Deep breathing is a wonderful tool to for adults to use in order to calm and bring our arousal levels down; whether from states like stress, anger, or being busy. It’s often thought of as something just for adults, but kids can greatly benefit as well. It can help them in times of stress, feeling hyperactive, angry or  just about any uncomfortable state. They key to teaching kids these skills is to keep it fun and easy.

Why does deep breathing help kids?

  • When we are stressed, our body reacts as though it has to deal with a threat by running away or fighting. A whole lot of physiological reactions in the body take place to help us run away or fight, like increased heart rate and rapid breathing. This was great for our ancestors, when stress meant running from a predator or fighting an enemy, but today, when our stress is mostly generated by thoughts, our bodily reactions aren’t as helpful anymore. Instead those bodily reactions feel like what we recognise as stress or anxiety. Deep breathing can help ‘trick’ our mind and then our body, into thinking it is calm.
  • Deep breathing helps kids develop resilience
  • The more we practice, or help our kids to practice, the easier and quicker it is to calm.
  • It’s simple and can be done anywhere!

How to teach deep breathing to kids

  • Make it fun! Below are a few ideas, but you can also create your own once you get the hang of it.
  • Blowing a pinwheel – Ask your child to take a deep breath (slow and deep) and hold their breath for two seconds. Then tell them to slowly let their breath go by blowing the pinwheel. Repeat four times.
  • Blowing bubbles – Get your child to dip a bubble wand into some bubble mixture. Now ask them to take a deep breath (slow and deep) and hold their breath for two seconds. Then tell them to slowly let their breath go by blowing a bubble. Repeat four times.
  • Flower breathing – Help your child pick a flower. Ask them to  take a deep breath (slow and deep) through their nose as if they are slowly smelling the flower. At the same time, help them imagine they are breathing in good, calm feelings. Tell them to hold their breath for two seconds. Then tell them to slowly breathe out through their nose, as they breathe out all the bad feelings. Repeat four times.
  • Blowing a feather – Purchase a few large feathers, in various colours, from a craft or discount store. Let your child choose the feather that is most calming to them, or brings the most positive feelings. Ask them to hold the feather in one hand, and slowly take a deep breath in and hold for three seconds. Then tell them to slowly breathe out, as they blow up one side fo the feather and down the other. Repeat four times.

Other resources

  • Smiling Mind is a great free resource. It is a website with short guided mindfulness meditations for kids, broken into age groups to suit the respective developmental level (it also has a meditations for adults!)
  • Relax Kids is another website with guided meditations for kids. Unfortunately it’s not free, but well worth the spend (I’ve used it with quite a few kids in therapy before, they love it!).

If you think your child needs treatment for anxiety, anger or stress please contact Play Therapy Melbourne to discuss how we can help you.

Play Therapy Melbourne has psychologists and counsellors who specialise in child counselling across Melbourne, including Eltham.