Belly breathing is the quickest way to a calm nervous system. It sends a message to your child's brain to calm down and relax, which then tells the body to do the same. Those things that happen when she gets stressed, like increased blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate, all decrease quickly and balance in the body is restored.
What is belly breathing?
Belly breathing is a conscious state of deep breathing that we control with the diaphragm. When we do it correctly, both our belly and chest expand. Best when inhaling through the nose, and exhaling through the mouth.
You can teach your child to belly breath in a number of ways.
Here are 5 different ways you can practice belly breathing with your child.
1. Use visuals: For young children, using objects that provide visual feedback can be helpful in teaching deep breathing. Use visuals like pinwheels, feathers, Hoberman spheres, or bubbles if you are sitting or standing. Alternatively, lie down on your backs, place a stuffed animal on your belly, and breath deeply trying to raise the animal up on the inhale, and watch it go down on the exhale.
2. Use your imagination: Tell your child to inhale and smell the dandelion, then exhale and blow off the seeds. Or inhale and smell the hot cocoa, and exhale to cool it down. Or inhale and make a wish, then exhale and blow out the candle.
3. Count: Count to pace your inhale and exhale, such as inhale - one, exhale - two, inhale - 3, exhale - 4, inhale - 5, exhale - 6 and so on.
4. Box breaths: Print out the visual below. Have your child trace the box with their finger as they follow the instruction. Inhale for 2-4 seconds across the top, hold for 2-4 seconds down the right side, exhale for 2-4 seconds across the bottom, and hold for 2-4 seconds up the left side. Repeat a few times. Find the age appropriate length of seconds for your kiddo. Once your child gets the hang of it, she can imagine the box, or draw it in the air as she breaths.
5. Lazy "8" breathing: Print the visual above. Have your child place her finger in the center of the "lazy 8.". As she traces the left, she inhales, then exhales as she runs her finger around the right side. Repeat a few times. Once mastered, this can be imagined, or drawn in the air.
So you reached the bottom line.
Here is your take away. Belly breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body, for adults and children. Just try one of the five exercises above and see how it feels!
Until next time, air hugs!
Hi! Austen here. Portland based Pediatric OT obsessed with leggings and all things child development. Welcome to my journal! I hope to educate and empower parents and caregivers with science inspired insights, effective strategies, and confidence.