3 Simple Ways of Breathing With Your Kids

By Dana Chapman

breathing motivationMany parents and teachers find that their entry point into mindfulness is to explore simple practices with their children or students. Pausing for breathing breaks is one easy way to start this exploration, to bring some calm into the space, and to feel the effects of deep breaths on the body and mind.

Below are three examples of breathing practices that have worked well for the children I spend time with. You can tweak them to suit the age of your child/students. For example, if I’m working with young children I give them a square and have them trace each edge to match the four components of the square breath (rather than counting the breath as outlined below).

Square Breathing

Ask the children to sit up nice and tall, making themselves as comfortable as they can. Point out that it’s much easier to take deep breaths when our posture is good! Explain that you will try a couple of different breath counts together and then everyone can choose which one feels best for them…

Inhale for a count of 3

Pause for a count of 3

Exhale for a count of 3

Pause for a count of 3

Repeat 2 times

Inhale for a count of 4

Pause for a count of 4

Exhale for a count of 4

Pause for a count of 4

Repeat 2 times

Ask them to choose the ratio that felt best in their body and carry on quietly until they hear the bell. If you are doing this at home, it could be much more casual, perhaps sitting back to back and matching the square breathing rhythm.

Depending on the age group, you can judge the perfect amount of time. Once the children are used to the practice, they could set a goal for the length of time they’d like to practice.

Sunshine Breath

Ask children to sit comfortably with a straight spine. They should have room on either side to extend their arms without touching their neighbors.

As they inhale, ask them to raise their arms up and out to the side, “like the sun coming up.”

As they exhale, ask them to lower their arms back down, “like the sun setting.”

Variation: on the exhale they can lower their arms and bring their hands to their chest and belly, “like you’re bringing all that warm sunlight into your body.”

5 Finger Breathing

Ask children to sit in a comfortable position. They can rest their hands in their lap and prepare to use one hand to count their breaths. It is important to remind them to breathe at their own relaxed pace and, if they are comfortable, to close their eyes so that this can be an internal experience. I usually demonstrate a couple of breaths so that they understand and then we begin.

  • Inhale, exhale, and fold the thumb in
  • Inhale, exhale, and fold the second finger in
  • Inhale, exhale, and fold the third finger in
  • Inhale, exhale, and fold the fourth finger in
  • Inhale, exhale, and fold the little finger in

Finish by asking them to relax their hand and sit in silence until they hear the bell. Once their attention span increases, they might decide to do 10 finger breathing and use both hands.

If you would like to learn more practical tools to support your child or students, please join Dana on Thursday, November 9th for the workshop, Help Your Kids Find Calm.

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