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Emotional Regulation Skills for Preschoolers: The Maleku Strategy

Emotional well-being is an important part of a child's development, and acquiring emotional regulation skills early on can have a profound impact on their overall mental health and future success.

Breathing techniques, when taught and practiced together, can provide young children with a valuable and accessible means of managing their emotions and promoting a sense of calm. One of the most important reasons behind the creation of Maleku’s Gift was to help parents and caregivers introduce breathwork to their preschoolers.

Let’s explore together the significance of emotional well-being in preschoolers, the science behind breathing techniques, and practical strategies for incorporating these techniques into your routine.

The Importance of Emotional Well-being in Preschoolers

During the preschool years, children are learning to recognize and navigate their feelings as they interact with the world around them. This natural process can be helpful in developing their emotional well-being and lays the foundation for healthy relationships, resilience, and self-regulation skills.

However, preschoolers often struggle with emotional regulation due to their developmental level which can limit understanding and knowledge of coping mechanisms. Children are wholly dependent on parents, teachers, and caregivers to offer them tools with which they can effectively identify, process and manage their emotions.

Safely exploring their feelings leads to a better understanding and positive outcomes.

The Science of Breathing Techniques

Breathing is an automatic physiological process, but it is also a gateway to our emotional state. When we experience stress or strong emotions, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow.

Conversely, slow, deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and emotional balance. By understanding and harnessing the power of breath, preschoolers can gain agency over their emotions.

Breathing techniques, such as deep belly breathing and mindful breathing, help regulate the autonomic nervous system and activate the relaxation response. These techniques increase the flow of oxygen to the brain, promoting a sense of calm and clarity.

Additionally, intentional breathing engages the prefrontal cortex, the brain region responsible for executive functions like decision-making and emotional regulation.

These techniques will help preschoolers develop a stronger mind-body connection.

Maleku’s Breathing Exercises for Preschoolers

How to Introduce Breathwork to Young Children

You can simply introduce to your preschooler the importance of our breath and how to be aware of it. Explain how taking deep breaths can help them feel calm and in control, and in this way, you can make the connection between breath and emotions.

Don’t forget that you are always modeling for your preschooler, not only by demonstrating how to do the breathing exercises, but just by doing them yourself on a regular basis, as part of your routine. Modeling is a powerful teaching tool.

Young children can be easily engaged with storytelling and visualization, which is the purpose behind Maleku’s Gift. The story of a young monkey’s adventures and her ability to process her emotions with her breath gives children a bright, visual approach to learning breathing exercises.

Not only will they enjoy the story and the illustrations, but they will use their imaginations to walk alongside Maleku as she feels a variety of emotions and learns to rely on her innate capabilities to recognize and accept her big feelings.

Playful and Simple Strategies

Belly Breathing with Buddies:

Using your preschooler’s favorite stuffed animal or lovey, encourage them to lie down comfortably and place their buddy on their belly. Show them how to observe their buddy rise and fall with each breath, promoting awareness of their breath's physical sensations. This technique is easy and comfortable right away because of the emotional connection your child has to their favorite cuddly friend.

Lighthearted Feather Breathing:

This unique and very visual breathing exercise can be done with a tissue if you don’t have access to a feather. Let your child hold the feather in their hands and breathe in through the nose. Then release through the mouth as if they are blowing into a straw, but directly into the feather. Observe how the feather moves and sways with the exhale.

Bubble Breathing:

Preschool age children love bubbles! Take your child outside and let the fun begin. Have them breathe in through the nose and exhale long and slow into the bubble wand to blow the biggest bubble they can. Show them how. The power of the breath can regulate emotions and make silly bubbles.

Humming Like Bee:

Ask your child what sound a bee makes. Practice the buzzing or humming sound of a bee together. Then demonstrate how to inhale through the nose and exhale while making the humming sound. Clasping your hands over your ears will make the sound even more pronounced and will help bring their emotions into neutral.

Big Feelings:

It’s important when our littles are feeling big emotions like anger or frustration that they have a practical tool available to use to diffuse. This exercise has your child standing and making balls with their fists. Arms go high into the air above the head on the big inhale and then arms come down mightily on the exhale. This exercise incorporates kinetic movement to help move those feelings right on through the body.

These are just a few breathing exercises that have been around for centuries and are easily adapted to simple, fun tools your child can carry with them wherever they go.

Helping Preschoolers Learn to Embrace Emotions

Very young children not only pick up on our emotions, but they harbor their own complicated set of feelings, as well. It’s so important to give our own feelings validation and support our preschoolers as they are learning about theirs.

At home, you can designate a specific time for emotional check-ins during the day. Encourage children to share how they are feeling and guide them in using breathing techniques to regulate their emotions. Validation and breathwork practice fosters emotional intelligence, empathy, and a supportive learning environment.

By incorporating simple breathing exercises into your daily routine, you are automatically modeling that practice for your young child. Self care is important for caregivers and parents. Passing these habits along to your children is beneficial to their long term growth and development.

Taking the extra time to check in with them and do an easy exercise together lets them know that our emotions are a natural and healing part of life.

Breathing techniques offer preschoolers a simple yet powerful tool for emotional well-being and regulation. Through breath awareness and mindful practices, preschoolers develop resilience, self-regulation skills, and a greater sense of calm.

As we harness the power of breath, we provide preschoolers with lifelong skills that will positively impact their emotional well-being and lay the groundwork for a healthy and fulfilling future.

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