Kids sometimes need to take a deep breath to calm down. Deep breathing helps to relieve anxiety, reduce stress, and help us relax. Kids can learn breath control, for deep breathing.

But they need to be taught how.

As a teacher of yoga, and a public school educator, I know that kids can use deep breathing exercises to help them calm down in stressful situations. But they need to learn how first.

During the five years in my current school, I have been steadily teaching my students how to use breathing exercises for kids to practice mindfulness and calm down (on their own or with a partner!).

Here are the top tips for teaching kids how to take deep breaths to calm down:

  • Start when kids are calm. There is no point in teaching them something new when they are in a heightened state of anxiety or frustration. They won’t retain the information, even if they do manage to follow directions (which they probably won’t!).
  • Begin to focus on your noticing your current breathing pattern. Just say the words “inhale” and “exhale” as you breathe and see what happens!
  • Teach them to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth so they don’t suck in air like a sugar-filled slurpee through a straw. Keeping your mouth closed while you inhale is makes a big difference in breath focus.
  • Start small.  Be consistent, but start with just noticing normal breathing, noticing stillness, and praising small achievements.  Aim for 10 seconds of quiet and calm breath exercises. Then 30 seconds… and so on!
  • Name the practice as mindfulness but explain it as “noticing” or “being aware”. Give kid-friendly explanations like, “I can feel my body start to slow down when I take deep breaths. I remind myself that I am right here, not wherever my brain is taking me.”

Once you’ve built those foundational blocks, then you can focus on consistency and adding on more deep breathing techniques over time:

  • Pause and focus on breathing regularly and at varying times:
  • Start and end every class with mindful listening and a few deep breaths.
  • Use mindful breathing if noise levels get too loud. We pause, listen to a singing bowl, and a take a deep breath.
  • Cue a silent deep breath in the hallway or a quiet space just with your body actions to prepare them for a transition.
  • Name your own feelings as being angry or upset and then demonstrate taking a breath to calm yourself down. This is HUGE for demonstrating self-awareness and encouraging it in others.

Check out some more classroom-based mindfulness tips in my post here: Quick and Effective Calm Down Strategies for Kids

Now, add in some fun and clever deep breathing techniques to help them learn to calm down in any scenario

Here’s a video of some of these deep breathing exercises and how to teach them to kids effectively:

Belly Breathing:

This simple breathing technique is the best way to practice deep breathing from the lower belly, or diaphragmatic breathing.

Place one hand on your heart and one on your tummy. Sit comfortably, but with a tall spine and relaxed shoulders. Inhale slowly and feel your belly rise and expand. Take a long exhale as your belly goes back down.

Notice where the breath comes in and where it expands in your belly. It helps to do this breathing exercise laying down. Younger kids will enjoy watching Elmo teach belly breathing in this video.

Ball Breathing (with Hoberman sphere):

It’s important to start teaching about how our body expands and contracts with an inhale and exhale. Use a Hoberman sphere to show this super effectively. When the ball expands, inhale deeply, when the ball contracts, exhale slowly.

If all the kiddos can’t take turns using the ball itself, teach them to pretend they have their own ball made out of their hands:

You can spread your fingers wide and touch fingertips, opening your hands to a ball shape as you breathe in, then flattening out as you exhale. It’s surprisingly satisfying!

hoberman sphere

Blowing up a Balloon:

Imagine you are slowly blowing up a balloon. You don’t want it to pop so you go slow and steady.

Breathe in through your nose and blow on your palms pressed together in front of your lips. They should start together, then slowly open up to form a balloon up above your head!  You can choose to pop it or let it slowly fizzle down.

Blow out the Candles:

This is an excellent breathing exercise to help kids calm down when upset or angry.  Hold up five fingers like candles on a birthday cake.  Gently breathe in and blow them out one at a time, lowering each finger as you blow it out. 

For VERY upset children, you can hold up your own hand in front of them as candles because they can’t even get the focus to do it themselves.

Heartfulness Breath:

Use this breathing exercise for kids when you talk about sending heartfelt thoughts to people or animals that we love.

Hold your hands together in the shape of a heart in front of your heart. Breathe in and grow the heart out bigger, then breath out and bring it right back to your own heart.

We talk about sending kind and warm thoughts out to someone in the world and then receiving them back again. (Like random acts of kindness!) 

child in red shirt forming heart with hands to illustrate heartfulness breathing technique

Trace 5:

This is a great breathing technique, as well as a practice of fine motor skills. In the free printable there is an outline of a hand on a poster on the wall. They place their own hand over the top and then trace around their fingers slowly. 

Teach them to breathe in as they go up, and they breathe out as they go back down.  This can be done by just by holding your hand up in front of you too. Try to get them to do both hands to help that cross-body-brain-activation!

Click on the image to get a Free PDF on the breathing exericse!

free breathing printables with breathing exercises for kids - 5 finger breathing brain break

Bunny Breath:

This breathing exercise is good for waking up tired kids! Sit on your knees and make “paws” with your hands in front of you. Take three quick sniffs in through your nose with pursed lips, then one long “ahhh” exhale. 

You can tell them to imagine smelling carrots (or their favorite food!) Do it just 2-3 times.

Woodchopper Breath:

Kids love this higher energy breathing exercise for getting rid of excess energy or anger.  Stand with your legs out wide, arms above your head like you are holding an ax for chopping wood (or a smasher for smashing apples… IDK what that’s called but the kids don’t either so, whatevs). 

Inhale deep, and on the count of three, swing your arms down and all the way between your legs, release your head, and look behind you. You may bend your knees if you like. 

Make a loud, powerful WHOOOSH sound as you do this.

wood chopper, breathing exercises for kids, breathing technique for kids yoga and mindfulness, breath
wood chopper pose for kids yoga, breathing exercises for kids yoga and mindfulness, breathing exercises for kids

Pizza Breath:

Another one of our good calming OR energizing breathing exercises for kids.  Imagine a slice of pizza on your hand flat in front of your face.  Inhale through your nose to smell in the delicious scent; blow out slowly to cool it off so you can eat!

Lion Breath:

Sit on your knees in Lion pose, hands making claws on your knees.  Inhale deeply through your nose, then stick out your tongue really far and make an “aaagggghhhh” sound.  Not quite a roar, more like your clearing your throat and trying to roar! But it’s more fun when you hold up your claws like a tough lioness! Great for stress reduction!

You can even come up off your feet to a high kneeling pose while you exhale for more dramatic effect.

This pose and breathing exercise is a staple in our Kids Yoga Flow sequence.

Pinwheel Breathing:

For this exercise you can either have a pinwheel ready, make one or just use your imagination. Hold the pinwheel in front of you and examine the colors. Breathe deeply and blow out onto the pinwheel to make it spin. Watch the colors fly and do it again for maximum stress relief!

Wind Sock Breathing:

This breathing exercise is great for visual learners and can also be used as a calming or energizing activity. Take a long tube sock, cut off the foot part and decorate it with markers or paint. Hang up the wind sock in front of you and take deep breaths while watching it sway back and forth.

Use this fun wind science experience to craft another colorful version of a wind sock.

Bumblebee Humming:

This exercise is perfect for releasing tension in the jaw and face. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take a deep inhale in through your nose. As you exhale, make a humming sound like a bumblebee. Feel the physical sensations and vibrations in your face and relax any tension you may be holding there.

Volcano Breath: 

This can be done sitting, but it’s better standing up. 

Start with your feet wide on your mat, toes pointing slightly out, then bend down to goddess pose or yogi squat.

Breathe in and out while rubbing our hands together really fast to get them nice and hot.  

Then, on the count of three, we make a “whooshhh” sound as you rise up and press up (or explode!) into star pose.  Take the variation that fits your kiddo’s mood or needs.

volcano breath for kids, yoga and mindfulness
volcano breath, star pose for kids yoga, mindfulness, breath

Snake Breath:

This is best done in cobra pose.  We usually start in crocodile pose (head down) and pretend to be a snake hiding in the grass. We inhale through the nose and, on the count of three, press up to cobra and hiss out nice and long.  Wiggling is encouraged.

Add this breathing exercise into your Animal Yoga Poses for the ABCs activity or lesson!

Back to Back Breathing:

Partner breathing!  This can get giggly, so try to only do it if kids are already calm or if they can pair with an adult.  Sit back to back and try to notice each other’s breathing first. Slowly start to match breaths, and cue inhale-exhale if needed.

breathing exercises for kids, mindfulness partner games for kids, mindfulness for kids, back to back breath

Buddy Breathing:

This is one of our favorite breathing techniques to use during savasana (resting pose) at the end of class or before bed. Cue them to lay down with a chime, then give each a small stuffed animal to place on their tummy.

The goal is for the animal to move up and down slowly as they breathe and relax. They can keep their hands on their tummy if they like.

We also read a lot of books about mindfulness and my favorites are all listed here.

Hot Chocolate Breathing:

This fun breathing exercise can be done sitting or standing, connecting the mind and body. Have your child imagine holding a warm mug of hot chocolate.

As they inhale, imagine smelling the delicious scent. Then, as they exhale, pretend to blow on the drink to cool it down. Repeat several times for relaxation and focus in any situation.

Bubble Breathing:

Blowing bubbles is a fun way to teach deep breathing. Have your child take a deep breath in, then exhale slowly while blowing through the wand.

Watch as the bubbles float away, letting go of worries or stress. It’s a calming activity for bedtime or when emotions run high.

bubble breathing

Teaching mindfulness and breathing techniques to children can greatly benefit their overall well-being. With these simple exercises, they can learn to manage stress, improve focus, and connect with their body and emotions.

Encourage them to practice regularly and model the exercises yourself for added effectiveness. Remember, it’s never too early to start teaching mindfulness and self-care to children!

Download the Free Printable PDF of Kids’ Breathing Exercises here!

Get the Free Breathing Printables

Adorable printables to help teach kids specific breathing and mindfulness techniques

    0 Comments

    1. Your site is amazing! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and putting it into such a user friendly way. So grateful to have found it.

      1. Thank you so much, Cheryl! I’m so happy that you find my posts useful 🙂 I’d love to hear what you use it for: do you work with kids in a school or are you using mindfulness at home?

    2. I looove your website! These are great mindfulness breath exercises for kids!

      There are soooo many benefits of mindfulness for adults and children alike that I write about here: https://strengthessence.com/powerful-reasons-practicing-mindfulness/ . I would love for you to check it out!

      I will definitely be trying the lion’s breath with my 3 yr old son – It sounds like a blast!

      I would also like to try out the volcano breathing game, could you explain what star pose and goddess poses are?

      Thanks!

      1. Thank you, Jamie!

        My kids have benefitted from using mindfulness breathing so much over the years, I have seen such a difference. I will check out your page for sure 🙂

        Star pose is a wide-legged stance with your arms reaching up and away from each other and your toes pointing slightly out. You breathe in as you reach out, and then as you exhale your bend your knees in a wide plie and bend your arms to make “goal post” arms. This is goddess pose. Going back and forth helps with breath and also leg strength!

        Thanks for reading 🙂

    3. Hi Maia,

      Thank you for the posts on your website! I work in early child care with the youngest age group and this month I want to help the children to relax. I’m going to trial your breathing exercises starting with the Balloon breath!

      Thanks again!

      1. Hello Maia,

        Thank you for your lovely 😘posts, very happy to find it.It is very useful.
        My kids are from 9y to 13y (all 3 are boys), I don’t know if these mindfulness techniques will work with yhem?, they are hyper and most of the time angry and fighting.
        Please advise
        Thanx a lot
        Molly

        1. Hey Molly! Thanks for reading a reaching out 🙂 I would say that you could definitely try some of these breathing techniques with your kids to help them learn to calm down. Just make sure to teach them when they are already in feeling pretty good and not fighting.

          Getting kids to pay attention to their emotions and then be able to react appropriately takes several steps and lots of reminders.

          First they need to recognize that they are having big feelings, then they need to pause or take a deep breath, next they can make an informed decision on how to get back to a calm thinking state, then they choose exactly what to do in their follow up of their big emotion, once they are thinking and not just impulsively reacting. Check out this post for some good ideas for managing kiddos that are elevated: https://kumarahyoga.com/how-to-calm-a-class-or-a-kid-using-mindfulness/

          I hope this helps!! Let me know 🙂

          Best,
          Maia

    4. I love your website, its full of useful tips! Thank you ☺ I use similar breathing excersices with my son and also on my public kids yoga classes and at yoga afterschool clubs.

      1. Thank you! Yes breathing exercises are so helpful for everyone, from kids to adults. I’m glad you are finding the site useful for your kids yoga classes 🙂 Keep it up!

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