Updated: Jul 18
Slow deep breathing is an essential coping skill, as it turns off the fight or flight response. It can be done anywhere and in any situation. It should be the first skill for children to employ to gain control over their emotions.
This post offers several different ways to introduce deep breathing. Kids will usually huff and puff quickly when told to take slow, deep breaths. These skills help them to master slowing down and breathing deeply. Having visual cues, engaging the senses, and incorporating play will help children remember the skills so they will more likely use them when needed. The printables are also helpful for children to take home to educate parents.
The following ideas are some of the best I have found. Each offers a different take on slow deep breathing and will meet the interests of different personalities, genders, and ages.
by He's Extraordinary
There are several things I like about this one. The infinity sign gives the message to keep on going. Kids will often want to follow the pattern once or twice and be done, but they may still be feeling distressed. I also like that they can trace the 8 with their finger, giving a physical connection to the activity. It is also easy enough that most kids will be able to draw an eight on a piece of paper to use the skill if needed.
by Childhood 101
Like the Lazy 8 Breathing, this exercise has children follow the outline with their fingers as they breathe, breathing in and out as they go. It is helpful that they can use their hand instead of a drawing, as it will always be available for them to use.
by Very Special Tales
This site offers yoga exercises to do while using deep breathing skills. I love the animals, as kids love to engage in imaginative play. They enjoy pretending to be animals. The animal behavior also helps them recognize how to do the poses.
Related Post: Coping Skills Toolbox
by Children Inspired by Yoga
Belly breathing helps children to use proper technique when using breathing exercises. This can help them with body awareness and focus while using the skills.
by Counselor Chelsey
These posters are cute. Printing them as tatake-homeapers would also be helpful to educate parents on how to use the skills with the kids, encouraging co-regulation. And, you can't be free!
by Lucky Little Learners
Kids won't even realize they are learning when using bubbles to teach breathing. Blowing bubbles requires self-control, focus, and slow and controlled breathing. Once they associate blowing bubbles with slow deep breathing, they will be able to keep their breathing slow and steady.
by Coping Skills for Kids
This simple intervention uses shape outlines to help kids stay focused while engaging in deep breathing. They just keep following the pattern of the shape until they feel calm.
by Debbie Chapman
What a fun way to teach slow deep breathing! The dragon creates a symbol of anger and the breathing shows how to tame the dragon. This site offers a video tutorial and shows exactly how to assemble these cute little dragons.
You might consider making coping skill flashcards or printing some of these ideas to include in a coping skill toolbox. You may also enjoy reading about play therapy ideas for anger or counseling games for anxiety. Also, learn creative interventions for somatic symptoms.