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Inside: A mindfulness teacher’s favorite ways to help kids learn to take a deep breath, 10 of my favorite breathing exercises for kids, including quick explanations and videos of deep breathing techniques.
It’s an expression you’ve likely heard a million times.
In fact, it’s a phrase I cherish so much I’ve often considered getting it tattooed on my wrist.
(If only I didn’t despise needles THAT much…)
Have you noticed when you inhale a big, slow breath, that you actually feel calmer, more relaxed and less anxious?
Well here’s the thing.
Our kids are stressed too…
…and they need this big breath too.
If your child is feeling stressed, anxious, angry, hyper, over-stimulated, or busy then breathing techniques are their new bestie.
Below are 10 of my favorite, fun and easy breathing exercises for kids.
(You might love them too!)
Now that you’ve grabbed your free mindfulness printables above, let’s look a little deeper at breathing exercises for kids.
What is Calm Breathing?
Breathing exercises for kids is a technique used to teach your child how to slow down their breathing.
This is helpful for kids who are feeling stressed, anxious or angry.
Key point: Like other anxiety-management skills, the purpose of calm breathing is not to avoid anxiety at all but to help you take the “edge” off and ride out and diminish the anxious feelings.
Why Calm Breathing is Important?
When we are anxious, emotional, angry or worried our bodies go into fight or flight mode.
We think we are in danger when really we are not.
Think about this…every time your child has a temper tantrum. They feel like they are actually fighting for their lives.
When this happens our breathing changes.
We take shallow, short and quick breaths.
This can make us feel more anxious or stressed.
And our makeup is quite interesting because when we go into “fight or flight” mode our body sends more oxygen out to our arms and legs to prepare us to “fight” or survive against threats.
But when this happens, we tense up and less oxygen gets to our brains. And this makes it difficult for us to think clearly.
So here’s the thing:
We need to get more oxygen back to our brain. (Back to our kiddos’ brains)
And here’s the good news:
This will give back a sense of calmness and control.
How do we do this?
Well, you’ve likely already guessed it already.
Calm breathing can also become an anchor of sorts that your child can use anytime they are feeling anxious.
Grab this unique pack of 4 expandable balls great for stress relief and anxiety (Perfect for kids with sensory issues or ADHD)
Benefits of Deep Breathing for Kids (And Adults)
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Promotes happiness
- Ignites peace and calmness
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Reduces tension
- Improves focus and concentration
This kit includes over 12 deep breathing exercises, (plus worksheets, quotes, activities, stories, coloring pages and much more…)
10 Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids
1. Feather Breathing
Using feathers is actually one of my favorite ways to teach kids to
It’s a super fun activity that young kids will be receptive to learn.
- Collect different colored feathers.
- Ask your child to hold the feather in their hand.
- Take a deep breath. (Model this for your child)
- To help kids learn how to take a deep breath, ask them to put their hands on their bellies and feel the rise and fall.
- Inhale slowly for a count of 3.
- Then, slowly exhale through the nose and while exhaling blow gently up one side of the feather and down the other side.
Make sure that you aren’t hyperventilating; it is important to pause for a few seconds after each breath.
Relax your shoulders and chest area as you breathe and breathe from your belly. Place your hand over your heart and it should be barely moving at all.
2. Flower Breathing
I love using nature to help teach kids mindfulness.
(Oh, and if you love mindfulness for kids be sure to check out 15 super fun and free mindfulness exercises your kids will love.)
- Collect a flower, or have your child visualize their favorite flower.
- Ask your child to breathe in deeply, while doing so take a BIG whiff of the flower’s scent.
- Hold your breath for a count of 3.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 4.
- Repeat for five minutes.
Another flower breathing exercise I love is dandelion breath.
Use this breathing activity to help your kids build confidence and release anxiety in new situations.
- Sit up tall, relax your shoulders and face.
- Imagine a dandelion flower.
- Take a deep breath in and then blow the air out slowly, sending the seeds into the air.
- Repeat 3 times.
Practice breathing exercises during calm moments, rather than waiting until your child is upset. This teaches kids new habits that they can use when they are upset. Don’t wait for the storm to try to engage your child in these breathing techniques.
3. Shapes Breathing
Use shapes to guide your child to complete one full breath.
Use squares, triangles, and stars. (Or do a fun variation called “Sun Breathing”)
Trace the shapes with your finger as you breathe. Trace each shape five times.
- Trace the edge of the square and count, 1, 2, 3, 4
- On the exhale trace the other side of the square, exhale for 1, 2, 3, 4
- Repeat on for the next half of the square.
- Trace the square 3 times using this technique
Lazy 8 breathing is another one of my favorite shapes to practice breathing.
These helpful shapes breathing printables (and more) are included in our Anxiety Kit for Kids.
4. One Nostril Breath
This is a favorite for young kids because it is so silly.
- Have your child place their finger over one nostril, then breathe in deeply.
- Next, switch your finger to the other nostril as you breathe out.
- Once you have exhaled slowly, switch nostrils and repeat.
- Practice this exercise for no more than 2 minutes.
This is a wonderful exercise when your kids are feeling angry, anxious or tense.
(If you have a kiddo who has BIG emotions, you’ve just gotta check out our epic guide of 55 ways to calm an angry child – anywhere!)
Learn to identify when your child is entering the yellow zone. Get acquainted with their triggers so you can encourage breathing exercises before you enter meltdown territory. (Red volcano zone).
It’s always easier to calm a child before full eruption ensues.
5. Breathing Buddies
This is another great exercise for toddlers and preschoolers.
Let’s rock our stuffy to sleep.
- Ask your kiddo to lie down and put their favorite stuffy on their tummy.
- Ask them to inhale deeply for a count of 3.
- Then, ask them to exhale for a count of 4.
- Prompt them to watch the teddy rise and fall as they breathe in and out.
- Do 5 to 10 rounds.
Is Teddy asleep?
Note: This is a great intro exercise to breathing exercises for kids.
Breathing Buddies is included in our best-selling eBook Mighty Mindful Kids.
6. Bumblebee Breath
You can use many animal analogies to teach kids how to breathe.
The options are endless: snake breath, bear breath, dragon breath, but I think the easiest to teach is bumblebee breath.
And it has a nice ring, don’t you think?
- Sitting comfortably with your legs crossed breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
- As you breathe out, make a bee buzzing or humming sound.
- Variation: When you exhale place your fingers in your ears and hum out your exhalation.
The comforting vibration of this has a calming effect. And even yet close your eyes for an even more peaceful moment.
A wonderful website called Childhood 101 has some awesome FREE breathing printables you can snag. Take a sneak peek here:
7. Five-Finger Breathing
Numbers are another awesome technique to teach breathing exercises for kids.
I love the five-finger breathing meditation:
- Sit or stand comfortably with your back straight
- Open the palm of one hand wide
- Now with the pointer finger of the opposite hand slowly trace your fingers while breathing.
- Trace up on side of your thumb, 1, 2, 3, trace down the other side of your thumb, 1, 2, 3.
- Repeat for all five fingers.
A fun variation we do is called starfish fingers (and you can find it in our best selling guide Mighty Mindful Kids).
We complete this exercise at bedtime each night to relax.
My son LOVES it!
Below is another great breathing video using numbers from Go Zen.
Note: if your child suffers from anxiety I recommend Go Zen and all their videos.
8. Shoulder Roll Breath
Using yoga poses to breath is another smart technique.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose and relax your entire body.
- Now roll your shoulders up to your ears as you inhale deeply for a count of 3.
- Breathe out through your mouth and roll your shoulders down and back (as far away from your ears as you can get) as you exhale for a count of 4.
- Repeat slowly in a continuous movement of shoulder rolls, while breathing in and out.
This should feel awesome.
Another amazing technique to help kids relax is to use the 54321 Grounding Exercise. This is favorited by therapists around th world.
9. Mountain Breathing
This breath can be done sitting or standing.
- Inhale through your nose and raise your arms high above your head.
- Bring your palms together above the top of your head.
- Imagine you are as tall as a mountain.
- Ground your feet into the floor. Imagine your feet like roots, you are strong, sturdy and tall.
- Exhale through your mouth and bring your palms together in front of your chest.
- Repeat this sequence 5 times.
10. Bubble Breathing (for Younger Kids)
A fun way to teach your younger child how to do calm breathing is the “bubble blowing” technique.
Using a toy soap bubble container and wand (available at any toy store), have your child practice blowing bubbles.
Per Anxiety Canada, the breathing required for blowing soap bubbles is the same as what is used for calm breathing.
Explain to your child they are doing this to learn how to breathe properly. You must explain that this is a method to help manage anxiety.
Simply make sure your child waits for a second or two before blowing another bubble.
Finally, practice “blowing bubbles” without a bubble wand.
Blowing Bubbles Script from Anxiety Canada:
“Today we are going to practice a new skill called calm breathing. This will be a new tool that you can use when you feel anxious, such as when you are at school. When you use calm breathing, you take slow breaths. A good way to practice it is to do some bubble blowing, because you have to take a slow, deep breath to make a big bubble, and you have to blow the bubble really slowly or it will pop! So let’s practice. Take a slow, deep breath in, hold it for a second, and then slowly blow some bubbles. Good job! Now let’s try that again.”
10.1 (For Older Kids – Alternative to Bubble Blowing) Belly Breathing
This is a very simple exercise to teach older kids how to breathe.
Calm breathing involves taking slow and controlled breaths, and we call this “belly breathing”.
- Inhale slowly for 4 seconds through the nose.
- Ask your child to pretend they are blowing up a balloon inside their belly. They should be able to feel their belly inflate.
- Pause for 2 seconds, and then slowly exhale through the mouth.
- Ask your child to pretend that he or she is emptying the balloon of air, they should feel their belly deflate.
- Pause for 2 seconds, and then repeat.
When belly breathing, make sure your child’s upper body (shoulders and chest area) is fairly relaxed and still. Only the belly should be moving!
4 Mindful Breathing Books For Kids
- Breathe Like a Bear
- My Magic Breath
- I Can Breathe Like A…A Mindful Breathing Book For Kids
- Alpha Breaths, The ABC’s of Mindful Breathing
Taking the time to breathe with your kids shows them that you are committed to creating a calm and peaceful environment.
Modeling behavior to your kids is the best way to incite action.
Don’t forget to explain why deep breaths are helpful when we’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
Most kids will really enjoy these breathing exercises. My son loves breathing buddies.
In fact, once your kiddos learn a few, you might be surprised to find them practicing all by themselves during stressful times.
Other related resources I think you’ll love:
- How to Create the Perfect Calm Down Corner for Your Spirited Child
- How to Stop the After School Meltdown
- 5 Simple Steps to Create a Chore Chart for Kids That Works!
- Teach Kids How to Be Kind With These 7 Brilliant Strategies
- 54321 Grounding Technique for Kids and Adults
Let’s hear from you below…what is your favorite breathing exercise?