This Halloween activity is one that I came up with while thinking about our recent Halloween Occupational Therapy activities post. So often, we see kids who struggle with coping strategies and require tools to improve self regulation. This can occur at school or at home. What if we could combine a child’s interest in all things Halloween with a deep breathing exercise that can be used as a coping strategy, or a calm down activity? That’s where this pumpkin deep breathing exercise comes in.
Deep Breathing Exercise
So often, parents and teachers ask for strategies to use as a coping mechanism. When kids have coping tools in their toolbox for addressing sensory needs, worries, and getting to that “just right” state of regulation, a self-reflective state can occur.
Addressing specific needs like sensory overload, worries or anxiety, fears, or nervousness can be as simple as having a set of sensory coping strategies on hand. One way to do this is using mindfulness and positive coping skills like this deep breathing exercises.
Deep breathing exercises help with mindfulness and coping skills for several reasons:
When kids are taught about how their body feels and reacts in certain situations, they can self-reflect on past responses. They can better understand who they are and how their body reacts to stressful or sensory situations. By better understanding their states of regulation, they can be mindful of things that may set them off, but better yet, know how to respond. Having a coping strategy on hand can set them up for success in learning or social situations. Practicing mindfulness activities and coping strategies can be powerful for kids.
Mindfulness is the ability and awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations as our body responds or reacts in thought, feeling, and sensations. Mindfulness is being present in the moment in any given situation with full awareness of inward and outward sensations. Practicing mindful awareness through deep breathing exercises is one way to notice how our body is reacting in a given moment and provides a tool to reset. Coping skills for kids may include deep breathing as just one strategy.
Here are some mindfulness videos on YouTube to help kids better understand what coping strategies and mindfulness in action looks and feels like.
Deep breathing acts as a coping tactic and a calming activity. It’s an easy coping strategy for kids because taking deep breaths with mindful breathing can be done anywhere and without any equipment.
Taking controlled breaths with deep breathing can give kids a sense of control that helps them rest and address self-regulation or emotional regulation when they are upset, worried, or feel a need to calm down.
coping skills…with a pumpkin
So now that we’ve covered deep breathing and why it’s a helpful coping strategy for kids, let’s talk about a fun Halloween themed coping strategy that kids will love to try.
This deep breathing activity uses a simple picture of a pumpkin, but you can use a real pumpkin, too. The small decorative gourds or pie pumpkins are perfect for this activity, because kids can hold the small pumpkin in their hands and feel the weight of the pumpkin as they complete the breathing strategy.
Using a pumpkin picture or real pumpkin, show kids how to use deep breathing as a coping tool by taking calming breaths while they trace the lines of the pumpkin.
Trace the lines up toward the stem while taking a deep breath in. Hold the breath for a few seconds and then trace a line down another section of the pumpkin while slowly breathing out. Hold that breath for a few seconds. Repeat this process as you slowly trace up and down the sections of the pumpkin.