I’ll share two heartwarming and enjoyable mindful breathing exercises for kids. The first is ideal for younger children to do one-on-one with an adult, while the second is fun for older children, youth, and even adults to do in pairs.
Mindful slow-paced breathing is effective for two reasons:
1. It has an immediate physiological effect, it affects the nervous system and the heart of the child, helping their body and mind calm down.
2. It helps the child’s mind to focus on something else than the problem at hand.
BTW: If you want to teach mindful slow-paced breathing to children, check out our breathing games, which will make calming breathing even easier to begin with.
Calming Mindful Breathing Activities You Can Do Together With Children
This first activity invites both adults and children to engage in mindful breathing exercises together.
I came up with the activity when my son was only two years old. He had tripped and severely injured his knee. It ached all day and woke him up in the middle of the night. He couldn’t sleep because he was crying.
It’s not fun at 4 a.m., and my heart felt like it was going to burst seeing my son in pain and misery.
So I hugged him, sat in front of a window, and took him in my lap. First, I used a sensory awareness technique to help him relax.
I directed his attention to the traffic lights and the scenery, which helped to calm him down a little bit. Then I led him through the process that became known as the “snuggle meditation.”
The child is held in this first activity. However, I’ve included another fun breathing activity that does not include holding the child and can be used one-on-one and in pairs for educators and psychologists who may not be able to hold the child and work with larger groups.
For younger children: Mindful snuggle breathing
This is a wonderful meditation to practice with your child.
Put on some soothing music and find a comfortable place for you and your child to sit.
Sit with him in your lap, his back against your stomach.
First, ask that he pay attention to the music or something else that both of you can see in front of you. Perhaps you’re sitting near a window and can direct his gaze to whatever is going on outside – the trees, the sky, or the cars passing by.
When your child is a little more at ease, tell him that you can both relax by paying attention to your breathing. That you can feel your own breath coming in and going out.
Tell him that he can start by feeling your breath. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Ask if he can feel your belly as you breathe in and out. Take a few slow, deep breaths and ask how it feels on his back when you do so. Is your tummy warm? Is it slow to come in and out?
Sit like this for a few minutes before instructing your child to place his hands on his own tummy.
Inquire if he can feel his belly rise and fall as he breathes in and out. Take a few deep breaths if it feels difficult at first.
When you’re ready, ask your child how he felt about it. If it felt relaxing.
I didn’t have to ask my son how he felt at 4 a.m. back then; he just told me how good he felt and I put him back to sleep. I was so happy to be able to soothe him like that.
You can try a similar activity without the snuggling, too.
For older children: Mindful breathing in pairs
This is a fun way to practice paying attention and slow, mindful breathing. You can do this one-on-one or in pairs with the children. It’s a lot of fun, and it helps kids and adults connect with one another while forgetting about their problems for a while.
Here’s what to do:
Face each other and sit arm-width apart. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nose and exhale slowly and deeply through the mouth. If the child is comfortable, have her close her eyes for the duration.
Gently open your eyes after five breaths and look at the person in front of you. It’s okay to smile and giggle :-)
Ask the child to look at your mouth and notice how it opens on the exhale and closes on the inhale.
Then ask the child to breathe at your pace following your breath. Children will have shorter breath cycles, due to smaller lungs, so adjust to an appropriate speed that isn’t too slow for the child.
If you have a group of children sitting in pairs, tell them to pay attention to each other’s breath.
When children are doing this activity in pairs, all they need to do is breathe at the same slow pace and take cues from each other. This can be a lot of fun to do, and you might get a few laughs out of it at first :-)
Yes, it’s actually okay to have fun while learning mindfulness :-)
So, allow yourself and the children to feel whatever feelings and emotions arise as a result of this exercise.
Continue to breathe deeply for a minute or so and share your experiences with each other at the end of the exercise.
That’s it, now you’ve learned two engaging ways to learn and practice mindful slow-paced breathing together with kids.
Thank you for reading this far. I hope this article has inspired you to try mindful breathing in some form with your kids. 💖
If you liked these mindfulness activities, I recommend checking out our new breathing games and stories, which make learning calming breathing fun and easy …
“I think they are awesome. Using the games has helped my son to learn how to breathe and calm down when he is anxious.” -Jenny
With gratitude, Chris Bergstrom
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a blog dedicated to children’s mindfulness, and a dad who is thrilled to practice mindfulness with his son. He is a certified mindfulness facilitator and trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12. He’s also known as “the dad who tried 200+ mindfulness activities” and has taught meditation for more than 15 years.