School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise- A Stress Relaxation Tool

Whether you are needing a bus stop activity to keep the kids calm and collected near a busy street or a sensory diet activity for the rides to school on the bus, this   school bus deep breathing exercise fits the bill. The school bus setting is unpredictable for sensory kids and this breathing activity is an easy stress relaxation tool that kids can add to their toolbox of coping strategies.

Time for school buses, school supplies, backpacks, new teachers, new friends, and new stressors.  While school can be fun and educational, it can also be a time of stress and overwhelm.  Teaching self regulation is important for school success.  Students and teachers love these Deep Breathing Exercises

School bus deep breathing exercise self regulation tool for stress relaxation on the bus.
Use this printable school bus deep breathing page as a sensory strategy for the school bus!

Just in time for back to school, the OT Toolbox has a great new School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise page to share. AND, it includes a school bus coloring page, too!

Stress Relaxation

One benefit of this sensory school bus strategy is the use in stress relaxation strategies in response to fight, flight, freeze, and other autonomic responses.

What do we mean by stress relaxation?

First, let’s cover how this works. When faced with an unfamiliar, unwanted, or overwhelming challenge, the central nervous system employs its fight, flight, or freeze response.  This is an automatic brain stem response to input.  Because everyone’s central nervous system is different, people respond differently to input.  Some people startle easily, are afraid of bugs, don’t tolerate loud noise or crowds, and are very sensitive. 

Others take life in stride, nothing tends to bother them. 

While this School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise is targeted for those who need to slow their central nervous system, everyone can benefit from taking a break once in a while to reset. When a body is in its fight, flight, or freeze mode, the central nervous system takes over.

The following may be symptoms of this autonomic response:

  • The heart rate may increase
  • Increased breathing rate 
  • Elevated heart rate/blood pressure/temperature 
  • Sweating
  • Hiccups
  • Excessive emotional outbursts
  • Decreased cognitive skills as all energy goes into protecting the body
  • Digestive issues

Because of this autonomic or automatic response to stimuli, people can make a conscious effort to combat these symptoms.  One quick and easy way to slow down heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, and emotional outbursts is by using deep breathing exercises to relax the stress response. 

Education on self regulation is an important step of sensory based treatment.  Teaching a person to understand their body, triggers, and response to input will help them choose an appropriate treatment method, and a perfect time to use it. 

The use of stress relaxation strategies is a work in progress, and takes a long time to achieve self regulation.  Adults as well as children need help and reminders along the way when they are feeling out of control.

We have other fun and motivating breathing exercises for kids in the school setting on the site, too. These include:

School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise

The OT Toolbox is full of Breathing Exercise Worksheets.  The newest one, The School Bus, comes at a great time of year. It’s the perfect tool to use in stress responses on the school bus. Add this sensory strategy in school environment to the bus environment which can be unpredictable, full of loud sounds, vibration and unpredictable movements, and an opportunity for sensory overload.

Use the school bus sensory strategy to support different needs:

  • A sensory diet for the school bus
  • Waiting for the bus activity
  • Stress response to a simulating school bus environment

Have learners place their finger on a white dot.  Instruct them to breathe in while sliding their finger across the arrow.  On the next arrow, they are instructed to breathe out.  Learners can go around the bus as many times as it takes for them to feel more in control of their body.  

We’ve also included a deep breathing coloring page, in this set, too. Use it to work on coloring skills and pull in other areas of development such as fine motor skills and visual motor skills. Kids can then use the deep breathing coloring page as a coping strategy tool they have created and have ownership over.

How does this work?

These Deep Breathing Exercises are more than just working on breathing. Think about the following sensory systems that are activated using this free printable:

  • Deep breathing slows the heart rate
  • Visualizing the bus creates a distraction, or changes the learner’s focus
  • Listening to the sound of deep breathing can help tune out other stimuli
  • Counting breaths or holding for a number of seconds also creates a shift in focus
  • Themed breathing opens a door to change the subject and talk about the picture
  • Slowing the body down during the exercise, helps with regulation
  • Following a rhythm is organizing to the central nervous system

How to use the School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise Worksheet

Strategies such as breathing exercises are not as easy as handing your learner a piece of paper.  There is a lot of teaching, education, practice, and trial/error that goes into any of these treatment methods.

  • Initiate the activity BEFORE total meltdown or shut down occurs.  Once shut down occurs, it may not be easy for your learner to tolerate, listen, or sit and focus on this task
  • Use these exercises as part of your prescribed sensory diet, proving them at regular predictable intervals during the day, such as before/after transitions
  • Learner does not have to sit in a chair to work on deep breathing. They may lay on the floor, do yoga poses, climb under a blanket, sit in a rocker, or a comfy beanbag
  • If this exercise does not work for your learner, either try again at a different time, or move onto another strategy.  The OT Toolbox is full of ideas for self regulation

Thematic lesson or treatment planning is motivating for students, and a way for educators to organize their daily teaching. Back to school is a popular theme using school buses, school tools, and apples to get to know your students.  It is a great segue into the fall theme.

Other Back to School Activities from the OT Toolbox:

Free printable stress relaxation for the school bus

Want to add this printable stress relaxation tool to your therapy toolbox? Enter your email address into the form below.

This item is also available inside the Member’s Club. Members can log into their account and access the tool by heading to Mindfulness Tools. Grab this stress relaxation exercise as well as others including unicorn deep breathing, pencil deep breathing, rainbow breathing, and more.

FREE School Bus Deep Breathing Exercise

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    Victoria Wood

    Victoria Wood, OTR/L 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.

    School bus deep breathing exercise for stress relaxation on the bus