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Teaching Breath To Children Can Be Tricky

Do you know where your lungs are?

Most kids I teach don't even know what lungs are much less where they are, and forget about the diaphragm.

When I asked a group of 5 year olds to breathe air into their body until their bellies filled up like balloons they all started moving their backs forward and back to make a puffed up motion but not one of them was actually taking air into their body to make this happen. In fact I think they were all holding their breath! I tried having them lay down with a hand on their belly, as I instructed them to breathe in and asked if they could fill their belly go up and then down. Still a lot of movement but no one was breathing. How was I supposed to teach this seemingly abstract concept to kids?

I know how the breath works but they don't. How could they not know this? It makes sense no one has told them and its not something they have thought about before. So my investigation began. I asked them what breath was. They told me it was a automatic thing that happens to them. I asked what the breath dose for them. Their response was, it puts air in their bodies. I asked why they think this happens. They said, because we need air but we don't know why. The wheels started turning. I know that kids this age need to see something to know its real. The idea of breathe and talking about the anatomy of it with them wasn't quite going to do it. I had an idea. The next class I had brought a bunch of my sons stuffed animals with me. I gave a quick anatomy lesson (with pictures) of the lungs, ribs and diaphragm, I had them use their hands to fill their ribs on the sides of their bodies so they could get a sense of how big their lungs were and where they were located. We laid down on our mats as I placed a stuffed animal on each child's belly. I played a ocean sounds sound track and had them breathe to the sound of the ocean waves. We made a game of this, they could see when they breathed in their animals went up and when they breathed out their animals went down. The concept was starting to make sense. Some of the children were still moving their spine or pelvis up and down to make the belly motion but most of them got it. We continued this breathing exercise for about 5 minutes adding fast and then slow breath. the longer we did this the more they got it. By then end of the session every one had it and not one of them wanted to return the animals to me. I didn't realize the impact this little exercise had on my students until the next class when every one of them came to class with a stuffed animal they brought from home. We spent the first 5 minutes of class sharing stories of how they used their belly buddies to breathe at home and how it helped calm them and sometimes fall asleep.

This was very touching for me to hear. I wanted everyone to be able to have a belly buddy. With the inspiration form the kids BellieBuddies was born. Check out for more info on the product and continue breathing at home...

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