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.
The BE Buddy® is a therapy toy encouraging kids to develop strategies to promote healthy habits and coping strategies for life!
Why There’s a Need For Stress Relief Toys For Kids
One of my favorite quotes that I use to describe my 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.
How I Invented My Own Stress Relief Toy For Kids: The BE Buddy Story
The idea for the BE Buddy ® came while teaching a classroom of kindergarteners.
We were practicing belly breathing with a “breathing buddy.” In other words, a stuffed animal (which happened to be my child’s old Beanie Baby collection).
We placed the toys on the child’s belly while laying flat on the back so I could explain breath awareness and relaxation.
But then we had a problem.
Some of the toys were rolling off the child’s belly, causing a distraction during the lesson.
Teachers, I don’t need to tell you what a joy that is!
So I started brainstorming what other tools or toys I could use that wouldn’t be so distracting. One that was already associated with teaching the importance of belly breathing.
The answer? There wasn’t one.
This sparked an idea to create my own multipurpose and multi-sensory therapy tool to assist in teaching these brain-body practices.
What is the BE Buddy, Exactly?
The BE Buddy® is a multi-sensory breathing aid, eye pillow, and colorful comfort pal for children.
It’s 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.
One of the methods often used in teaching mindfulness (present moment awareness) is to pay attention to the senses.
So I designed the BE Buddy® to include intentional elements that facilitate teaching these practices to help kids develop a connection to their minds and bodies. It touches on 3 of the 5 senses:
- Touch: The BE Buddy is filled and weighted with flaxseed to sculpt the belly. It also has a soft patterned velvet back.
- Smell: Each one is filled with lavender to add a calming effect.
- Sight: It’s made of a printed eco-friendly canvas front in an animal character theme. Its feathery marabou “hair” is a fun visual while practicing breathwork.
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®
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