Here’s the thing about breathing: we do it all day long, but unless we take opportunities to really notice our breathing, we’re not able to use it as a helpful tool. Because we breathe all day every day, it takes some conscience effort to really focus on it.


We call this simple strategy belly breathing. (We can thank our friend Susan Kaiser Greenland, author of The Mindful Child, for this and many other strategies.) Many of us breathe from our chest, shallowly. To benefit from the calming effects of breathing, it’s important to know what it feels like to breathe from your belly. Have the child lie down on the floor. Place an object that has some weight to it on his belly. We like to use Beanie Babies because doesn’t everyone have a ton of those still sitting around in a box somewhere? But you can use any object at all, a building block, a notebook, a toy. Instruct the child to watch the object move up and down on his belly. As he takes longer breaths, what happens to the object? For an older kid, you might encourage him to visualize the object riding the waves as he breathes.

It’s pretty simple. But sometimes it’s those tiny little tricks that change the way we think about breathing and allow kids to really grasp the concept.

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