While breathing is a natural bodily function, it is closely connected to our emotions and feelings. For example, stress can affect breathing patterns dramatically. Children, especially young ones, cannot understand their feelings and may act out unpleasantly by biting or hitting when they’re stressed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends mindfulness and breathing techniques to cope with stress.
Breathing exercises can help your child relax their mind and body while strengthening the respiratory muscles. This post discusses some breathing exercises for kids and their associated benefits.
Benefits Of Breathing Exercises In Children
With proper guidance, breathing exercises may benefit your child in many ways, including:
- Calming the nervous system
- Decreasing feelings of anxiety
- Lowering or preventing stress or strong emotions
- Strengthening immunity
- Increasing oxygen and energy levels
- Stabilizing blood pressure
- Strengthening the respiratory muscles
Breathing Exercises To Calm Children
Here are some fun breathing exercises that can positively impact your child’s life by helping them regulate their breathing in stressful situations:
1. Bubble Breathing
This helpful breathing technique involves blowing bubbles, a fun activity for children that calms and releases their built-up anger and tension. During this exercise, focus the mind on the present moment while deliberately and intentionally blowing to make a bubble. Thus, breathing becomes the center of attention.
2. Lemon Squeeze
This technique introduced by Roxana Bermudez, a mental health therapist at Children’s Bureau, involves asking your child to imagine holding a lemon in each palm. Then, they squeeze out all the juice by making fists while taking in deep breaths. Finally, they hold their breath for three seconds and relax their hands while exhaling. This technique does not require props and can be repeated till your child feels calm.
3. Ocean Breathing
This is a deep diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing method similar to the stuffed animal breathing method. Have your child lie on their back while keeping their eyes closed and arms relaxed beside them. Place a toy boat on their belly and make them imagine they are a wave in the sea. Tell them to move the boat by exhaling and inhaling using only the belly and not the chest.
4. Balloon Inflation
It is a yoga breathing exercise where your child blows an imaginary balloon and deflates it by inhaling slowly. Ask them to imagine the balloon expanding and shrinking as they do so. Steady, regulated breathing may help your child feel more relaxed and at ease.
5. Belly Breathing
This exercise focuses on expanding the abdomen and diaphragm instead of the chest. First, ensure that your child is calm and in a relaxed position, either sitting or lying on their back. Next, have them place their hands on their belly and inhale through their nose until the whole chest is filled, all the way to the belly, making it rise. Then, slowly exhale till the belly is empty.
6. Smelling Flowers
Ask your child to pick a flower and tell them to inhale its smell deeply, hold it for a second, and then exhale it out slowly. You could also encourage them to do this exercise by saying that the air they exhale is good for the flowers.
7. Using Numbers
While counting, ask your child to inhale and exhale on specific numbers. For instance, count to three while inhaling and to four while breathing out. This is similar to the rectangle breathing technique, where your child traces a rectangular pattern in the air or on paper. Have them slowly breathe in while slowly moving the finger up the short side of the rectangle and breathe out while tracing the long side of the rectangle.
8. Blowing Candles
In this yoga breathing exercise, your child blows out imaginary candles. It is an excellent way to show your child how to collect their emotions after an outburst or tantrum and release them with short puffs of air.
9. Vowel Vibrations
Ensure that your child is sitting in a relaxed position and ask them to take deep breaths. While exhaling, they should vocalize each vowel sound in a consistent tone, focusing on the location of vibration: U (belly), O (heart), A (chest), E (neck), and I (head). They could also exhale with consonant sounds that provide more airflow resistance, such as by imitating the wind (fff…) or a snake (sss…).
10. Blow Painting Using Straws
Blow painting is a fun activity for children of all ages and involves deep breathing. To do this, you’ll need papers, droppers, liquid paint, and straws. Pour a few droplets of liquid paint on a paper and invite your child to form shapes by gently blowing the paint with a straw.
Tips For Teaching Breathing Exercises To Children
While teaching your children how to breathe may sound simple, its application can be challenging. Here are some tips that may be useful for teaching breathing exercises to children:
- Start as soon as possible since the sooner you include breathing exercises into their routine, the more likely they are to rely on the exercises in times of emotional distress.
- Ensure your child recognizes their feelings of anxiety and stress and assure them that these feelings are normal and can be managed with breathing exercises.
- Regularly practice these exercises with your child so that they can look at you as a role model.
- Practice these techniques when your child is calm and focused.
- Select a peaceful and quiet space to help your child concentrate better. However, when your child breaks down, don’t worry about the place or time, but get them to take deep breaths to calm their mind.
- Use props, such as bubbles, pinwheels, or stuffed animals, to make the breathing exercises fun and interesting.
- Let your child repeat the activity independently and give them space to choose how and when they participate.
Children, especially young ones, may not fully understand their feelings and may start acting out unpleasantly when they’re stressed. Breathing exercises can help your child by relaxing their mind, lowering stress, and improving focus. The different breathing practices explained in this post can help introduce your child to exercises that help with regulating emotions.
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