Do you ever feel like your kids are constantly in a state of high emotion? It can be tough to deal with anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, and anger when you’re a kid. Fortunately, there are some breathing exercises that can help. Let’s discuss the benefits of breathing exercises for kids, and explore how to teach these techniques to your children.
Why breathing matters
Breathing is one of the most important functions of your body, and it plays a vital role in your overall health. When you breathe properly, you are able to get more oxygen into your bloodstream. This oxygenated blood then flows to your organs and tissues, which helps to keep them healthy. Proper breathing also helps to improve your mood and reduce stress levels.
Deep breathing benefits
Deep breathing is a type of breathing that involves taking deep, slow breaths. This type of breathing helps to oxygenate the blood and relax the body. Deep breathing has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including:
- Reducing stress levels
- Alleviating anxiety
- Improving sleep quality
- Boosting energy levels
- Enhancing mental clarity
Our favorite breathing exercises for kids
There are many different breathing exercises that kids can do. Some of these exercises can be done sitting down, while others require the child to stand up or lie down. The following are a few examples of breathing exercises for kids:
Imagine that you are inflating a balloon with each breath. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. With each exhale try to imagine the balloon getting larger.
Breathe in for a count of five, holds your breath for a count of five, and then breathe out for a count of five. Next breathe in for four counts, hold your breathe for four counts, and exhale for four counts. You can repeat this process as many times as necessary, moving down to 3, 2, and 1 counting.
This breathing exercise is similar to the balloon breathing exercise, but instead of imagining a balloon, you can imagine that you are blowing bubbles.
Super hero breathing
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Inhale deeply through their nose and exhale forcefully through your mouth, making sure to make a “whoosh” sound. Repeat.
This exercise can be done sitting or lying down. Place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Then inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise. You should exhale slowly through your mouth.
This type of breathing is a great visual exercise too. Imagine breathing the shape of a star, cloud, or square. Inhale deeply through your nose and trace one side of the star, and exhale slowly through your mouth and trace the next side. Continue until the shape is formed. If you don’t want to imagine the shape, you can simply draw out a star and use it to trace as you breathe. Cards like this can help guide breathing as well.
Alternate nostril breathing
Sit with your spine straight and place your left hand on your knee. Use your right thumb and index finger to close off your right nostril. Inhale deeply through your left nostril and then close off that nostril with your ring finger. Hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling slowly through the right nostril.
Stuffed Animal Buddy breathing
This breathing exercise is great for younger kids, but is effective for even older kids. Lay down on a flat surface. Next, place a stuffed animal on your belly as you lay down. As you breathe in and out, you can watch the stuffed animal move up and down.
In this exercise, sit with your spine straight and place your hands on your stomach. Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your stomach to rise. Exhale slowly through your mouth, making a “sssss” sound. Kids love to sound like a snake, so this has been an easy breathing exercise for my boys to remember.
Blowing out the candle
Take a deep breath in and imagine a candle burning in front of you. Hold that breath, and then blow out the imaginary candle.
Togue tube breathing
First, try to make a tube with your tongue. Not everyone can do this! If you can’t, simply grab a straw! Use your tongue tube or straw to take long, slow breaths. Focus on control. This breathing technique might feel more difficult because you are breathing out of a smaller hole.
Have your child imagine they are holding a flower. Next, tell them to pretend that they are taking a deep smell from the flower. They should then take a deep breath in through their nose and exhale slowly through their mouth, making a “pwhhh” sound.
Hold a feather (or pretend that you are holding a feather). Breathe in deeply. Then breathe out. As you breathe out, exhale up one side of the feather and down the opposite side.
Five finger breathing
Sit or stand comfortably. Open your had and spread your fingers wide. Next, trace your fingers with your opposite hand as you breathe in and out. For example, breathe in as you trace up one side of your thumb, and then breathe out as you move down the opposite side of your thumb. Repeat with each of your five fingers.
Stand comfortably. As you inhale through your nose, raise your hand high above your head into the shape of a volcano peak. Exhale and imagine a volcano erupting. Repeat five times.
Breathing exercises can be done sitting or standing, and there are many different ways to do them. Some breathing exercises require props such as straws or, while others can be done with partners. It’s important to find breathing exercises that work for your child and that they enjoy doing. With practice, breathing exercises can help kids to calm down when they are feeling anxious or upset. If you need more ideas for breathing exercises, try these cards.
Tips for teaching kids to breathe:
- Start with simple breathing exercises and gradually increase the difficulty as your child gets better at them.
- Practice breathing exercises with your child on a regular basis, such as before bedtime or during stressful situations.
- Make sure your child is comfortable with the breathing exercise before moving on to something more difficult.
- Encourage your child to take breaks throughout the day to do some deep breathing.
- Help your child to identify when they are feeling anxious or stressed so that they can do a breathing exercise to calm down.
Anxiety is a common problem for kids, but there are ways to help them cope with it. Breathing exercises are one way to help kids calm down and manage their anxiety.
When anxiety strikes…
Although it’s essential to practice breathing exercises daily, all that practice becomes effective when big emotions come up. When your kids experience anxiety, anger, or other big feelings, breathing exercises can help. Here’s what you can do during moments of emotional stress.
Connect and cuddle
When my kids are dealing with big emotions, it helps if I can give a hug or cuddle a bit. Just wait to make sure your child is ready for physical connection first.
Name the emotion
Naming the emotions your child are feeling are one of the first steps to working through them. For example you could say something like,
“You seem really angry right now”
“This feels really hard doesn’t it. Are you frustrated?”
“It’s okay to feel overwhelmed.”
“Everyone feels sad sometimes. This is a hard thing to go through.”
Remind them to breathe
Even if your child has practiced breathing from a young age, it might not always feel natural to them. Every single one of my kids has needed a reminder to breathe on occasion. That reminder can be as simple as saying,
“Would you like to try some breathing with me?”
When you breathe yourself, you’ll be better at showing your child how to breathe. When you’re feeling stressed, take a few deep breaths and show your kids how it’s done. You can’t expect your kids to learn how to manage their anxiety if you don’t model healthy breathing yourself.
“I’m going to breathe in through my nose, all the way to my tummy and then out through my mouth. Watch me and then do it with me.”
Do you have any tips for teaching breathing exercises to kids? Share them in the comments below!