first before putting forward the calm down corner practices.
Deep Breathing Benefits For Kids (How Can Breathing Exercises Help Children)
- deep belly breath helps reduce tension in stressful situations
- Helps to ease anger, anxiety and big feelings
- Helps create peace and calm with slow breaths
- Helps to control your emotions in a great way
- Promotes appropriate social behaviors
- Strengthens sustained attention
- Lowers the heart rate and blood pressure
- Is good for happiness
- Helps with focus and concentration
How can you teach belly breathing to your child?
You can teach belly breathing to your child by asking your child to breathe normally and get them to tune into their current feeling.
Then ask your child to place one hand on the belly above the belly button and one the upper chest and ask them to breathe in through the nose and fill the lungs with air downwards towards the belly.
See if your child can notice that the bottom hand rises during their breath in.
Ask your child to release their breath slowly and exhale through the mouth, noticing that the bottom hand lowers back down in the process.
Ask your child how they feel after their deep breath and see if they notice any difference.
Keep practicing and try to go for deep belly breaths instead of shallow chest breathing (which does not help with easing anxiety.)
If your child is having a tough time learning to belly breath, you can have them lay down on their back and place a stuffed animal on their belly so they can see the object move up and down as they breathe.
Other tips for belly breathing for kids
Start Young: Deep and calm breathing can be a very valuable tool for children of all ages. Toddlers could have trouble with belly breathing, but they can learn to slow down their breaths when they are feeling angry or anxious. Older children, elementry age and up will have an easier time with belly breathing.
Count: Encourage your children to count to three when inhaling and then counting to 4 when exhaling when practicing deep belly breathing. some children will be able to do longer counts. Keep in mind the actual length of the inhale and exhale is not as important as focusing on the task of breathing.
Practice Before The Storm: Teaching your child to use calm down breathing techniques when they are in mid-tantrum is going to be ineffective. Practice your deep breathing when your child is calm. By practicing during calm moments, your children will be equipped to use this calm down tool in moments of anger or anxiety. You can even use these breathing techniques when calming your children down during bedtime routine.
Work Closely With Your Child: all children are different and when you are practicing feel breathing there should be no pressure to do breathe in one exact or right way. Do what makes your child comfortable, so that they will be comfortable when it’s time to use the tool.
Mindful Breathing Books For Kids
If you want to have some mindful breathing books for your kids calm down corner, here are some excellent options.
Piggy can get sad and angry when things don’t go his way, especially when life is so busy and there are so many places to go. Find out how young piglets can find peace in this crazy busy world.
Buy this book on Amazon.
This book is all about a young boy who finds out that his mind works like a puppy’s mind and is always wandering away. He learns how to train his mind and feel present in the moment through breathing exercises. The boy becomes a strong and caring master of his puppy mind!
Buy this book on Amazon.
This is a book designed to teach kids to manage their breath emotions and bodies with 30 simple short breathing movements that can be used anytime and anywhere.
Buy this book on Amazon.
This book teaches children to be still and breathe. This is really great for children who behave like a “hurricane” and run through the house.
Buy this book on Amazon.
Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing By Christopher Willard PsyD
Children can learn the ABC’s and the basics of mindfulness to connect them with nature and fill their hearts with gratitude.
Buy this book on Amazon.