1-2-3 Brain Break: Breathing in Calm

Brain Breaks are short activities, often only 1-3 minutes long, that help kids get ready to learn or refocus on the task at hand. They often involve physical activity and movement though relaxing activities can also boost mental brain power. So, in addition to encouraging your kids to participate in these fun breaks, join the kiddos and have some refreshing, stress-free fun yourself, too!

Breathing in Calm

Sometimes our days get so busy! This can make us frustrated, emotional, anxious… or even just feeling overwhelmed without a lot of breaks. We are going to learn some breathing exercises – these are a great way to take a quick pause for a moment of calm and relaxation before you get back to classes and errands and other activities.… a nice break to re-center yourself.

For the following exercises, it is best to breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. This might be hard with spring and all the seasonal allergies that come with it, so just do your best.

The Exercises

Starfish Breathing

You will need:

  • A comfortable place to sit
  • Your hands

Hold out one of your hands in front of you, and place the tip of a finger from your other hand on your wrist at the base of your thumb. Starting with an inhale, trace your finger up to the top of the thumb. Now switch to exhaling and trace down the other side of the thumb toward the fingers. You will continue like this, inhaling as you trace up and exhaling as you trace down until you have traced your entire hand and landed back on the wrist on the opposite (pinky) side from where you started.

Triangle Breathing

You will need:

  • A comfortable place to sit
  • Your hands
  • The ability to count to 3

Sitting up straight, using a finger or your entire hand (or your favorite toy dinosaur/car/wand) you are going to “draw” a triangle in the air. Starting at a bottom imagined corner, inhale as you count to 3, “drawing” to the top point of the triangle. Now hold your breath for a count of 3 while tracing down the other side, and then exhale for a count of three going across the bottom back to where you started.

Advanced option: Box Breathing – like the triangle but with counting to 4 and having an additional “side” – you will hold after the inhale and after the exhale.

Draw Breath with Spirals

You will need:

  • A comfortable place to sit
  • Something to draw with/on (crayons and paper, fingers and sand, chalk and sidewalks/blackboards, etc.)

Start with a dot in the middle, and sloawly spiral out like a shell, adding layers and getting bigger each round. As you do this, inhale when you are drawing “up” from the bottom center of the spiral to the top center of the spiral, and exhale as you draw back down to the bottom. Since the nature of the spiral is that it continues to get bigger, your breaths will start out short and progressively get longer. Do as many rings, spirals as you want.

Practice Slow Steady Breathing with a Stuffed Animal

You will need:

  • A comfortable place to lie down
  • A favorite stuffed animal or toy

Lying down on the ground, place the stuffed animal on your stomach. Focus on the stuffed animal and watch as you take a deep breath into your belly – you will see your furry friend lift up, up, up! Then do a long full exhale and watch them sink back down. Do several cycles, seeing them rise and sink with your breaths.

Activity Extensions:

-Have more time, and want to get moving? Breathing and yoga go hand in hand! Do a couple poses or a whole sequence, focusing on your breath while you are at it.

-Do you have bubbles at home? Blowing bubbles is a great way to work on soft, long, steady exhales!

-Flowers will be coming up soon – spend some time outdoors, pick or sit next to some flowers, and take long deep breaths in through your nose, focusing on the smell – try different kinds of flowers and see what differences you notice.

-Don’t be limited to drawing spirals! They are an easy way to start, but you can also create mazes, infinity loops, lie on your back and trace clouds in the sky… the options are endless!

“The Why” behind the Activity:

Deep breathing has a physical effect on our bodies to help calm and lower stress. Kids especially can have big emotions that they don’t know how to deal with yet. Mindful breathing techniques can help children (and teens and adults) build social and emotional skills, and learn to deal with upsets and frustrations in safe ways. Playing with these now means you can find what works and what doesn’t, and then maybe have some skills in mind for the next time some calm is needed.

Check out these books !

Deep Breaths by Carol Thompson

A Feel Better Book for Little Worriers by Holly Brochmann and Leah Bowen; Illustrated by Shirley Ng-Benitez

I Am the Jungle: a Yoga Adventure by Melissa Hurt; illustrated by Katy Tanis

Catching Thoughts by Bonnie Clark; illustrated by Summer Macon

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Ray Cruz