Breathing Buddies also know as Teddy Bear Belly Breathing is one of my favorite mindful breathing exercises for kids. Belly breathing calms down the nervous system and is easy to do. Add a favorite stuffed toy and younger kids will get it almost instantly and find it fun to try out. Mindfulness for kids doesn’t have to be difficult!
When I first introduced Breathing Buddies to my then two-year-old, he was so enthusiastic that he did it every day for a week. We had a lot of fun, and I was able to teach my son both mindful breathing (paying attention to your breath) and deep relaxing belly breathing. Win-win! When Anton was just three years old and Grandma was having trouble falling asleep, he taught her the same exercise.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our five free Calming Mindful Breathing Activities For Kids. These science-based exercises, including the one on this page, will help you in teaching calming mindful breathing to children in an engaging manner.
Breathing Buddies helps children to:
learn focusing skills,
and figure out that paying attention to their bodies helps them relax.
Why does it work?
The short answer:
1. When we focus intently on the present moment rather than our mind chatter, we eliminate a significant amount of stress and worry. We shift our attention away from our thoughts and emotions.
2. Deep belly breathing causes the nervous system to relax, lowering stress and lowering heart rate and blood pressure.
Great for pre-schoolers
Even pre-schoolers can benefit from learning mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is taught to kindergarteners these days; it’s not a big deal.
One study found that a twelve-week mindfulness training (twice a week) helped preschoolers improve their mental flexibility, empathy, and academic success, resulting in higher end-of-year test scores. According to teachers, “Belly Buddies” (aka Breathing Buddies) was a hit with the kids. Kids listened to music while lying on their backs with a small stone on their bellies during this activity.
Their only instruction:
Pay attention to the sensation of the stone. Feel it rising and falling as you breathe in and out.
The study’s first author, Lisa Flook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, stated, “It’s something so simple, and it allows them to experience internal quietness and a sense of calm.”
Flook concluded that “Knowing how critical these skills are at an early age, if there are ways to promote them, it could help set kids on a more positive life trajectory.”
The activity is simple:
Mindfulness For Kids – Breathing Buddies
Purpose: Calm, Relaxation, Mindfulness of Body
Best for: Ages 3+, groups or one-on-one
What you need: Comfortable clothes, ample floor space (or another place to lie down), a favorite stuffed toy.
1. Ask your child to lie down comfortably and place his hands on his belly to practice belly breathing (if he uses a stuffed animal, he can hold it on top of his belly if he lies down).
2. As you count to three, have him take a deep breath through his nose.
As he inhales, tell him to fill his belly with air; he should feel it grow bigger and bigger and bigger during the count to three. If he places his stuffed toy on top of his belly, he may notice it rise as his belly “fills with air.”
3. Have him exhale slowly to a count of four. Tell him that he may see his toy fall as his belly shrinks and shrinks throughout the count.
Try five to ten rounds of belly-breathing to get started.
When doing this with younger children, you can play soothing music to help them stay calm. Another option is to instruct your children to pretend to rock the stuffed animal to sleep.
If your child has difficulty concentrating, instruct him to say “up” silently each time the stuffed animal moves up and “down” silently each time the stuffed animal moves down.
The same can be done without the stuffed animal, he can say silently “in” as he breathes in and silently “out” when he breathes out to help him focus.
When ready, ask your child how it felt.
- Is there a difference in how he feels now?
- What did he notice about the stuffed animal as he inhaled and exhaled?
- How did it feel when he released the breath?
Finally, when your child is comfortable with belly-breathing, after a few tries, ask him to pay attention to his belly going up and down for a short while without your guidance. For instance, during the duration of a soothing song.
Here’s a video of my son doing buddy breathing on the beach:
The above video is part of my Easy Mindful Breathing for Kids Online Mini-Course with many more fun ways to learn mindful breathing.
I hope your children will enjoy this proven mindfulness activity.
If you want to master mindful breathing with children I recommend our Easy Mindful Breathing for Kids online video training and 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, Parent and Educator
Wishing you many fun mindful moments with your children :-)
With gratitude, Chris Bergstrom
Chief Mindfulness Ninja @ Blissful Kids
I found a few related videos for you…
Here Amelia shows how grown-ups can do Teddy Bear Belly Breathing, too:
Children belly breathing with breathing buddies:
Dr. Daniel Goleman explains the mechanics of belly breathing:
This is cool! Elmo shows the benefits of belly breathing:
Chris Bergstrom is a bestselling mindfulness author, a leader in the field of mindfulness, and the founder of BlissfulKids.com, a community of parents, educators, and therapists dedicated to children’s mindfulness and psychology, with over 15 years of experience facilitating meditation and psychological interventions to people of all ages.
Chris is a certified mindfulness facilitator, trained to teach mindfulness to students in K-12, and has received psychology and mindfulness training from UPenn, UCLA, UNC, Mindful Schools, and Mindfulness Without Borders.