The best tool to help kids learn mindful breathing is the Breathing Ball. With an expandable ball, also known as the Hoberman Sphere, you can easily help kids learn to follow their breath – one of the key techniques of mindfulness practice.
The ball has many names. Some call it the the breathing ball, others call it the breath ball, we like to call it the magic ball.
The ball turns mindfulness practice into a fun activity. When you have one everybody wants to play with it. My son loves our Hoberman Sphere and often plays with it. And so do I :-)
If you’re in a hurry you can scroll down to watch me and my son in our breathing ball video.
A smart way to learn how to follow your breath
The magic ball expands and contracts like your lungs do and the idea is to help kids synchronize the expansion and contraction of the ball with their breathing. Or the other way around if you like. You can demonstrate how lungs expand and contract with your inhale and exhale. Showing the mechanics likes this with the breathing ball is worth a thousand words.
Great for teachers
The Hoberman Sphere is a favorite of many teachers, too. As a teacher you can help a whole class breathe deeply. Simply stretch the ball out and ask the kids to breath in. And as you squeeze the ball together you ask them to breathe out. It’s interesting for the kids, highly visual and even tactile if you allow the kids to try on their own.
Demonstrate deep breathing vs shallow breaths
You can for example alternate between deep breathing and shallow breaths. You can demonstrate what it looks like and how it makes you feel. This is a cool way to demonstrate the benefits of deep breathing – how deep breathing makes you feel compared to quick shallow breathing.
Let kids lead
You can first model it for them and then let the kids lead by allowing them to demonstrate their breath cycle with the help of a breathing ball. You can have one kid lead the whole group or you can let them take turns with each child showing how they sync their breath with the opening and closing of the breathing ball.
You can sit in a big circle and let the kids pass the ball. Or you can break the class into smaller groups with their own spheres.
The #1 mistake grown-ups do when teaching kids
I made this mistake at first, too. Remember that kids have smaller lungs and thus take less time to complete a full breath cycle. Be sure to match a suitable breathing pace if you guide them with the breathing ball. Personally, I might take one or two breaths in a minute when I focus on my breath. My five-year old son takes anything from five to seven when he focuses. Kids will not be able to follow an adult and therefore you’ll want to find a pace that matches their lung capacity. One way to figure this out is to simply ask your child to demonstrate their pace with the breathing ball first.
Here’s how many breaths humans take per minute on average for your reference:
- 3 years: 20–30 breaths per minute
- 6 years: 18–25 breaths per minute
- 10 years: 17–23 breaths per minute
- Adults: 12-18-breaths per minute
Fun Mindfulness Activity: The Breathing Ball aka Breath Ball aka Hoberman Sphere
Okay, here’s how it works:
The above video is part of my Easy Mindful Breathing for Kids Online Mini-Course with 15 fun ways to learn and do mindful breathing.
1. Breathe in deeply and expand the ball.
2. Pause for a short moment with your lungs full.
3. Breathe out and let the ball contract.
4. Repeat a few times.
Again, you can model it for them. Or you can let a kid lead the whole group. Or you can have them take turns. You can even leave the breathing ball in a quiet area of your home or class and encourage kids to use it when they want relax and calm down.
It’s a fun mindfulness prop, and I recommend it highly!
Where to get a breathing ball aka Hoberman Sphere
The Hoberman Sphere comes in multiple sizes. We have the “mini sphere” which is small enough to pack with me.
The mini sphere expands from 5.5″ to 12″.
The bigger sphere expands from 9.5″ to 30″.
There are other less expensive breathing balls available, too.
You can get the original Hoberman Sphere here on Amazon.
Okay, thanks for reading this far. I’m going to fetch our magic ball right now and do a few mindful breaths :-)
Wishing you many mindful moments
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
Make mindful breathing practice playful for kids with this mini-course. Use my time-tested activities and see exactly how we practice with my son to make mindful breathing easy, playful and sustainable to get the results you want.
- 15 activities in less than 50 minutes: Easy for you to learn.
- Simple activities: Easy for you to teach.
- No prior practice needed.
- Get unstuck: Find new inspiration.
- Playful: Easy-to-do and easy to remember activities.
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.