Breathing Star


This breathing star coloring page is perfect for Christmas Mindfulness and winter mindfulness activities…but today, we’ve got star breathing tool for you.

Discussing mindfulness for kids is a powerful strategy in addressing so many needs. Kids with sensory processing needs or self-regulation needs, or even emotional regulation needs may benefit from this holiday awareness activity.

Breathing Star

First, let’s talk about what a breathing star is.

A breathing star is a visual prompt that allows kids to follow a star design with their eyes or fingers to guide mindful and deep breathing. The breathing star can be a variety of shapes or forms, but the benefits are the same.

A breathing star might include:

  • A breathing star drawn on paper while doodling
  • A printable star coloring page like the one below
  • A star with arrows that a user can follow with deep breaths
  • This Star of David deep breathing tool

It’s a free printable Christmas coloring page with benefits! Scroll below to grab your printable page.


This mindfulness tool goes along well with our wreath breathing exercise,  Pumpkin deep breathing exercise, and Thanksgiving mindfulness activity.

what does mindfulness for kids mean?

Why Use a Breathing Star?

First, let’s talk about what mindfulness means. Mindfulness in children is the ability to be aware of one’s actions and self in the moment. 

Mindfulness for kids is an important part of self regulation and the ability to regulate our senses, feelings, and body.

Consideration of well-being is important in addressing occupations across environments. OT practitioners can address mindfulness as a means for improving regulation, self-efficiency, stress, anxiety, trauma exposure, or other issues the child may face. Some mindfulness strategies for kids include breath awareness, body sweep, and labeling of feelings.

One such mindfulness tool for children includes deep breathing. Combining this with stress-reducing coloring or focused activity can be a means for helping kids to become aware of how their body is responding to outside input or stressors.

You’ve probably seen the variety of coloring books out there designed as coping tools for stress or anxiety. These can be a way to teach kids about focused awareness and mindfulness in the moment.

It allows us to focus on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting what’s happening on the inside: in our feelings, thoughts, or sensations. This can be a tough skill for kids to master and why a breathing star can support that need.

For kids, mindfulness is a skill that allows them to be aware of their body and how it’s responding in the moment. Mindfulness for kids is important for them to have the ability to pay attention and responding to input from the world around us.

Mindfulness in kids means noticing their body and the things happening around them. It has a lot to do with impulse control. Just like any other skill, mindfulness is an ability that develops over time.

It’s easy to see how this skill relates to so many other areas that occupational therapists address: self-regulation, self-confidence, attention, social-emotional skills, coping skills, sensory processing, impulsivity and inhibition, and overall well being.

Also be sure to check out these Mindfulness for Kids YouTube Videos.

How to Use a Breathing Star Visual Support

A tool like this self regulation star is easy to use:

  1. Start with a pointer finger pointing at any of the points on the star.
  2. Take a deep breath in as the finger traces along the arrow.
  3. When you reach one of the points of the star, pause and hold your breath.
  4. Then, trace along the arrow to the next point as you breathe out.
  5. When you reach the next point of the star, your lungs will be empty. Pause and hold your breath with empty lungs.
  6. Continue as you trace along the outer edge of the star, pausing to hold your breath at each point.

How Does a Breathing Star Work?

The best thing about the printable breathing star is that it is a visual cue that can be used in any situation or no matter the environment.

We cover how a printable tool like this sensory breath star can support a variety of needs in our resource on breathing exercises.

The benefit of the breathing star is the pause points at the end of each star’s point. This pause point allows for breath control. As the breath is held after filling the lungs or emptying the lungs, the lungs continue to expand as does the rib cage. This offers interoceptive awareness as heavy work fills the chest area.

We cover this sensory strategy in our resource on relaxation breathing.

Occupational therapy practitioners working with children are interested in the well-being and the whole child. Functioning and independence in daily occupations are impacted by the “whole child”. The breathing sensory star offers the tool to support these needs.

Christmas star mindfulness for kids activity and coping strategy for deep breathing and awareness.

Below is a free printable coloring page for holiday mindfulness. Pair this with our Christmas Mindfulness coloring page for a mindfulness exercise for kids.

Get a Christmas Star Mindfulness Coloring Page

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    Sensory Touch

    sensory touch

    One of the first postnatal senses to develop is sensory touch.  There are eight senses to sensory processing, with touch being one of the more important ones.  The tactile system helps the brain understand and make sense of the world around it. Starting in infancy, people use touch to explore objects, protect themselves from danger, and safely navigate their world. Sensory touch is an important piece to looking at a sensory processing disorder checklist.

    Sensory touch

    Sensory touch

    According to what we know about sensory processing, and looking at the sensory processing disorder chart, The body sends tactile information to the somatosensory cortex through neural pathways to the spinal cord, the brain stem, and the thalamus.

    The primary somatosensory cortex is the primary receptive area for touch sensations and is located in the lateral postcentral gyrus, a prominent structure in the parietal lobe of the human brain.

    Think of sensory touch and the tactile system as a set of wired pathways, similar to the inner workings of a machine. In a typical body, the wires are the correct size, go the right direction, and send the appropriate information from the touch receptors to the brain. 

    Types of sensory touch

    Three Types of sensory touch

    There are three types of touch; light touch, deep pressure, and discriminative touch.  

    • Light touch is alerting.  It may alert you to danger such as something touching the skin, or brushing against a spider web. For those with sensory sensitivity, light touch can be bothersome, painful, and elicit negative emotions. 
    • Deep pressure tends to be calming.  Hugs, weighted blankets, and compression clothing, offer external deep pressure sensory touch. Deep pressure can also alert the body about how tight something is, if there is too much pressure, or not enough. 
    • Discriminative touch alerts the body/brain to the type of sensory touch.  It helps describe the incoming information.  Was it sticky, wet, dry, rough, bumpy, hot/cold, or smooth?

    Sensory Touch Issues

    How does this affect people with sensory touch difficulties?

    If the sensory touch system is not functioning optimally, the wiring can be off. Some wires might be too large, sending too much information at once (sensitivity). 

    Other wires may be too small, not sending enough information (sensory seeking). 

    Sometimes the wires are too long, taking it longer for the messages to be sent to the brain and registered.

    Other times the wires don’t go where they are supposed to, and misinformation is sent.

    Slow responses to touch sensory input, or the wiring may be too long/send misinformation:

    • Doesn’t notice if hands or face are messy or dirty
    • Doesn’t cry when seriously hurt and isn’t bothered by minor injuries
    • May not notice if bumped or pushed

    Seeking out touch sensory input or the wiring is too small:

    • Touching people to the point of irritating them
    • Loves messy play
    • Likes haircuts
    • Constantly touching objects, running their hands along the walls, or playing in the dirt

    Sensitivity to touch sensory input or the wiring is too big:

    • Dislikes having hair cut or brushed
    • Difficulty with toe and fingernail cutting
    • Fussy with food textures
    • Avoids getting messy, wants to wash hands immediately
    • Does not explore with touch
    • Irritated with certain clothing textures, labels and seams and socks. Avoids new clothes

    Sensory Touch and Function

    So, how does touch affect functional tasks?

    Touch is critical to making sense of the world. Along with the other senses, it teaches the brain the characteristics of an object or situation.

    This is the reason babies and young children touch everything!  They can not understand a new object without physically exploring it.  

    Let’s break down the definition of sensory touch terminology:

    • Stereognosis – a fancy word meaning; the ability to feel an object, and know what it is without seeing it.  An example of stereognosis is reaching into a bag to find a set of keys. 
    • Dyspraxia – difficulty with motor movements. Without the correct sensory touch information, movements and motor planning can be difficult.  Is that sand going to be soft and squishy, how close to the wall am I walking, how much force do I use when petting this puppy?
    • Tactile defensiveness Inability to tolerate touching food, wearing certain clothes, standing in line, being touched, exploring the environment, or experiencing new tactile sensations.

    Another component of touch that impacts functional performance is the information about touch that keeps us safe and gives us information about the world around us. This includes touch information such as:

    • Where is a particular item touching me?
    • The sensory touch awareness that “disappears” over time (feeling your socks on your feet when you put them on, but then not constantly feeling the “feel” of the socks on your feet). This awareness isn’t always present in Autistic individuals.
    • Is this item hot or cold?
    • Is a particular item too sharp or dangerous?

    Somatosensory Touch

    Somatosensory touch is a physiological body process which includes several aspects of sensory touch:

    • Exteroception input which can include touch sensitivity, thermoreceptive input (heat and temperature awareness), pain receptors
    • Interoceptive perception– awareness of pressure or feelings inside the body
    • Proprioceptive perception– feelings and awareness of joints and body awareness.

    Research about the somatosensory touch sense

    There are several research articles available on the somatosensory or tactile system:

    1. This article covers the sensory neurons of touch, including important information about the somatosensory system which serves three major functions; exteroreceptive (perception of sensory stimuli outside the body and on the skin), interoceptive (perception of internal stimuli inside the body), and proprioceptive functions (for the perception and control of body position and balance). Of important mention is the inclusion of
    2. This article which covers the development of touch.
    3. This article which discusses the common influences of the visual and tactile systems in using similar cognitive processes to enable humans to rely merely on one modality in the absence of another to recognize surrounding objects.
    4. This article discusses how Meissner’s corpuscles work in sensory touch, and how the location and presence of the number and distribution of Meissner’s corpuscles occurs in different locations on the human body.

    These are scientific journal articles which provide facts and research on theories about the sensory touch aspect of sensory processing.  To the layperson, they are difficult to read and decipher. Using the wiring example above, along with concrete examples may prove to be more beneficial to caregivers.

    Sensory Integration and Touch

    Sensory integration is the ability to correctly receive and interpret information from the senses. Difficulty with sensory integration, often labeled sensory processing disorder, results in misinformation about incoming information.

    It can be in one or more of the senses.  

    For more information on this theory, please do read our resource on Ayres Sensory Integration for an understanding of what is happening in our nervous systems that results in the motor or behavioral output. It’s truly fascinating!

    Why do babies touch everything?

    Babies and toddlers explore with touch.  A person who has not integrated this sense, may need to explore with touch long beyond the acceptable time frame. Learners who are developmentally delayed may exhibit “inappropriate” sensory behaviors because their system is functioning at a much lower level. 

    A four year old functioning at a one year old level would be expected to explore with taste and touch. 

    Infants and children who are born prematurely may also have difficulty with sensory regulation.  Their sensory systems were not developed well in utero, and it is almost impossible to mimic the womb sensations in an external NICU. 

    Premature children may be especially vulnerable to sensory challenges.

    Sensory Touch Preferences

    Everyone has their own set of sensory preferences.  You might dislike wearing jeans, cut the tags in your clothing, love snuggling under a heavy blanket, or prefer not to get messy. 

    These can be normal reactions to touch.  It becomes a problem when the reaction to sensory input impacts function. 

    The person who can not wear any clothes, is not able to be around people who might touch them, or has a panic attack stepping on the sand, are on the further ends of the typical spectrum.

    Their ability to lead a productive life is being compromised by their sensory difficulties. These are the people who may benefit from treatment.

    What can I do about this?

    The first step is understanding. Understanding a child is not “bad” or being difficult on purpose. Provide good tactile experiences to nurture and build the sensory system. 

    Amazon affiliate links are in this list below.

    Hands on strategies to support sensory touch:

    Understanding sensory touch, along with the other seven senses is tricky and complicated. What seems like a basic human function, can be a tangled web of crossed wires and misinformation.

    NOTE*The term, “learner” is used throughout this post for readability and inclusion. This information is relevant for students, patients, clients, preschoolers, kids/children of all ages and stages or whomever could benefit from these resources. The term “they” is used instead of he/she to be inclusive.

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L is a contributor to The OT Toolbox and has been providing Occupational Therapy treatment in pediatrics for more than 25 years. She has practiced in hospital settings (inpatient, outpatient, NICU, PICU), school systems, and outpatient clinics in several states. She has treated hundreds of children with various sensory processing dysfunction in the areas of behavior, gross/fine motor skills, social skills and self-care. Ms. Wood has also been a featured speaker at seminars, webinars, and school staff development training. She is the author of Seeing your Home and Community with Sensory Eyes.