Pawfect Breathing Games
Mindful breathing can help children feel calmer, but sometimes breathing practices are hard for traumatised children. Practices that involve being very still or having eyes-closed or with periods of silence can be challenging for a child if they are easily triggered into a fight/flight/freeze response. In survival mode, it is impossible to be mindful.
I have found in my therapeutic work that initially many children have not been able to take deep breaths. Short, shallow breathing has become habitual for them, probably as a result of living in constant states of hypervigilance & tension. Finding simple but playful activities that involve an element of breath control, can be a good introduction to mindful breathing, & feel less challenging than focusing solely on the breath. Such activities can also help to encourage co-operative play.
Co-operative, shared play can make it easier for you to support & encourage your child to give it a try. Activities where you can build in a pause, speed up & slow down are also great for learning to manage arousal levels.
Here are 4 suggestions:
- Take turns blowing bubbles for each other to pop.
- Blow a windmill together & make it spin. See if you can vary the speed of the spin. Try making the windmill spin as long as you can with one deep breath.
- Squeeze a stress ball (or putty, playdough or pillow) as you breath in & relax your hands as you breathe out. Synchronise your breathing together, or alternate – as one breathes in the other breathes out. Speed up & slow down.
- Blow a cotton ball (or ping-pong ball, or feather) between each other. Speed up & slow down. See how many passes you can make in 30 seconds.