5 Fun Ways to Learn Deep Breathing to Help Children Learn Self-regulation

Learning to self-regulate emotions is a big step for any child.  Many of the children I work with as a occupational therapist struggle with this skill.  I have been collecting resources for parents to use at home for several years, so here are a few of the best tools for parents to try at home to engage their child in learning this new skill:

Learning to take a deep breath is a skill I work on with many children in occupational therapy.  It slows down the body and helps to refocus a brain that is being flooded with emotions.  This skill is best practiced during play time, so here are 5 ways to work on teaching children about taking a deep breath.

  1. child blowing dandelionFind an object that moves when you blow.  Go on a nature walk and find things to blow- dandelions, leaves, grasses, and flowers.  Or try a feather (from any craft store) or pinwheeel (easy to make or the dollar store usually has them).  A lightweight scarf or tissues will also work to explore how breathing can move objects.
  2. Blow bubbles through a straw in a cup water or even the bathtub.  See this post on bubble blowing in soapy water.  Or just blow traditional bubbles together.
  3. Make blowing into something more interesting by using your imagination:
    • Try using your fingers as birthday candles and blowing them out one by one.
    • Put both hands in prayer position on your chest, then blow out as you reach your arms straight up and out as a volcano exploding.
    • Put both hands near your mouth like they are holding a tennis ball, then as you blow expand you hands like a huge balloon.
  4. Pair breathing with a movement to build awareness of breathing.  Breath as a swing moves in and out, as you roll a ball back and forth, or as you practice yoga or karate moves.
  5. Use music to help you.  Sing, hum, or play a wind instrument (whistles).  Show the child how you have to take a bigger breath to make more music and how to control your breath to control the music.

For other ideas on deep breathing:

Looking for more ideas?

Paige Hays is an occupational therapist who provides in-home, pediatric occupational therapy services in the south metro area of the Twin Cities, MN. She is a mother of 2 girls, avid DIYer, and a highly skilled and experienced OT. She specializes in working in pediatrics, with diverse expertise ranging from cognition and sensory issues to working with children with neuromuscular disabilities or complex medical needs. www.paigehays.net