Calming exercises for kids are best when they are simple and engaging. While we can fill up baskets with calming tools or teach students yoga poses, it's even better to start with the easiest 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 in through your nose. Hold it for 3, 2, 1. Slowly breathe out through your mouth, 3, 2, 1.
Check out this wonderful Belly Breathing video from Sesame Street for more support introducing the exercises to students.
2. Dragon Breaths
Dragon breaths are 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. Breath 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 in through your nose. Pretend you are smelling the flower. Hold the 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 magic 8 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 that only requires a stuff animal or a light object. The student lays on the floor and puts the stuff animal on their belly. They slowly breathe in and out, keeping the stuffed animal steady. You can also tell the student that they are helping the stuffed animal do some calm breathing with buddy breaths.
Alternative, 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 in 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.
Read about other calming strategies for the classroom and home