Welcome to SNAP Calming Activities – At Home edition! We are providing you with the tools to create your own Special Needs and Autism-Friendly Programming (SNAP) within your own household. In this post, we are talking about breathing exercises.
Breathing is important! Your entire body relies on oxygen, which is transmitted by breath. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, breathing can also help you relax when experiencing stress. Taking slow, methodical breaths modulates your pulse and allows your mind to reset itself.
Practice breathing exercises at home so that you are more prepared for stressful experiences throughout your daily life. Breathing exercises are not the same as mindfulness or meditation, though both often utilize breathing techniques for physical and mental regulation. In SNAP, we often refer to breathing exercises and guided visualizations as grounding exercises. For SNAP attendees, grounding exercises allow us the opportunity to take a break from the more stimulating activities and calm down.
Basic breathing exercises can be as simple as inhaling as you count to three, five or ten. Try guiding your child through the following exercise:
We are going to practice taking long, relaxing breaths. First we’ll breathe in, then we’ll breathe out. Are you ready?
Breathe in for five seconds. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5!
Now, breathe out for five seconds. 1… 2… 3… 4… 5!
Guided visualizations incorporate the participant’s imaginations into the exercise, potentially providing a “reset” to cyclical thinking and other stressors. Take long, deep breaths between lines while you read this guided visualization aloud:
We are going to pretend we are trees.
Lift your arms as you are able. Your legs are the roots, your belly is the trunk, and your arms are the branches. [Lift arms as you are able.]
The wind sways us back and forth. [Sway as you are able.]
In the springtime, we grow new leaves! [Flick your fingers away from your body.]
Keep in mind as you try out different techniques that breathing exercises such as these are not for everyone. You are encouraged to adapt them as you see fit; you know your family and its needs best.
If your family finds exercises like these useful, you can find some additional resources below:
Breathe like a Bear by Kira Willey
We all want to bring more calm into our lives. We all want to feel more focused and positive. Mindfulness is the key to making it happen. Breathe like a Bear guides us through fun exercises to help us relax and stretch our imaginations. Just as we need to exercise our bodies, we also need to flex our mindfulness muscles!
Mindful Me: Mindfulness and Meditation for Kids by Whitney Stewart
This guide introduces kids and preteens to mindfulness through exercises, meditations, and writing prompts.
Mindfulness Sensory Backpack (search in the library catalog)
This resource includes several materials that offer additional support for mindfulness including books on mindfulness and a fidget.
Beyond library resources, YouTube videos such as the options below can provide further ideas and instruction for breathing exercises: