Breathing Exercises for Children

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Help children learn important self-monitoring skills with this lesson. Several different exercises and activities are included that help teach children breathing techniques.

Why Breathing Exercises?

Children may be smaller versions of us, but they can often have powerful emotions. Sometimes these feelings can be overpowering, and they may not know how to deal with them. Teaching them breathing exercises can often help with these and other emotions that come up from time to time. Controlled breathing can help children feel calmer and more relaxed, allowing them time to think clearly about themselves and make good choices. How does this work?

By breathing deeply, we stimulate parts of the nervous system that control and regulate stress, inducing relaxation. Think about a time you were stressed and used this system, maybe pausing to count to ten or taking a few deep breaths before responding to a rude waiter. Taking that breath, and break, gives your body a chance to calm down from the 'fright or flight' feeling and think clearly.

Breathing exercises aren't limited to times of stress, however. By teaching our children methods of breathing that can be incorporated into daily living, they are using tools that make important mind-body connections and practicing self-regulation. Let's take a look at some of these methods.

Snake Breathing

Using this simple method teaches children to connect to their inhale and exhale by incorporating sound and texture. First, children will take a deep 5-count breath in through their nose, hold it for three seconds, then release it through their mouths while making an 'sssss' sound. Calling it 'Snake Breathing' gives them an easy-to-remember reference. Practice this type of breathing to help calm down, or do it several times a day for simple relaxation.

Choo-Choo Breathing

This simple exercise helps when children become upset and need a chance to regulate their breathing. Teach them how to do the breath, then remind them when it is needed. Have the child first take several short breaths in through the nose, then release them in one long, slow exhale through the nose. The effect is somewhat like a train, chugging along the track. Have children visualize a train moving as they breathe to give them a mental focus.

Pretzel Breathing

Adding some movement can help children to further the benefits of breathing exercises. This pretzel breathing has children moving their bodies along with the breath to calm nerves and muscles and focus on relaxation.

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