Mindfulness Before Meltdowns: 3 Breathing Activities to Help Kids Cope With Big Emotions

As parents, we watch our kids navigate a wide variety of experiences, from their first steps to riding a bike and beyond. We try to give them the right tools to develop the skills necessary to ride the waters smoothly, adding story time to nightly snuggles to build language skills, extra play dates to teach them about connection and sharing, and a variety of pets (and the chores that come with them) for a raw-and-real slice of responsibility.
A mom’s-eye view of this journey of growth has no problem seeing that while occasionally the “lesson plan” goes well, other days it spirals into a full-fledged supernova in seconds flat. In the middle of Target. Over a sippy cup. That is the wrong color.
With all the other tasks on a mama’s to-do list, how can we help our kiddos (and let’s be honest—ourselves, too) avoid meltdowns and the aftermath of emotional exhaustion that go with them? Something everyone benefits from are the life skills of practicing mindfulness and intentional breathing. Spending just five minutes a day simply becoming aware of our breath can help us learn to still our bodies and minds, focus on one small thing at a time, and build confidence and the ability to self-regulate when we’re hit with big emotions, no matter our age.
Alongside Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and the adventures of Percy Jackson, we keep a set of Yoga Pretzels on our reading shelf. Besides the collection of playful poses and partner activities, these cards include several excellent and adorably illustrated animal breathing exercises. Try incorporating one of them into your daily play or snuggle session, and besides the inevitable bonding that comes from being silly with your favorite people, you’ll be outfitting them with accessible tools to use the next time they’re smacked with a big emotion—with the bonus of taking a break from your own mental load for a few minutes as well.
Who knew breathing could be such a win-win-win?
Bear Breath—Find your own peace and balance. 
  • Sit up tall, close your eyes, and go inside yourself.
  • Through your nose, breathe in for a count of five, then hold that breath in for a count of three.
  • Breathe out for a count of five, then hold out for a count of three.
  • Repeat for five to seven rounds. 
Bunny Breath—Feel clear, relaxed, and alert.
  • Sit on your shins with your back straight, shoulders wide, and chest lifted.
  • Keeping your chin down, take three big sniffs, one right after the other. 
  • Then exhale in a long release as though you are sighing out through your nostrils.
  • Repeat for five to seven rounds.
Snake Breath—Feel yourself slow down and become calm.
  • Sit up tall. Take a deep breath in, filling up your whole body.
  • Pause and breathe out slowly and smoothly, making a hissing sound for as long as you can.
  • Repeat for three to five rounds.

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