Community • 29 Apr 2020

Belly Breathing for Kids

By uci_admin

Belly Breathing for Kids

 By Alexandra Carlton

Naturopathic Resident, PGY2

Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute

UCI Susan and Henry Samueli College of Health Sciences

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is a relaxing type of breathing that is controlled by a large muscle in our abdomen called the diaphragm. When you activate this muscle, it helps to trigger a relaxation response in the body. This is known as parasympathetic activation, or “rest and relaxation” mode. It slows us down by decreasing our heart rate and blood pressure, and also enhances digestive function. If we engage in more shallow breathing, our bodies may tend towards “flight or fight” mode (also called sympathetic activation). As we breathe more fully, we take air in through our nose, our diaphragm contracts, and our belly expands to make room for our lungs. Try this with your kids following the directions below.




  1. Start in a relaxed position – either sitting upright or laying down on your backs.
  2. Have your child breathe normally with one hand on their belly and one hand on their chest. You can also place a stuffed animal on their belly.
    • Then, ask your child what they notice. What does it feel like? What hand moves more as they breathe? Is the stuffed animal moving up and down?
  3. Breathe in for four seconds until your child feels their chest fill with air and the air travels all the way down to their belly.
  4. Have your child hold their breath for four seconds.
  5. Then, have your child slowly exhale all the air out.
    • Note: if your child has difficulty exhaling slowly, you can have them try exhaling through a straw (pretend they are snorkeling!) or with pursed lips to slow down their exhale.
  6. Continue breathing in this way until you both feel relaxed. You can say with them, “Breathing in, I calm my mind. Breathing out, I smile.”
  7. Now ask your child if they notice a difference from the beginning.
    • What sensations do they feel in their body?
  8. Remember that you and your child can use this type of breathing in any stressful moment. Include this belly breathing exercise in your child’s daily routine so they learn and remember it. Learning how to incorporate stress management strategies, especially from a young age, will help your child immensely as they continue to develop.



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