Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I'm Going to Huff and Puff.....and Calm Myself Down!

This is going to be a quick post, but one that I think will be super valuable.  I am not sure about any of you, but I find May and June to be harder than almost any other time of the school year.  So many of my kids are feeling nervous and worried about all the changes that summer usually brings about.  For some of them, it's ending school and realizing they will be in a new school next year with so many new faces.  Others are worried about camp, taking a bus for the first time.  Whatever the changes are, it often brings about kids with increased energy and more difficulty with being able to modulate/regulate their behaviors.


One of the skills I love to teach children when they present with these types of behaviors is how to take deep breaths.  When a child is feeling anxious or scared, his or her breathing will change and instead of taking normal breaths, they will be observed to take short, quick and shallow breaths.  Deep breathing is
important because it can lower a child's anxiety and give them a sense of control over their body.  Teaching a child how to do calm breathing is a great tool that they can have with them at all times, especially when their grownups aren't there to help guide them through it.  However, teaching children, especially the younger ones, how to properly take deep breaths can be more challenging than one may think.


Ever since discovering Free App Friday by Smart Apps For Kids, I have found a handful of great apps.  Ones that I most definitely wouldn't have discovered without me reading it about on their post.  Last week, one of the apps features was Huff-N-Puff by Duckie Deck.  Their description of the game is:  Huff n' PUff lets children learn about physical effects of wind and air, in a simplified setting.  Now, a youngster can have a more direct interaction with the digital world by using the power of their own breath.  Just blow some air near the iPad's or iPhone's iOS 5 microphone and delight in the realistic effect on-screen.  As an occupational therapist, I read this as follows:  Huff n' Puff lets children learn about how to effectively take deep and controlled breaths in a fun, motivated and simple setting.


There isn't much to the game, but it is fun and so far, my kids are loving it!  There are about 25 different activities that your child can play with.  I
pick and choose which ones are most appropriate and most motivating for the child I am working with.  The only thing the child needs to do is breath into the microphone of the iPad or iPhone and something fun will happen.  So far, my favorites are blowing the seeds off the dandelion, making the pinwheel spin or blowing the whistle.  I like these because they require a child to work on sustaining a long, deep breath.  I sometimes challenge my kids to see how many times they can make the pinwheel spin which they love!

One thing I really love about this game is there are ways to generalize and practice your deep breathing with real life activities.  For example, one of the activities is to blow up a balloon.  Right after you blow the balloon up on the game, you can have a child practice using those deep breaths by blowing up a real balloon.  Who remembers that pipe where you have to keep the ball in the air without having it fly away?  They have that as an activity on this game!  I have a few of the real pipes at work and the kids love it, but they often have trouble with it.  Some of my kids think it is really funny to make it fly away and have to chase it.  I am going to see if I can get them to be more successful by practicing with Huff-N-Puff first.

I hope you all have as much fun with this game as I am having.  Deep breathing is such an important skill and I have struggled with finding the most effective way to help my kids learn this skill.  It is an essential skill for learning how to cope when faced with challenging situations.  I am sure many of you have other ways to work on this without using technology and I would love to hear from with your ideas.  As the end of the year approaches and our kids are faced with an increased number of changes and challenges, I would love to be able to help empower them with a skill that will help them get through these difficult times.  

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