3 Simple Ways to Breathe with your Kids

Many teachers find that their entry point into mindfulness is to explore simple practices with their students. Pausing for breath breaks is one easy way to start this exploration, to bring some calm into the space, and to feel the effects of deep breaths on the body and mind.

Below are three examples of breathing practices that have worked well for my students in classroom settings. You can tweak them to suit the age group you spend time with. For example, if I’m teaching young children I give them a square and have them trace each edge to match the four components of the square breath rather than counting the breath as outlined below.

Square Breathing

Ask the children to sit up nice and tall, making themselves as comfortable as they can. Point out that it’s much easier to take deep breaths when our posture is good! Explain that you will try a couple of different breath counts together and then everyone will choose which one feels best for them.

Inhale for a count of 3
Pause for a count of 3
Exhale for a count of 3
Pause for a count of 3
Repeat 2 times

Inhale for a count of 4
Pause for a count of 4
Exhale for a count of 4
Pause for a count of 4
Repeat 2 times

Ask them to choose the ratio that felt best in their body and to carry on quietly until they hear the bell.

Depending on the age group, you can judge the ideal amount of time. Once the children are used to the practice, they could set a class goal for the length of time they’d like to practice.

Sunshine Breath

Ask the children to sit comfortably with a straight spine. They should have room on either side to extend their arms without touching their neighbours.

As they inhale, ask them to raise their arms up and out to the side, “like the sun coming up.”

As they exhale, ask them to lower their arms back down, “like the sun setting.”

Variation: on the exhale they can lower their arms and bring their hands to their chest and belly, “like you’re bringing all that warm sunlight into your body.”

5-Finger Breathing

Ask children to sit in a comfortable sitting position. They can rest their hands in their lap and prepare to use one hand to count their breaths. It is important to remind them to breathe at their own relaxed pace and, if they are comfortable, to close their eyes so that this can be an internal experience. I usually demonstrate a couple of breaths so that they understand and then we begin.

Inhale, exhale, and fold the thumb in.
Inhale, exhale, and fold the second finger in.
Inhale, exhale, and fold the third finger in.
Inhale, exhale, and fold the fourth finger in.
Inhale, exhale, and fold the little finger in.

Finish by asking them to relax their hand and sit in silence until they hear the bell. Once their attention span increases, the class might decide to do 10-Finger Breathing and use both hands.


About the Author

Dana Chapman

Dana was a classroom teacher with the Toronto District School Board for more than twelve years. She has been practicing Yoga for 15 years, has her Masters of Education and completed her 500-hour Yoga Therapist certification through Yoga Therapy Toronto in 2012. Bee Birch Yoga Therapy is Dana's vision for bringing together her love of teaching with her deep faith in the restorative and transformative power of Yoga, Nutrition, and Reiki. Visit www.beebirch.com for more information.

Opportunity for Training

If you are interested in learning more about sharing mindfulness and yoga with kids, consider joining in Dana’s next Kids’ Yoga Teacher Training this August in Toronto. All the information is available on her website: Beebirch Yoga Therapy

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