Don't forget to read to the end to grab your free deep breathing bracelet exercise for kids!
Ever default to, "Take a deep breath", when your child is upset, only to see them frantically heaving and making their situation worse?
Just as we don’t expect children to master Math concepts without first exposing them to loose parts and direct one-to-one correspondence (shout out to all my fellow 30-somethings still counting on their fingers), we certainly cannot expect them to grasp what deep breathing looks like without first breaking it down.
So why do we teach deep, conscious breathing?
The list of benefits is staggering, but here are some of the best reasons:
- Boosts energy and mood
- Improves posture
- Supports digestion
- Helps to prevent headaches
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases oxygenation in blood
- Removes toxins from the body (up to 70%!)
- Eases pain (both mental anguish and physical distress)
- Stimulates creativity & problem-solving in the brain
- Can support sleep
- Cleanses the lungs
So where do we begin?
It may sound strange that we have to teach breathing- after all, it is an automatic function. However, intentional, conscious breathing is something that needs to be mastered over time. How do we introduce abstract concepts to kids? We play! Always make sure you introduce these props (for this purpose) as tools and not toys so that they have a change in mindset when it comes time to using them responsibly.
Here are my top 7 tools that help make the idea of deep breathing more concrete (+ a DIY bonus):
- Hoberman Sphere (or the breathing ball)
The Hoberman Sphere is the most tangible way to show the natural inflation and compression of our belly as we breathe. I model breathing in slowly through my nostrils and expanding the sphere, and then exhaling as I decompress it.
➡ Try: Using it without announcing it when you feel frustrated. Modeling will be the most powerful motivator to them to want to integrate it into their routines.
Dollar stores have the most fantastic themed pinwheels that you can provide during outdoor exploration in all different fun themes. They pose a challenge as they are almost impossible to move unless they take those deeper breaths.
➡ Try: Grabbing a multi-colored pinwheel to piggyback a mindful iSpy activity after they make the pinwheel dance. Ask them to identify a color on the pinwheel and to spot something of that color in their environment.
Straws- I would purchase bamboo, metal, or the tough plastic kind to avoid excess waste.
Straws are more the vessel by which kids can move other materials, such as feathers and eventually heavier items such as pom poms or marbles.
➡ Try: Have your kids play keep ups with feathers to see who can keep it controlled and in the air the longest.
➡ Try: Have your kids take on a marble maze STEM challenge, through which they will have to work together to make sure that it gets to the end within the least amount of time (obviously if there are respiratory conditions such as asthma in the class, you can tweak the learning goal).
Streamers are the most versatile material when it comes to creating mindful breathing crafts.
Check out some that we have explored on Instagram:
a) Diversity Jelly for Self-Esteem
b) Dragon Breath Craft for Anger Management
➡ Try: Using simple craft supplies to create your child's favorite animal. Make sure that there is some overhanging crepe paper that they can blow at when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. We'd love to see what you come up with! Don't forget to tag us @namasteinschools on Instagram.
- Mindful Coloring & Task Cards
Catering to a child’s interest is critical when teaching any lesson. Nobody can deny a child’s love of coloring or their passion to undertake developmentally appropriate challenges. Here is one breathing strategy coloring page set that is loved, as there are opportunities to develop fine motor and gross motor skills when art and movement standards collide!
What others, like you, are saying about this set:
I homeschool my 4 year old twins, so needless to say we could ALL use some opportunities to center ourselves and refocus. These coloring pages are just perfect for that! We put on some relaxing music and work on our breathing together... we all benefit from it! Thanks so much!
Similar to the Hoberman Sphere, there is something so satisfying and effective in a physical tool that expands and contracts to mimic our breathing. Check out this Instagram post to see all the different ways we like to use them to promote mindfulness.
➡ Try: The first challenge in the video to promote posture and timed breathing at the same time!
Bubbles are another tangible tool to support control of breathing. A child who sputters excitedly at the wand will likely not have any luck producing bubbles, whereas if they learn to target their diaphragm and produce a steady stream of air versus bursts of breaths, they will see immediate gratification.
➡ Try: Inviting your child to change the shape of their lips or bounce their belly in different ways to see how the bubble output transforms.
Let your curious kids take over and create their own breathing character out of household items. For example, we made Stormy Sally for our class out of a spatula and googly eyes! The students would breathe in slowly and then move her hair around by exhaling.
She also served as our speaking spatula- so each time a student would speak in the community circle, they would need to be holding her. The tactile bits also supported focus and confidence.
Don't forget to use nature to inspire mindfulness and deep breathing within your programming. Even ROCKS can go a long way to promote deep breathing and mindfulness! Check out this idea below:
Before you go, be sure to download your FREE breathing bracelet card!
If you DIY your own, don't forget to take a picture and tag us @namasteinschools on Instagram!