Breath, bubbles, balloons and your child!


Breath, bubbles, balloons and your child……..

I’m wondering what those words conjures up for you, besides that they are all “B” words! Is it bubble baths, bubble gum, a song? My childhood memories of bubbles include summer days in Ireland where I’d mix lots of washing up liquid and water in our back garden and then hope for the best.  Living in the US in my twenties bubbles were readily seen in pre-schools and stores and balloons were used exquisitely at many familial celebrations.  I always love the array of “equipment” available for children to use with bubbles and chuckle with the various sizes of bottles of bubbles! I’m known to include bubbles in gifts to little family members and little clients.

In my parenting journey specifically my infant and toddler parenting chapters I always had bubbles in my bag!! Yes, bubbles are magical, fun and have one other powerful benefit – to support your child regulate. My most vivid memory using bubbles is travelling solo trans-Atlantic and using bubbles between connecting flights with my infant and later toddler & preschool aged children.  I even used them in-flight.  How quickly our world has changed as I wouldn’t manage that now with current air travel security measures and systems.

This week bubbles and breath surfaced in three different days and ways for me: Firstly, reading a report, secondly as part of my recommendations to parents and thirdly as I replenished supplies in my play therapy room I bought more bubbles, I didn’t need any balloons.  Yes, as a Non Directive Play Therapist I recommend bubbles and I read Paediatric Occupational Therapy reports that also recommend bubbles.

Why? Our breath is the best tool we have to regulate, that is to calm ourselves.  Much research has been done on using our breath to calm and self-regulate.  Dr. Harvard Benson a cardiologist in Harvard Medical School, USA, researched BREATH in the 1970’s. Benson discovered that breathing, initiates the relaxation response.  Today his research continues, you may like to Google that for more information.  Mindfulness, yoga and many other disciplines across our planet Earth and over the centuries have identified this life skill. In one of my yoga classes this week I was introduced to listening for my heart beat and given two words to hum silently to it. The idea behind this is for me to empty all thoughts out of my mind and this results in me feeling that I am experiencing physical changes most specifically slowing down my heart beat, lowering my blood pressure and I am self regulating/calming.

If you’ve birthed a child naturally you have most likely relied heavily on breathing through your labour contractions.  Once your baby is delivered those in attendance listen attentively to hear your child’s first cry which is intrinsically connected to your child’s first breath.  How many of us have checked our child’s breathing at night especially as first time parents?  Yet with the busy-ness of our lives we often neglect this most valuable and powerful tool inbuilt in our amazing bodies and in our children?

Perhaps you can try some of these fun and effective ideas that use your infant, toddler, preschool and school aged child’s BREATH….By doing so you are ‘teaching’/introducing  your child to a powerful life skill – to calm and self regulate. Simultaneously you are building your child’s resilience which in turn allows your child to flourish.

Balloons:  Blow up a few balloons and balloon pumps aren’t included here!  (See your own breath strength and control here) and have fun making eye contact and connecting with your own inner child.  Might be that your school aged child can blow up a balloon more easily than you. Is this the case?  This is a great time to name that feeling for your child, “Look at you, you are feeling proud of how you are able to blow up a balloon”. If you’re huffing and puffing something like this may name your feelings, “This is really tricky for me, it’s hard for me to fill my balloon with breaths of air, and I’m really trying”.

In that last sentence you are modelling how you are naming your feelings.  With an older child or highly verbal child you may substitute “Tricky” with “Challenging”. Yes, it’s much easier to say “Good job“, “Good girl or good boy”.  However, by zooming in on your child’s behavior and your child’s feeling behind it you are separating the behavior from your child.  Watch out for future blogs on how very important it is to separate behavior and mis-behavior for your child in your words/language.

In this simple act of blowing up a balloon(s) and relating to your child with such words you are connecting with your child, re-igniting your relationship and creating an experience of living in the moment.  Additionally, you are being attuned to their feelings; you are emotionally available and are giving positive attention.  All of this is possible, hope you give it a go!

Bubbles: You’ll be the bubble maker for infants and toddlers. Watch how a young infant can track your bubbles.  This is appropriate for their current stage of child development. Be sure to set rules /expectations around bubble use to your toddler, preschool and school aged child.  In order to do this you need to know if bubbles are for outside play or inside play.  Then set your expectation /rule and explain why.  Ideally all those caring for your child in your home need to know this rule/expectation and follow. Consistency is crucial to all children and teens.  Introduce the bubbles and be ready to head outside or stay indoors.

Bubbles can be popped with fingers, elbows, hand clapping, knees, heads and lots of other ways. Be sure to name how your toddler aged child is feeling. With our preschool aged child you can give them the choice of which role they would like to have!  Bubble maker or Bubble Popper. When the bubbles run out it’s a great opportunity to name your child’s feelings.  “You are feeling disappointed, your are feeling sad that the bubbles are all gone.  I will get more next Sat and we can play bubbles another day”. You’ve contained their negative emotion and as the adult you are taking responsibility to re-stock, so be sure too! You’ve ended on a positive by saying, “We can play bubbles another day”.

It is important t note here that some children find the physical act of blowing bubbles very challenging.  Blowing their nose can also be tricky.  I’m thinking of some children who have Sensory Processing Seeking behaviors or have been diagnosed by a Paediatric Occupational Therapy with Sensory Processing Disorder.  As parents when we see (and feel) how hard a task/skill etc is for our child we often want to rescue.  Parents tend to do this by trying so hard to protect and distract our child from the uncomfortable feeling.  All feelings need to be heard. Best practice guides us to name those uncomfortable feelings our child experiences.

The experienced Montessori Early Childhood Teacher in me needs to add, tracking bubbles for your preschool aged child is intrinsically linked to prewriting skills.  Following the bubbles visually and popping is fantastic for developing your child’s eye-hand co-ordination. There’s a lot more to this simple playful activity of Bubble Maker and Bubble Popper including your child’s acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills – for another blog post.  Final point here is have a quick think about how when we are in a classroom or lecture we have to move our eyes from our laptop or paper to the board and back… Now with bubbles you are preparing your child in a respectful and safe way your child’s emotionally, intellectually, linguistic, social and physical development with this simple mix of play and therapeutic techniques and tips.

An ill/unwell child will often adore this interaction with bubbles.  Programs such as Theraplay use bubbles and balloons.  Invite grandparents to connect with bubbles, balloons and their breath too….

Finally you are ready to practice breathing with your child.

  1. First introduce this by modelling your breathing and how the little toy moves. Lie down and place an extremely light weight soft toy on your tummy near your navel.  Let your child see how the toy moves with your deep breaths and doesn’t with your shallow breaths. You practice other skills with your child such as the skill of riding his/her tricycle or swimming strokes, right?  Your child needs lots of practice to achieve deep calm re-energizing breathing.
  2. Invite your child to have a turn, if they are open to trying this place the light weight toy on your child’s tummy and let them see how the toy moves with their very own deep breaths and how their little toy doesn’t with shallow breaths.

3.Move this practice as part of your child’s sleep routine.

4. Lastly see how you can pull on it when you child experiences big strong negative and positive emotions during their day. I work with children and their parents who can pull on this tool while driving.

With practice your child will learn to recall this technique, this life skill AND use it when in situations away from you where your child needs to calm/self regulate. Your child is flexing their resilience. What a gift!

Enjoy breathing, blowing bubbles and balloons while imparting a life skill, building your child’s resilience and experiencing you and your child flourish!

I’m interested to hear how you are experiencing these tips and techniques and any thoughts you have on my blog.

Feel free to connect on my fb page  and on  (Currently my website is in a prenatal stage of development, with an amazing birthing process in view).  You may just find similar soul and spirit members of a like minded tribe!

Take care of Your flourishing child and you