3 Bad Breathing Habits for Kids (and What to Do Instead)

breathing techniques for kids

Did you know that bad breathing habits could be making your child tired, cranky, and stressed out? But don’t worry – these habits can be replaced with good ones! Let’s talk about breathing techniques for kids that can help them feel calm, focused, and healthy.

Here are the top three bad breathing habits your child needs to avoid:

1. Mouth Breathing

Have you ever noticed your child breathing through their mouth? It’s normal to occasionally breathe through your mouth (like when you’re out of breath from running). The trouble happens when your child is mostly breathing through their mouth.

Mouth breathing is not as harmless as it seems. It brings less oxygen into the lungs, it causes dental and jaw alignment issues, and it can even cause dehydration.

bad breathing habits

What to Do Instead

Encourage your child to breathe through their nose rather than their mouth. This can be a difficult habit to break, but it can make such a difference for your child’s health. Nose breathing calms the body and mind and increases your child’s oxygen intake.

I wrote a complete post about nose vs. mouth breathing here.

2. Breathing into the Chest

Sit down with your child and do a little breathing practice. Both of you take a deep breath and see how it feels. Do you mostly feel the breath in your upper chest?  Or do you feel your belly expand wide like a balloon when you inhale?

We tend to breathe into our chests when we’re stressed out. These aren’t complete breaths, which means you need to breathe faster to get enough oxygen.  This in turn signals stress to the body. Sometimes chest breathing becomes a habit and we never end up taking full, deep breaths!

bad breathing habits and stress

What to Do Instead

Belly breathing is one of the most important breathing techniques for kids.

  • Deep belly breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming the body and mind.
  • It helps your child become aware of their body, their feelings, and their surroundings.
  • Belly breathing is a great way to help kids relax and become more mindful.

It’s easy to turn belly breathing into a fun daily practice with your child! Practice belly breathing for a few minutes during quiet time to regulate stress or calm down before bed. Using an engaging tool like the BE Buddy® (or favorite stuffed animal) on the belly can help build healthy breathing habits. Over time, kids will naturally start breathing into their abdomen more often.

Read my post on fun belly breathing techniques for kids here.

breathing techniques for kids
3. Shallow Breathing

Without noticing it, we sometimes end up taking short, shallow breaths. This bad breathing habit deprives us of life-giving oxygen and can heighten our stress response. Kids often fall into shallow breathing if they’ve been sitting a lot (in the car, at school, watching movies).

What to Do Instead

Taking deep breaths is one of the other key breathing techniques for kids. If they develop the habit of deep breathing, it will help them reduce stress and feel better.

  • Practice counting while taking deep breaths. This helps regulate the pace of your child’s breathing. If your child isn’t used to taking deep breaths, this might take a little practice. Work toward an 8-count inhale followed by an 8-count exhale. Remember that the exhale is just as important as the inhale!
breathing techniques for kids
  • Do a breathing check. Randomly throughout the day (especially if you’ve been sitting for a while), do a breath check. Ask your child if they are breathing deeply. Simply asking is often enough to remind your child to take deep breaths.
How to Raise a Strong, Vibrant Child

If you are looking for more ideas and tools to help your child discover their coping strategies, sign up to join our community, or follow us on Instagram @bebuddy.

Thanks for reading,

Stephanie 🧡 Owner at Balancing Elephants & creator of the BE Buddy® (watch video)

P.S. A gift for you!  Help your kids breathe well to BE well with our one-of-a-kind mindful breathing pillow.  Head to our shop and get $5 off  + FREE shipping your order.  Use code “BLOG5OFF” at checkout. 

MA.Ed., Certified BREATHE™ Coach, RYT200, Yoga Calm® Youth Instructor I help kids surf the waves of life, one breath at a time!