What are some breathing exercises for kids?
As my oldest son turned four, his emotions intensified. Once he started melting down, there wasn’t anything I could do to help. I had to find tools that could help him (and me) fast.
Easy kids breathing exercises were the answer!
Why are breathing exercises good for children?
Kids have big emotions.
When we are overwhelmed or upset, our body’s response is “fight or flight”. When kids feel this stress response, breathing exercises help them feel calmer, make better decisions, and handle stressful situations better.
Types of Breathing Exercises for Young Kids
Breath is always available. Kids don’t need anything to put breathing exercises into practice.
Note: Never hold your breath for more than a few counts. Your child should not feel light-headed while practicing breathing exercises.
1. Belly Breathing
Belly breathing for kids is a basic and easy way to start. The focus is on breathing deeply through the belly (instead of a shallow chest breath).
- Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your upper chest.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, filling your lungs.
- Watch your belly expand as your bottom hand rises.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth as your bottom hand lowers back down.
2. Hot Air Balloon Breathing
Inhale through your nose, reach up to the sky, and stand on your toes. Imagine you are taking off like a hot air balloon. Breathe out of your mouth as you lower your hands and float back to the ground.
3. Candle Breath
Pretend you are holding a candle.
Take a long breath in. Then, slowly blow that air out toward your candle. But don’t blow it out yet! Repeat this three more times and then blow your candle out!
4. Hot Chocolate
Imagine you have a delicious, steaming cup of hot chocolate.
Bring your cup in close. Take a long breath in. Then, slowly and gently blow the air out to cool off your hot chocolate. Repeat until your imaginary hot chocolate is cool enough to take a pretend sip.
Then say, “Mmmmmmmm!” Make the sound last as long as you can.
You can also pretend it is a hot, yummy soup!
5. Flower Breath
Hold a pretend flower in your hand.
Take a deep breath in through your nose to smell the flower’s delicious aroma. Let all the air out through your mouth. Smell the flower again with a long slow breath and let it out slowly.
6. Ocean Breathing
This is a great exercise if your family has visited the beach.
- Breathe in and imagine a wave rolling in.
- Breathe out and imagine the wave rolling out.
7. Count to Five
Hold up your hand.
- Breathe slowly in through your nose to the count of five, as you trace the fingers from your thumb to your pinky finger.
- Breathe slowly out through your mouth counting down as you trace the fingers from your pinky to your thumb.
8. Rainbow Breathing
Start with your arms at your sides. As you breathe in, your arms go up making a rainbow over your head. Bring your arms back to your sides as you breathe out.
9. Volcano Breaths
Pretend you are a volcano and your hands and arms are lava.
Hold your hands in front of your heart with your palms touching. Reach straight up as you breathe in. Separate your hands and move your arms down to your sides as you breathe out.
10. Conscious Discipline Breathing Exercises For Kids
Conscious Discipline is an approach that helps parents and children solve problems together. They use four core calming activities. (Conscious Discipline)
- Drain– Extend arms out like they are faucets. Tighten your arm, shoulder, and face muscles. Exhale slowly making a “sssshhh” sound and release your muscles, draining out the stress.
- Pretzel– Standing, cross your ankles. Cross your right wrist over left, put your palms together and interlace your fingers. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, relax, and breathe.
- S.T.A.R– Smile, Take a deep breath And Relax.
- Balloon– Place both hands on top of your head. Breathe in and raise your arms above your head like you are blowing up a balloon.
Fun Animal Breathing Exercises for Kids
11. Bunny Breath
Pretend to be a bunny. Take 3 quick sniffs in through the nose and one long exhale out the nose. Repeat three times. Then take one final deep breath in and out. Younger children will enjoy hopping around like a bunny after breathing to continue to release stress from their body.
12. Lion Breath
Pretend you are a lion down on all fours. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Open your mouth as wide as you can, stick your tongue out, and ROAR!
13. Bear Breath
Pretend you are a hibernating bear. When bears hibernate they breathe slowly. Inhale through your nose and let it out slowly. Repeat several times focusing on breathing slowly like a hibernating bear.
14. Snake Breath
Sit up tall and inhale deeply. As you let your breath out, make the hiss of a snake. Make the “ssss” sound last as long as possible as you breathe out. Repeat.
15. Bumblebee Breathing
Pretend you are a bumblebee. Make bumblebee wings by putting your hands on your waist and sticking your elbows out. Wiggle your wings back and forth. Take a deep breath in and buzz it out as long as you can.
16. Dragon Breath
Hold your hand up close to your face. Take a deep breath in and slowly exhale as you feel your hot breath on your hand. Imagine you are breathing out fire like a dragon.
17. Elephant Breathing
Stand with wide feet and dangle your arms in front of you resembling an elephant trunk. Breathe in through the nose while raising your arms high above your head. Breathe out through the mouth and swing your arms down. Repeat several times.
18. Cat Breathing
Get on your hands and knees like a cat. Breathe in as you lift your chin and tilt your back. Breathe out while you slowly arch your back towards the ceiling and lower your head. This also uses our bodies to stretch and create calm.
19. Have your child choose an animal
Any animal your child loves can work. Let your child choose and pretend they are that animal. Then focus on slow and deep belly breathing.
Kids Breathing Games
Breathing exercises for children can be turned into fun games by adding the use of props.
20. Use Bubbles
Kids loves blowing bubbles. Using bubbles will teach kids to blow gently with slow deep breaths to create as many bubbles as they can.
21. Stuffed Animal Breathing
Have your child lay down on his/her back and place their favorite stuffed animal on their belly. Have them belly breathe in to move the stuffed animal up. Breathe out to move the stuffed animal back down. Other small toys could also be used.
The goal is to breathe through the belly and be slow and controlled.
22. Pinwheel Breathing
Take a deep breath in and blow out at different speeds to make the pinwheel spin. Have your child focus on what type of breathing makes them feel the best.
23. Feather Breathing
Holding a feather, take a deep breath in through the nose. Hold for three counts and slowly breathe out blowing up and down on the feather.
24. Sphere Breathing
While breathing in, expand the sphere with your hands. Breathe out and push the sphere back in. Point out to your child that this is what is happening in their belly as they breathe deeply.
25. Use objects around the house
Look for objects around the house that could be fun to use for breath. Use a straw to blow a piece of paper across the table, blow seeds off a dandelion you find outside, or try to keep a balloon afloat in the air with big breaths.
Good Breathing Exercises for Teens
Teens have a lot on their plate between school, extra-curricular activities, and social demands. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 1 in 3 of all adolescents ages 13 to 18 will experience an anxiety disorder.
The following exercises may help manage your teen’s stress.
26. Shape Breathing
Visualize a triangle. Breathe in for three counts as you trace one side of the triangle. Hold your breath for three counts as you trace the second side. Breathe out for three counts as your trace the final side of the triangle.
Repeat this process with a square. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four, breathe out for four, and hold for four as you finish the square.
27. Color Breathing
Imagine a little ball of your favorite color inside your belly. Take a big breath in and imagine the ball getting bigger and bigger. Everything around you is your favorite color. It feels calm and warm. Let your breath all the way out and repeat while you are surrounded in a cloud of your favorite color.
28. 5 Count Breathing
Breathe in for 5, hold for 5, and breathe out for 5.
Pro Tip: Experienced school psychologist, Dr. Jamie Donnelly, highly recommends this simple strategy for beginners. She also loves bubble breathing from #20!
29. Darth Vader Breathing
Pretend you are sucking in your breath through a straw. Breathe out like Darth Vader.
30. Star Breathing
Draw or trace a star. Breathe in and breathe out as you trace each side of the star. Keep tracing the star slowly and breathing until you feel calmer.
How do you teach a child mindful breathing?
By age 2, kids can start engaging in intentional breathing exercises. (Today’s parent) Always start by introducing a breathing exercise when your child is calm. It will be unsuccessful if you introduce this concept in the middle of a meltdown or when emotions are high.
Have fun with your child as you try out and practice the kids breathing exercises above. Connect the activity with how your child is feeling and focus on the exercises they enjoyed the most.
We all have emotions. Remind your child that their emotions are normal and show that you can benefit from these breathing activities too. Model for your child aloud when you are using a deep breathing exercise to help you feel less stressed.
The goal is for our children to use breathing exercises as they grow and throughout their lives. It may not work every time, but the more your child uses it, the more it will help.
I have been working with my son for several years. Not only has he become better at self-regulation, but I have noticed the benefits in my own life as well.
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Mindful Kids Breathing Resources
Find additional resources that will help your kiddos learn to breathe and practice mindfulness to relieve stress and anxiety.
Sesame Street: “Belly Breathe” with Elmo
Younger kids will enjoy singing along with Elmo in this video as he learns to calm himself by belly breathing.
This book includes exercises to help your kids calm down, focus, imagine, make energy, and relax!
Colorful images and rhyme introduce children to breathing techniques that calm and teach self-regulation.
Just Breathe by Mallika Chopra (Ages 8-12)
*For older kids
This book is filled with exercises and breathing techniques as well as guided meditations for dealing with stress, anxiety, and building self-confidence.
Best Mindfulness Apps for Kids
- Stop, Breathe & Think (Ages 5-10)- With this app, your child will learn mindful breathing to help them focus, process emotions, and sleep.
- Calm– Calm is a great app for tweens and teens and has a new meditation daily as well as breathing exercises, stretches, music, sleep stories, and more.
- Headspace for kids– This app uses breathing exercises, guided relaxations, and other activities geared toward the user’s age.
Great Benefits of Deep Breathing
Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. (The American Institute of Stress)
This leads to many benefits:
- reduced stress and anxiety by calming the nervous system
- better self-regulation or the ability to manage emotions
- strengthened immunity by lowering cortisol levels and blood pressure
- increased focus, calm, and mindfulness
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To Consider With Breathing Exercises for Kids
When we take the time to practice breathing techniques with our kids, we are all better able to stop and breathe before reacting to a stressful situation.
Our kids will benefit from using this life-long tool to regulate their emotions, practice mindfulness, and release anxiety.
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- 40 Gifts to Help With Anxiety
- Positive Affirmations for Anxiety and Stress Relief
- 105 Positive Affirmations for Kids
Willey, Kira. Breathe Like a Bear. Rodale Kids, 2017.