From time to time, our favorite little people can find themselves up against big emotions. Whether it’s a squabble with a sibling or not being allowed to have a cookie before dinner, frustration and anger can bubble to the surface, and chances are it won’t be at the time or place of your choosing.
And while these situations might be unpleasant for you, imagine how difficult it is for someone who doesn’t know how to handle them. When tempers begin to flare, breathing exercises are one of the most effective calming strategies for kids who are dealing with difficult emotions.
Anyone who has ever tried it can tell you there’s a lot of power in a deep cleansing breath. For kids, deep breathing is a great way to get them to focus on something else in the moment rather than “the thing” (or things) that are making them sad, mad, or frustrated. Moreover, breathing calms children by physically slowing them down. To practice deep breathing, they must stop whatever they are doing to complete the exercise.
Some of the documented benefits of deep breathing include:
- Reduced feelings of anxiety and overwhelm
- Lowered stress levels
- Relaxed muscles
- Increased energy levels
Breathing exercises for kids
When it comes to deep breathing exercises for kids, the key is to make these exercises fun and easy to remember when things feel topsy-turvy. The following breathing exercises use imagery that appeals to children, and language they will have no trouble understanding.
Remember that when you introduce these mindful breathing exercises to your kids, be sure to do so outside of an emotionally charged situation. Instead, introduce these breathing exercises during calm moments when your child will be receptive to the information and willing to practice them along with you. Preparing them ahead of time will leave them better equipped to handle situations when they arise — even when you’re not around.
Tell your little one to imagine they are smelling a flower, breathing in deeply through the nose and out through the mouth. Smelling flowers is one of the easiest breathing exercises to master, and a good starting point for your child.
The Bunny Breath
Just like a little bunny in the garden, encourage your child to take three quick sniffs in through the nose, and one long exhale out through the mouth.
Blow Out Candle
Have your child blow out the candles on a make-believe birthday cake, drawing a deep breath in through the mouth, and blowing it out strong through the mouth as well.
The Snake Breath
Tell your child to pretend he/she is a snake and hiss, inhaling deeply through the nose and blowing out through the mouth with a soft and low hissing sound.
Remind your child how softly they need to blow to get a nice big bubble. Encourage them to take a deep breath in and blow it out soft and long.
Smell The Flower And Blow Out The Candle
Have your child pretend that he/she has a flower in one hand and a candle in the other. The first step is smelling the flower, taking a deep breath in through the nose, and filling the lungs with air. Next, have your child exhale and blow out the candle in the other hand.
Have your child sit comfortably and inhale through their nose, keeping their mouth closed. Next, with their mouth still closed, have them make a humming or buzzing noise (like a bumblebee) as they exhale. Your child can also cup their hands around their ears to amplify the buzzing sound.
Deep Belly Breath
Have your child place one hand on their belly and one hand on their chest. Let them take a deep breath in for four counts and then exhale slowly (through their nose) for four counts. Remind them to pay attention to the rise and fall of their chest and belly as they complete the exercise.
Have your child sit cross-legged and get comfortable. Have them point their index fingers toward each other in front of their mouth. After your child inhales deeply through the nose, have them exhale through their mouth and swirl their fingers around as they do so (like a tumble dryer). The fun part of this is the swishy noise they’ll hear as they exhale.
Dragon Fire Breaths
Have your child interlace their fingers under their chin, and as they inhale, have them raise their elbows as high as they can around their neck and face. On the exhale, have them lower their elbows back down.
Hot Air Balloon Breath
For the hot air balloon breath, have your child sit comfortably and cup their hands around their mouth. Have them inhale deeply, and on the exhale (through their mouth), prompt them to expand their hands outward, as if they are blowing up a giant hot air balloon.
Shoulder Roll Breath
Shoulder roll breaths are a great breathing exercise for kids, and it has the added benefit of releasing tight muscles and a little tension. Have your child sit comfortably; as they take a deep breath in, encourage them to roll their shoulders up toward their ears, and then drop their shoulders back down on the exhale.
If none of the techniques above hold your little one’s attention, this guided breathing exercise with SleepyPaws from Moshi Sleep may be able to help.
Deep breathing exercises can help kids to reset, self regulate, and respond to stress in a healthier way. But it’s important for parents to remember that mindful breathing isn’t necessarily intuitive, particularly in moments of frustration. Often when your child is angry, frustrated, or anything but calm, you’ll have to remind them to breathe deeply. When you do so remember the following:
Get down to their level
Getting down to your child’s eye level signals to them they have your full attention. When you get down to your child’s level, make eye contact, and speak softly, your message is more likely to be heard and received.
Find a quiet space
If a meltdown happens in the middle of a playground or a birthday party, the stimulation from your child’s surroundings won’t be conducive to returning him/her to a state of calm. Do your best to remove your child from the situation. Find a quiet space to talk to your child and do some mindful breathing.
The good thing about breathing exercises is that they don’t cost a thing, and they can be used anywhere at any time. While these breathing techniques are effective for calming your child in moments of overwhelm, they’re also effective for getting your child to settle down before bedtime.
The Moshi app is filled with an ever-growing library of soothing stories, guided meditations, and deep breathing exercises to help your little one calm down and relax. Moshi’s breathing exercises even help your little one unwind and mellow out, and with content for kids of all ages, there’s something for everyone.