Dr Mark Rosenthal

MD MB ChB FRCP FRCPCH BSc

Consultant in Paediatric Respiratory Medicine

also specialist in Food Allergies & Disorders of Sleep

A | A | A

T: 0207 351 8832

E: s.harvey@rbht.nhs.uk

A:The Royal Brompton Hospital, London, SW3 6NP

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Breathing is something that we take for granted so we often aren’t aware of how our bad habits can exacerbate conditions such as asthma. Teaching your child how to breathe deeply could help to improve the health of their lungs while also helping them to relax and feel fitter.

Children in relaxing meditation classHow Can Breathing Exercises Help Your Child?

Breathing correctly can make a big difference to our health, both as children and as adults. The effects can be particularly strong if your child has a respiratory condition such as asthma, but the right breathing techniques can benefit everybody.

When we breathe deeply, we clear our lungs and take in oxygen more efficiently. We also strengthen our lungs and gradually build up their capacity. We can feel the effects of this when we are exercising and our lungs need to supply more oxygen. We can also feel the benefits if we catch a cold or we’re affected by a lung condition such as asthma. Lungs that are stronger and more efficient will be able to cope with these extra demands more easily.

Deep breathing techniques can also help us to relax and get rid of stress. Many children will benefit from taking some time to focus on their breathing, especially if they are feeling pressure from schoolwork. Reducing stress will help with their mental and physical wellbeing.

3 Breathing Techniques to Try with Your Child

1. Feather Breathing:

Children often learn faster when they can see an immediate result. You can use a light item such as a feather to show them the effects of their breathing. You can simply hold the feather in front of your child’s face so that it flutters, but it can be more fun to turn this breathing exercise into a game.

  • Sit on either side of a flat surface such as a table
  • Place the feather down in front of your child
  • Ask your child to breathe in through their nose
  • Then tell them to breathe out through their mouth
  • Their breath should push the feather across the table towards you
  • You should then return the feather using your own breath
  • Repeat the game and encourage your child to see how far they can move the feather

2. Belly Breathing:

One of the most common problems with the way we breathe is that we tend to take shallow breaths using just our lungs. In order to breathe more deeply, we should use our diaphragms instead. The diaphragm is a muscle that sits under our lungs and above our bellies. When we breathe in, the diaphragm should contract downward, pushing our bellies out. It should then lift back up as we breathe out, drawing our bellies in.

  • Lie down flat with your child and place a small toy on each of your stomachs
  • Breathe in through your noses and try to make the toy rise up with your stomachs
  • Breathe out through your mouths and watch the toy sink back down again
  • Try to breathe out for 2-3 times as long as you breathe in

3. Singing:

Singing together with your child can be a fun way to improve their breathing. It can work for children of all ages as they can simply enjoy singing without having to be aware of your goal. When we sing, we naturally take in and hold deeper breaths. We gain more control over our breathing because we are holding long notes or waiting to breathe at the right point in the song. Songs that have longer notes can be most effective as breathing exercises, but any song that your child enjoys will provide a good workout for their lungs.

You will see the best effects if you encourage your child to perform these breathing exercises regularly. It is also a good idea to get some regular aerobic exercise as this can also help to strengthen the lungs. When we practice these techniques regularly it can strengthen our lungs. It can also build up a habit of deep breathing so that we breathe better without even being aware of it. Hopefully, deep breathing will become natural for your child and his or her lungs will become stronger and healthier thanks to these exercises.

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