For some children, the concept of taking a deep breath is difficult to understand. When I am working with some kids, especially kids with an autism spectrum disorder, they respond especially well to the use of a visual aid in order to fully understand new concepts. Introduce the use of this visual aid when your child is calm. I like to use these jellyfish visuals at the beginning and end of every social skills group I lead in the schools. Kids love to make the jellyfish swim and I get to help them pay attention to their deep breaths in the process!
Explain that the object of this deep breathing game is to move the jellyfish’s tentacles, making it swim. After your child fully understands the activity and has practiced the deep breathing while calm, you can use this as a visual aid while your child is upset. Simply present the visual, without using language, will begin to signal taking a deep breath to make the tentacles on the jellyfish move so that it can swim.
- To make the jellyfish, find a paper plate and cut it in half to have two half circles.
- Attach googly eyes or draw on some cartoon-like eyes with a smiley face and fasten several brightly colored streamers of various lengths to the bottom of the plate.
- Begin by inhaling slowly to the count of three, then on an exhale, see how long you can blow on the tentacles to make them move. If you want, count along slowly during the exhale.
Variations: Any visual can have streamers added to it. While it is particularly applicable to add streamers to a jellyfish to make tentacles, any cartoon character, animal, or other visual could work. Just add streamers to the bottom of any visual that your child finds interesting or special. One of my colleagues at school added streamers to the bottom of a “Sponge Bob.”
Zoo animal paper plates are an easy visual as well. Have fun practicing those deep breaths!