I first noticed my two girls taking deep breaths as early as 10 months of age. I’ll level with you; I have had to practice my deep breathing very frequently during many of my mommying days to prevent countless, what would have been, mommy-meltdowns. So, it makes sense that my girls began to mimic this behavior.
I think this also exemplifies that as caregivers, we really are our child’s first and most important teacher! We are social beings and model after those that we interact with most frequently.
It’s never too late to practice deep breathing for yourself or your child.
Ways to help your kiddo remember to come back to their breath:
Model deep breathing yourself! If something happens that is frightening or upsetting or frustrating say aloud “I’m going to take a deep breath!” (Take deepest breath) Then, name the emotion you are feeling and state “I feel better now. I blew out my scared (or insert whatever feeling it was). This gives kids a tool with an action, as well as an underlying reason for that action.
Use metaphors. We know that children learn and process their lives through play. It is their biggest and most precious tool in their toolbox. Using metaphors helps create a distance, while keeping it fun.
“Bubble breathing” is playful and inexpensive. Get a pack of bubbles from the dollar spot at Target or make DIY bubbles with dish soap and an electric mixer. State: “Let’s work on our bubbles! Watch me. I take a deep breath in and I slowly blow it out and look!! I made a biiig bubble! Can you try?” Keep practicing and talk about how good it feels to take a deep breath. When your child is experiencing an upsetting emotion, remind them of your bubble breathing practice and how good it felt. Ask them to pretend to blow that biggest bubble they blew with you that day! In the emotional moment, help your little and mime taking out a bubble wand and everything. The goofier and the more light hearted it is, the better it seems to stick.
“Blowing out a birthday candle” most almost one year olds have the capacity to blow out a candle; it can be a fun way to practice with baby before their big first birthday! As they get older, remind them to take a birthday cake breath when they are upset. You can even have them imagine they are blowing out the candles and visualize how many they can blow out in one breath! Can they blow out 10 in one go?
“Roller coaster breathing” Mountainside Montessori’s very own Ms. Patricia taught my little one’s class this and it’s beautiful. Have your child visualize a roller coaster or show them a picture if they have never seen one. Have them notice how roller coasters go up and down. Next, take out your non-dominant hand and have them do the same for the “tracks” and then take out the index finger of the dominant hand as the “roller coaster car”. Tell your little to close their eyes and do the same. Have your child simulate a roller coaster going up… breathe in….and going down…breathe out, while tracing each finger on your respective hands. Repeat on the other hand if needed, but usually just one hand is enough or even a few fingers at first and build up to the whole hand as time progresses!
4. Make a faux-globe! Look through your recyclables and find a bottle that could fit water and glitter in it. When your child is experiencing an emotion, have them shake their feeling out while holding the faux globe. After they have gotten their feelings out, have them inhale for 3-5 seconds (you can count for them) and exhale for 3-5 seconds, as long as it takes for all of the glitter that was shaken around to settle. This also promotes mindfulness, as your little is connecting their breath to an observable and tangible object (glitter).
Hartley (aged 5) demonstrating a roller coaster breath!