The Cookie Breathing Game
All children benefit from learning relaxation skills. One of the most commonly used and effective relaxation skills is deep breathing. Deep breathing (also known as diaphragmatic breathing) involves slow, deep breaths through the diaphragm to initiate the body’s relaxation response. Relaxation skills are important to master because they can help children better manage anger, stress, fear, and anxiety.
Children may be resistant to learning and implementing relaxation skills. Teaching children to relax using a playful technique is an effective way to break through the resistive barrier.
An engaging intervention to teach diaphragmatic breathing is the Cookie Breathing Game (Lowenstein, 2016).
The child is directed to follow these steps:
Put your hand on your tummy, where your belly button is. Slowly breathe in through your nose for three seconds and feel your tummy move out. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for four seconds, and feel your tummy move in. Make sure your shoulders and chest are relaxed and still. Only your tummy should be moving in and out. To help you learn this special way of breathing, imagine a yummy batch of cookies that just came out of the oven. As you breathe in, smell those yummy cookies! But they’re hot, so you have to blow on them to cool them down. As you breathe out, blow on the cookies to cool them down.
A game is then played to help the child practice. The child rolls the dice and does Cookie Breathing slowly and properly two times when an even number is rolled. The child gets a point if an odd number is rolled. The child gets a cookie once four points are earned.
Repeated practice is required when building relaxation skills; thus, home-based practice exercises are strongly encouraged. Parents should learn the Cookie Breathing technique as well so they can coach the child to practice the strategy at home. Practicing at bedtime is recommended as this helps the child relax in preparation for sleep.
Reference: Lowenstein, L. (2016). Creative CBT interventions for children with anxiety. Toronto, ON: Champion Press.
Liana Lowenstein is an author, sought-after international speaker, and private practitioner in Toronto. For further info go to: www.lianalowenstein.com
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