Breathing Exercises for Kids
You know deep breathing will help your child. You can make it more fun, engaging, and memorable with these breathing exercises for kids.
“Just take a deep breath!”
Every parent has said this to their children. Why?
Because you know it works. In your own life and experience, you’ve seen the power that deep breathing can have.
But how can you actually get your child to use deep breathing exercises?
Check out six simple exercises for kids that make taking a deep breath fun and engaging.
Deep Breathing Exercises for Kids
Deep breathing exercises for kids are activities you do with your child. They help your child focus on taking deep breaths.
They make breathing more concrete for children by bringing awareness to an otherwise automatic activity.
They are different than breathing exercises for adults because they use kid-friendly imagery and techniques. The language for the deep breathing practices is more accessible for children and connects to their interests.
Why are deep breathing exercises good for kids?
It is helpful for children to do deep breathing exercises for several reasons:
- Breath is always accessible
- Calms the nervous system
- Focusing on exercises takes attention away from a stressful situation
- Mindfulness connects your child to the present moment
Breath is always accessible
Some children develop emotional regulation through using a sensory toy like a fidget. But those tools might not always be available. A child might forget it or an adolescent might feel embarrassed to use a pop-it in front of their peers.
Using deep breathing can’t be forgotten at home. Taking breaths is also subtle so children can use it without hesitation around peers.
Calms the Nervous System
Deep breathing brings more oxygen into your child’s body. In turn, more oxygen reaches the bloodstream and cells. This help calm the nervous system.
There is emerging research that there are nerves in the brain that direct breathing activity are connected to the area that controls physical regulation – or the fight or flight instinct.
Focusing on deep breathing exercises takes your child’s attention away from a stressful situation.
Instead of focusing on a worry or a triggering event, your child moves their attention and their thoughts to breathing. This simple shift in attention can be enough to calm some children.
So often, upsetting events either occurred in the past or could possibly occur in the future. When a child takes deep breaths, they shift to the present moment.
This type of mindfulness allows children to experience more control over their present situation.
Breathing for Kids with Anxiety
When a child experiences anxiety, they go into fight or flight mode. Their nervous system thinks their anxious thought is life-threatening, even if it’s not. So they tend to take more shallow breaths.
These poor quality breaths can make anxiety even worse. So deep breathing for kids with anxiety is really important.
You can teach your child that as soon as they recognize they are having an anxious thought or feel tense, that means it is time for some deep breaths. That can help them interrupt their anxiety cycle.
Deep Breathing for Kids with Anger
Have you noticed that when you’re really angry and someone tells you to take a deep breath, it just makes you even more made? The trick with anger is catching it before it gets out of control.
Before practicing deep breathing for kids with anger, you can try using an anger chart. Making anger visual will help your child learn when to intervene.
Once your child notices their anger, then they can learn to take some breaths. Those deep breaths will help them center themselves in order to problem-solve.
Changing how kids with anger access deep breaths can be a big help in reducing the severe behaviors that can go along with anger.
Fun Breathing Exercises for Kids
To help children be successful with deep breathing, the exercises need to be fun! Try these six engaging deep breathing exercises:
- Rainbow breathing
- Snake breathing
- Butterfly breathing
- Birthday breathing
- Bubble breathing
- Flower breathing
In this breathing exercise, your child images a rainbow. They can use their hand to trace an imagery rainbow in the air.
One way to practice rainbow breathing is:
- Image a rainbow.
- Take a deep inhale until the top of the arch of the rainbow.
- Exhale until the end of the arch of the rainbow.
- Repeat for all the colors for the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple.
Another way to practice rainbow breathing is:
- Ask your child to stand with their arms by their sides.
- As they inhale, show them how to bring their arms up like an arch to form a rainbow.
- As they exhale, show them how to lower their arms back down to their sides.
If you have a little animal lover, try snake breathing with them. My five-year-old loves this one!
This is how your child can do snake breathing:
- Image a snake.
- Take a deep breath as long as the snake.
- Briefly pause.
- Hiss out on the exhale.
Butterfly breathing can be so appealing to children. This breathing exercise can be done with arm motions for full-body relaxation.
To practice butterfly breathing, your child will:
- Stand with their arms by their sides.
- With an inhale, bring their arms together like a butterfly.
- Briefly pause.
- With the exhale, release their arms back down.
Children love birthdays. Leverage their interest in blowing out birthday candles to practice breathing.
Here’s how to practice birthday breathing:
- Ask your child to imagine a cake with a lot of candles.
- Have them take a deep belly breath.
- Blow out all those candles with a slow, long exhale.
- Repeat for the number of years old your child is.
There is nothing more fun on a the first warm spring day than blowing bubbles. Simply blowing bubbles is a great way to practice taking deep breaths, but when they aren’t available, bubble breathing is a great option.
This is how your child can bubble breath:
- Your child imagines they have a bubble wand.
- They want to blow the biggest bubble ever.
- Your child takes deep inhale.
- Then your child must slowly exhale so it doesn’t pop.
Flower breathing is a fun option for little nature lovers.
Your child will:
- Imagine their favorite flower.
- Take a deep inhale to smell it.
- Slowly release their breath.
Free Printable Breathing Exercises for Kids
Sometimes you just need something you can throw on your fridge. So grab these free printable breathing exercises for kids.
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Breathing Cards PDF
For a lot of children, discussing how to take deep breaths won’t be enough. They will need structured and explicit practice.
I found this with my own children. They would just take one breath and it won’t really function as an emotional regulation skill.
That is why the deep breathing cards PDF are so helpful. These cards give children structure as the cards are tangible, make the exercises concrete, and make explicit the task they need to complete.
To use these breathing cards, you will:
- Grab the Breathing Cards in Printable Parents Shop or you can find the Breathing Exercises Cards Teachers Pay Teachers.
- Print them on card stock.
- Laminate the large cards and the small icon velcro cards.
- Affix Velcro to the breathing task cards and smaller cards.
- Demonstrate each card to your child or students.
- Practice deep breathing exercises while they are calm.
Recapping Breathing for Kids
Here’s what busy parents need to know about breathing for kids:
- Breathing is an automatic activity.
- Breathing exercises make breathing more concrete for children.
- Deep breathing practices for kids are fun because they use engaging imagery.
- The breath is a powerful tool because it is always with your child.
- The benefits of deep breathing include increasing mindfulness, directing anxious thoughts to the breath, and bringing more oxygen to the body.
- Six fun breathing exercises for kids are: butterfly, flower, rainbow, snake, birthday, and bubbles breathing.
While breathing is incredibly useful and important, it also takes time. You cannot expect to see results in a week or two. Commit to making deep breathing tangible to your child and include some regular practice.
Your child will thank you when this tool helps them navigate some difficult situations in life.