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Mindful Breathing for Kids (and a freebie!)

Updated: Oct 27, 2019

At some point in time when your child (or you) were experiencing some BIG emotions, you may have uttered the words "Just breathe..." But, why is is that we say that? And do our kids know what we are talking about? And how exactly should we breathe that would be helpful?

The reason that we breathe is because our breath has a connection to our parasympathetic nervous system. (As a reminder, that's the part of our brain that brings on calm and upper level thinking.) When we bring our awareness to our breathing, and practice different breathing techniques, we can actually activate the relaxation response in our bodies. This helps us to navigate whatever stress we are experiencing in a more thoughtful way.

That's great to know but, have you every tried to tell a 6-year old in the middle of a tantrum to "just breathe" and lived to tell the tale? This reminder isn't helpful if we haven't put the time in to to teach our children how to breathe mindfully and make this tool a go-to in their toolbox.

Thankfully there are lots of fun tips and tricks for teaching breath work to even the youngest kids. Here are some of my absolute FAVORITE go-to breathing activities that I use with younger children at the Play to Grow Studio.

1. Pinwheels

There's simply no kid that can resist playing with a pinwheel! You can find them at the dollar store almost any time of year. Though I will say that I haven't had to but any in some el-cheapo pinwheels have lasted for years! When using the pinwheel, it helps to cue children to make it spin for as LONG as they can on just one breath. (They tend to go with one big, fast breath if not given further instruction!)

2. Bubbles

Bubbles are my gold standard for breath work with kids. Whether it's regular old wand bubbles, bubble snakes, or our class favorite, bubble mountain, kids of all ages simply love them. If your toddler hasn't mastered the art of bubbles yet, simply blow a bubble and catch it on the wand for them. It doesn't require as much effort to blow an already made bubble off the wand, and at the very least it will dance for them!

3. 5-Finger Breathing

This technique is a great one for kids who benefit from some visual or tactile input. You'll simply use a pointer finger to trace out the fingers of the opposite hand. Start out the outside of the thumb and take a breath in as you trace up each finger, and breathe out as you move down each finger.

For a visual of what 5-finger breathing looks like, download our FREE Mindful Breathing for Kids Guide, which includes 4 great breath work activities to help kids keep calm.

Preview image of kid's breathing strategies cards on an iphone

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Hey! I'm Christine.

I'm the founder of Play to Grow, a children's yoga studio in Gaithersburg, Maryland. As a pediatric physical therapist and mom, I am passionate about helping children and their families live a life full of movement, mindfulness, and creativity.

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