Mindful breathing is a technique that can help improve focus and restore calm into the classroom. Best of all, it’s a strategy that helps develop self-regulation skills, something that kids and teens need throughout their lives.
What is Mindful Breathing?
The idea behind mindful breathing is that if we can control our breathing, we can also calm our body and mind. With that said, it’s not just a nice theory; there is actually scientific evidence behind it. When upset or overwhelmed, our bodies invoke a stress response known as “fight or flight.” It’s an important response that helps us avoid serious danger. The trouble is that we can also have this same response during arguments, worries, or when something doesn’t go our way.
Practicing deep breathing helps to slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure, allowing us to feel calmer, focused, and more in control.
Practicing Deep Breathing
It’s important to note that practicing deep breathing really is a practice. For many kids and young adults (and even adults), it feels silly and unnatural to breathe in a deep and controlled way. By making it a habit to practice deep breathing, though, it can become a healthy routine in our lives.
To practice deep breathing with kids and young adults, first explain mindfulness and why it is important. Discuss the benefits with them so that they can understand why they are adding this practice into their lives.
Then, choose any deep breathing strategy and give it a try together! Remember that this might feel silly to kids and young adults. That’s okay! The goal is to give it a try and keep up the practice.
Mindful Breathing Exercises to Try
By making mindful breathing fun, easy, and memorable, students are more likely to be able to use it when they really need it in the future. Below I’ve listed some breathing strategies kids and young adults can practice. If you love them, check out the Mindful Breathing Cards that you can print and use today.
Bubble breathing. Most kids know what it feels like to blow bubbles. If they don’t, you can certainly even use actual bubbles for this breathing activity. Have kids close their eyes and imagine they are blowing bubbles as they breathe in and out.
Shape breathing. Have kids draw any shape or design on a piece of paper (or on the board). Then, have them slowly breathe in and out as they trace their finger along the shape. With this breathing technique, kids are focused just on the shape, allowing them to really calm their minds in the moment.
Apple pie breathing. Have kids imagine there is a warm slice of apple pie in front of them. Have them slowly breathe in to smell the pie and then breathe out. Note that this breathing exercise really can be done with any type of food. I also like to do this with pizza or a warm cup of cocoa.
Marching band breathing. One of my favorite strategies involves kids imagining that their breath is a marching band. Students should count to the beat of four as they breathe in and out. You can incorporate movement with tapping or clapping as well.
When Should Kids Practice Deep Breathing?
There are many times when kids and young adults might want to practice deep breathing on a more regular basis. Here are a few:
- In the morning to start of the day on a positive note
- Before a big test or quiz
- After a transition
- Right before a morning meeting
- At the beginning of a class
- After lunch or recess
- As an intervention for students struggling with tough emotions
Whether you practice mindful breathing with a whole class, small group, or with individual learners, this practice can help give kids and young adults the tools they need to be successful. Use some of these mindful breathing exercises or grab the full set to get started today.