1. Belly Breathing

Start by focusing on simply breathing in and out, like you would when teaching meditation. Ask your child to put one hand on their belly and one on their chest so they can feel the two places where their breathing happens.

Have them notice how their chest and belly rise when they take a breath in and fall when they let it out. Your child may feel less self-conscious or more able to focus if they close their eyes during this exercise.

Try counting out loud while they’re doing this. Ask them to breathe in for four counts, hold their breath for two counts, and then breathe back out for six counts. After five total rounds of counted breathing, ask your child how they’re feeling.

That last step, naming emotions, is important in reducing stress because it gives your child information about themselves.

Being aware means being less anxious. Just try not to worry if they identify feeling restless, frustrated, or even grumpy. All emotions are good ones—especially if they are named!

2. Buddy Breathing

Sometimes focusing on breathing is hard. Even when you ask your child to feel their breath by placing their hands on their belly and chest, really connecting with it can be elusive.

If this is the case for your child, ask them to lie down with a favorite stuffed animal on their belly. Watching their stuffy rise and fall with their breath may make the connection click.

3. Balloon Breathing

Taking deep breaths helps your child find a sense of calm. And pretending to be a balloon is a fun way to help them achieve this kind of mindful breathing!

While they sit in a comfortable position, ask them to take a deep breath and imagine they are filling with air.

As they fill, they raise their arms above their head and slowly move into a standing position. Then they can “deflate” and sit back down.

4. Bumblebee Breathing

This is a particularly effective breathing exercise for kids who feel overstimulated by their environment, because it helps draw their attention inward.

For this one, your child covers their eyes and ears (you may need an eye covering or earmuffs to help) and breathes in through their nose and out through their closed mouth while humming.

This creates a buzzing sound and generates a vibration throughout their body that can be soothing.

5. Mindful Breathing

Sometimes kids need to “see something” in their brain to stop it from swirling with thoughts and worry. This activity helps with that.

Start by suggesting they say “I am the ocean” before they breathe in and “I am calm” after they release their breath. The image of the ocean waves rolling to the shore gives your child a great scene to visualize—one that reinforces the action they’re taking.

Later, you can ask your child to come up with their own phrases to use while they practice mindful breathing.

6. Stand for Breathing

If your child is too wiggly to lie down to practice their breathing, have them try it on their feet. Start by asking them to stand straight and breathe slowly through their nose.

As they breathe, have them raise their arms over their head and touch their palms together. Then ask your child to slowly breathe out through their mouth while they bring their arms back to their sides. They can stretch their fingers wide as they do this.

The combination of stretching and breathing allows your child’s body to let go of stress in two different ways.

You can make this exercise into a mindful version of Simon Says by standing facing your child so they can mirror you. Or you can try a variation called Shrugging Breathing. When your child breathes in, ask them to raise their shoulders, and when they breathe out, ask them to slowly drop them.

7. Use a Stuffed Animal Breathing

Have your child lay down on their back and put a stuffed animal on their belly. Have them breathe in and move the stuffed animal up, then breathe out and bring the stuffed animal back down. This helps teach kids to use their belly to take big deep breaths. Another alternative is to use a weighted stuffed animal.

8. Tumble Dryer Breathing

Have your child sit cross-legged and get comfortable. Have them point their index fingers toward each other in front of their mouth. After your child inhales deeply through the nose, have them exhale through their mouth and swirl their fingers around as they do so (like a tumble dryer). The fun part of this is the swishy noise they’ll hear as they exhale.

9. Dragon Fire Breaths

Have your child interlace their fingers under their chin, and as they inhale, have them raise their elbows as high as they can around their neck and face. On the exhale, have them lower their elbows back down

10. Artful Breathing

Making art is an effective way to calm the body because it absorbs your focus, keeps you present, and settles your mind.

If your child loves hands-on art activities, you might try pairing one with a breathing exercise. The art–making process acts as a warm-up for the breathwork.

What You Need

  • Paper plate
  • Crepe paper
  • Yarn
  • Glue or tape
  • Decorations (ribbons, stickers, markers, paint, etc.)

What to Do

  1. Cut a paper plate in half so it looks like a half-moon, and attach the crepe paper in strips to the flat edge.
  2. Give your child time to decorate it.
  3. When your child is finished, attach yarn to the top of the plate and hang it at the height of the child’s head.
  4. Ask your child to stand in front of the plate and, with deep and slow breaths—in through the nose and out through the mouth—have them blow on the plate to make the crepe paper move.

If you want to tie the project more directly to stress, you could suggest your child turn the plate into a “mood monster” and help them brainstorm fun ways to depict that.