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Breathing Exercises for Young Children

18/05/2016 16:13 | Updated 18 May 2016

I'm walking around the house with feathers in my bra. It's almost like our own private Mardi Gras. Wait, I might try that out as a rap.

Three weeks in to life as a family of four, and the sleep deprivation is beginning to take its toll. As such, I have been trying to think of relaxing activities that involve me lying down - family activities, that is. I can think of some extremely relaxing horizontal activities, but then that's how we got into this mess in the first place.

Sleeping would be top of my list, but that is currently more elusive than the bottom of the laundry basket. So, this week the toddler and I decided to try some mindful breathing exercises.

Obviously, with a two year old, this is more about fun and play than anything else. But, my hope is that encouraging the toddler to focus to her breath will be a small step towards her...

  • understanding the way we can use our breath to calm ourselves down
  • noticing physical changes in her body as the quality of her breath changes
  • eventually using breathing to help manage emotions
Plus, it's a good opportunity for a little quiet time on those days when we're struggling to get outdoors, and it's something we can do together whilst I'm feeding the baby. Did I mention that I might also get to lie down?

As she's so young we use some props. This helps her to see the physical evidence of her breath, and how it can affect her body or objects.

Mindful breathing exercises for kids
 

  • Teddy bear breathing
  • Lie down (woop!) with your child, and place teddy bears or soft toys on your bellies. Encourage your child to try some abdominal breathing by taking deep inhalations through their nose and and exhaling through their mouth. You could add a count, to 3 or 5, to help them regulate the breath. As they fill their bellies with their breath, they'll see their teddy rise and fall.
     

  • Animal breathing
  • There are several things you could try here. How about:

    Snake breath - sit or kneel, take a deep breath in and then a slow exhale whilst making a ssssss sound.

    Lion's breath - get onto all fours, inhale through your nose, exhale (with mouth and eyes wide open and tongue sticking out in the direction of your chin), make a roaring 'haaa' sort of a sound. (read more about our previous Lion's breath experience here)

    Bee breath - sit or kneel, press your index fingers against your ears to close them, inhale then exhale whilst making a humming noise, like a bee.
     

  • Feather breathing
  • Cup a feather between your palms, raise your hands to your mouth as you inhale through your nose, uncup your palms and breathe out through your mouth, blowing the feather away.

    You could also try holding the feather and raising your arm as you inhale, then releasing the feather and exhaling as it falls. Try and make the exhale last until the feather lands on the ground.

    How it goes down...

    The toddler is enthusiastic when I mention 'teddy breathing'. We get out the yoga mat and a couple of teddies, and lie down next to each other. One teddy is not enough (I refer you to Toddler Rule #159 - one of anything is never enough).

    We lie down together taking deep breaths and watching our teddies rise and fall. I congratulate myself on an excellent calming activity. I turn to the toddler who is scanning the room, with a look in her eye that I am all too familiar with. Pretty soon I have an entire teddy bears' picnic on my belly (luckily my postnatal cake-loving belly is up to the task).

    And, predictably, I then also have the toddler bouncing on my belly, screeching, 'breathe mummy breathe'. Easier said than done.

    As is evident by the fact that I am still finding feathers in my undergarments, amongst other places, it's safe to say that the feather breathing went slightly off-track too.

    But we had fun, and the toddler enjoyed feeling powerful as she used her breath to move objects around. Focusing on our breath is a quick, easy way to ground ourselves and, by regularly 'taking a breather' together, I hope to slowly introduce the concept of breath as a calming device.

    Meanwhile, I have a feathered baby to rescue.

    This post originally appeared on Parenting Calm, a blog about mindful living and positive parenting - with a sense of humour.

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