Meet the BE Buddy®, a one-of-a-kind multi-sensory stress relief toy for kids! Amid Mental Health Awareness Week, now is the time to empower our children with the tools to feel calm, confident, and connected. BE Buddy® is a therapy toy encouraging kids to develop strategies to promote healthy habits and coping strategies for life!
Stephanie Esser, RYT-200, certified BREATHE™ Coach, a former elementary school teacher, and a Yoga Calm® Youth Instructor, saw firsthand the effects of stress on children. After experiencing the stress-reducing effects of her practice, she was driven to share the tools of mindfulness, breathing, yoga, and relaxation techniques to help kids feel calm, confident, and connected. In 2017, she started her own business called Balancing Elephants, teaching and promoting children’s wellness using the Yoga Calm® curriculum.
One of her favorite quotes used to describe her mission is from Jon-Kabat Zinn,
“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”
The National Institute of Health reports a 20% increase in anxiety disorders among children. They estimate that 30% of teenagers suffer from too much anxiety. This is alarming! The anxiety epidemic is a sign of the times and requires new tools to help kids learn how to cope and respond to this fast-paced world. We need to teach kids coping strategies so that they can “surf” through life’s challenges while navigating the “waves” of life. Viewing the classroom as an excellent platform to share these tools, Stephanie joined the 1000-petals Move Mindfully Team as a Residency Instructor teaching mindfulness and movement strategies to cultivate healthy classroom communities. Using various props to engage and teach students how to calm and connect to their minds and bodies, Stephanie had an ah-ha moment and got to work designing a tool to support these teaching practices.
Meet the BE Buddy®
The BE Buddy® is a multi-sensory breathing aid, eye pillow, and colorful comfort pal for children. It is designed as a therapy toy to help kids learn breath awareness and relaxation to calm the nervous system. With practice, kids will learn how to tap into their inner world to promote healthy self-care habits and stress management. It is made of a printed eco-friendly canvas front in an animal character theme and soft patterned velvet back. Each one is filled and weighted with flaxseed and lavender to sculpt the belly and add a calming effect. Its feathery marabou “hair” is a fun visual while practicing breathwork.
Choose from: Bernie The Bear, Barkley the Dog, Felix the Fox, Hamm the Pig, Hootie the Owl, and Bandit the Raccoon!
The idea for the BE Buddy® came while teaching a classroom of kindergarteners how to practice belly breathing with a “breathing buddy” (a stuffed animal placed on the child’s belly while laying flat on the back) to promote breath awareness and relaxation. The younger kids loved practicing belly breaths while giving their buddy a “ride up high in the sky!” Stephanie used her own kid’s Beanie Baby collection with the students but grew frustrated when some rolled off the child’s belly, causing a distraction during the lesson. This sparked an idea to create a multipurpose/multi-sensory therapy tool to assist in teaching these brain-body practices. One of the methods often used in teaching mindfulness (present moment awareness) is to pay attention to the senses. She designed the BE Buddy® to include intentional elements that facilitate teaching these practices to help kids develop a connection to their minds and bodies.
Self-awareness is the first step in developing self-regulation.
Key Features and Benefits:
- The flowy marabou feathers offer visual feedback to help children connect with their breath to calm the body.
- Use the BE Buddy® as a comforting eye pillow to practice stillness or relaxation.
- The flax and lavender filling offer a calm and grounding sensory element to help kids practice self-care at a young age.
- The fun, brightly colored animals provide loving support and companionship.
- The loops aid in hanging, holding, and offer an additional sensory element.
Why are these Practices Important?
We live in a fast-paced world saturated in digital distractions and stimuli and has increased vastly since just 20 years ago. Anxiety is the number one mental health problem facing children and adolescents today, but it is also the most treatable. Kids need more downtime but are often too over-scheduled to take that time on their own. Carving out time to implement mindful practices will help prepare children with the tools to manage mental, emotional, and physical health in a fast-paced world.
According to Dr. Katherine Rosa, with the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine, “Your fight-or-flight response is meant to be a short-term reaction that comes and goes,” says Dr. Rosa. “But today, we are surrounded by so many stressors that we constantly stay in this state of tension. It doesn’t turn off, and we often don’t even notice it.”
When you breathe from the chest, like during the fight-or-flight response to a stressful event or exercise, your lungs take in the extra oxygen you need to fuel the heart and muscles.
In contrast, belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the head down to the stomach. This activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure and lowering stress level “It’s a simple act, but this interrupts the fight-or-flight response and puts it on pause,” says Dr. Rosa. “Over time, belly breathing can buffer your resistance to your fight-or-flight response, so you are not as sensitive to stress triggers.”
Try this with your BE Buddy® (or a favorite stuffed animal):
BE Buddy® Belly Breathing-
Benefits: Grounding and calming and teaches kids healthy breathing habits to relax the body. The goal is to fill up the belly (instead of the chest) to relieve stress and anxiety.
Lie down on your back comfortably and put your BE Buddy® on your belly.
Inhale into your belly (filling it up like a balloon) and watch your BE Buddy® ride up high to the sky.
Exhale and watch your BE Buddy® go down toward the ground.
Repeat 3-5x and notice how your body feels after practicing belly breathing.
Did you know?
“Of all the physiological systems in the body, breathing is the only one we can consciously control. All it takes is attention and practice.”
Lisa Flynn, Yoga For Children, 2013
What problem does it solve?
- Today’s youth face busy schedules, social media distractions, cyber-bullying, poor diets, constant access to screens & stimuli, resulting in increased stress, anxiety, poor wellness habits, and feeling disconnected.
- Kids who have trouble withdrawing from their external world (i.e., closing eyes, finding stillness)
- Holding on to future worries and thoughts from the past can lead to stress, anxiety, or depression.
- Humans are not born to manage stress intuitively, so we must view it as a skill to learn and practice.
- Screens and external stimuli are depriving children of sensory experiences such as feeling, touching, and seeing.
- Kids are increasingly becoming more and more disconnected from themselves and the world around them. Mindfulness practices help children and teens regulate emotions and respond to stress healthily.
- Teen depression, school shootings, and other outcomes from feeling disconnected.
- Breaks the pattern of unhealthy habits and promotes healthy self-care habits for a lifetime of wellbeing
Because of technology, we now have very little control over the amount of anxiety-producing situations kids are exposed to. We live in a volatile, ever-changing, and uncertain world, so we must equip our youth with tools to better manage these stressors.
Who Will the BE Buddy® Help?
Everyone can benefit from these practices because we all have stress in our lives, and our bodies are not born knowing how to deal with stress. Learning and practicing these stress management activities will produce healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Developing a healthy stress response will trickle into all areas of your life in a positive & healthy way.
Ideal populations for the BE Buddy®:
- Children (ages 3-12)
- Kids working through adverse experiences
- Special needs youth/adults
- Parents- looking for a tool to help with bedtime or emotional regulation?
- Teachers – an excellent calm classroom corner tool
- Social Workers
- Daycare Centers
- Any group or organization that works with children or families
If stress “has become one of the most serious health issues of the 20th century and a worldwide epidemic,” then it is time to start growing the tools of how we handle stress
(“Workplace Stress,” 2018).
Children must learn how to draw attention away from the overwhelming and chaotic world. The BE Buddy® is a tangible reminder and breathing aid to help kids connect with themselves and the world around them. Our vision is to fuel the educational and home environments with tools to promote empathy, connection, and peace in a society that could benefit from taking time to pause and connect.
“There are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots, and the other is wings.”
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Thanks for reading,
Your Friends at Balancing Elephants.
Check out the BE Buddy® shop and get 15% off + FREE shipping!
Use code “Buddy15” at checkout.
P.S. Looking for more? Get the FREE Self-Care for Kids Guide (printable)!