Calming exercises for kids are best when they are simple and engaging. While we can fill baskets with calming tools or teach students yoga poses, it's even better to start with the most straightforward strategy: breathing.
Let's start with simple belly breathing and then move on to some fun variations.
Why Deep Breathing?
Deep breathing tells the brain to calm down. Then, the brain sends that signal to the rest of the body. It's the quickest way to bring your body back to neutral.
It is also the strategy that we always have with us, and we know how to do it.
1. Deep Belly Breaths
Deep breathing is the best place to start with students.
Relax your body. Put your hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath through your nose. Hold it for 3, 2, 1. Slowly breathe out through your mouth, 3, 2, 1.
Check out this excellent Belly Breathing video from Sesame Street for more support in introducing the exercises to students.
2. Dragon Breaths
Dragon breaths are a fun way to create a simple craft while you talk to students about why deep breathing is an effective strategy.
Once you create the craft, it's time to practice calming breaths with students. Have students use the same pattern as belly breathing—breathe in through your nose for three counts and out through your mouth for three counts.
Download the directions for the dragon breath craft.
3. Flower Breaths
Make a fist and pretend you are holding a flower. Put your nose up to the flower and take a deep breath through your nose. Pretend you are smelling the flower. Hold your breath in. Slowly breathe out so you don't disturb the flower.
If you can, get some real flowers to practice with!
4. Cloud Breaths
Cloud breaths are a variation of shape breathing. You may be familiar with a magic eight breathing or star breathing. Students trace the shape as they slowly breathe in and out. I like to use a cloud since you can associate it with a calming activity. You can also have students picture laying in the grass and staring up at the clouds while they slowly breathe in and out.
5. Buddy Breaths
Buddy breaths are a simple strategy requiring only a stuffed animal or a light object. The student lays on the floor and puts the stuffed animal on their belly. They slowly breathe in and out, keeping the stuffed animal steady. You can also tell the student they are helping the stuffed animal do some calm breathing with buddy breaths.
Alternatively, sit back to back with the student and synchronize your breaths slowly in and out.
6. Snake Breaths
Snake and other animal-themed breaths are a great way to engage students. Try other ones like Bunny Breaths or Bear Breaths.
Breathe slowly through your nose and breathe out through your mouth with a long, slow hissing sound.
Deep breathing is a great first calming strategy to teach kids because it is always with them; you can make it fun, and it's easy for them to remember. Try one of the six strategies above and stick to simple belly breathing to start.
Yoga Cards and Posters
This set of yoga poses and flows gives detailed instructions and illustrated examples for you and your students.
Brain Break Cards
A set of responsive brain breaks with three kinds of cards: Energizing, Calming, and Focusing.