We have all at some point or another told a child to take a deep breath. It sounds like a simple enough task to follow. Deep breath in ……. Deep breath out……
The truth is this simple task turns out can be a little tricky for little ones especially when they are in an agitated mood. Whether they are angry, scared, tired, or having a hard time communicating they are not thinking about breathing. This is the “flight or flight” mode, heart rate increases and breathing becomes more shallow. Deep breath actually helps your body calm down, by allowing more oxygen into your bloodstream and your mind to slow down. So deep breaths is key to controlling that fight or flight.
Deeping breathing is something that is best practiced when the child is calm. Make it part of your routine and your vocabulary so that when they are in that “fight or flight” mode they can fall back on that skill easily.
So how do you teach children mindful breathing?
Make it fun and use props:
Bubbles: simply have the child blow bubbles to introduce a calming breathing technique. Encourage them to blow BIG bubbles by blowing slowly and calmly. (2 and up)
Pinwheel: encourage your child to focus on breathing out slowly and calmly to make the pinwheel spin. Breathing in …. And breathing out. (2 and up)
Stuffed animal (breathing buddy): Belly breathing calms down the nervous system and is easy to do. Have your child lay down and place his/her stuffed animal on their belly. Have them take a deep breath in 1 . 2 . 3 . Then ask them to fill their belly with air as they exhale and feel the stuffed animal rise. Exhale 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . Repeat this about 10 times. (4 and up)
Slinky and/or Hoberman Sphere: Have the child hold the slinky and or hoberman sphere between their hands. Breathe in as they stretch the slinky and breathe out as they bring it back together. You can repeat this as many times as you feel is appropriate for your child. (3 and up)
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