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Breathing Exercise for Kids with FREE Printable

When Sunshine is feeling strong feelings, taking deep breaths helps her to not aggress or engage in negative behaviors in the moment.

However, she does often find breathing boring and complains that it doesn't seem to help with the actual emotion behind the behaviors that she's feeling at the time. 

That was the case, until we introduced the breathing exercises for kids mentioned in this post.

Sunshine absolutely LOVES them. They seem to work every time, so long as her brain isn't too activated.

I created a free printable to go along with the breathing exercises so that no matter where we go, we can bring the visuals to cue Sunshine when they are needed. For her, the visual is everything.

Breathing Exercises for Kids with FREE Printable

Confession time.

I can not take any credit for these breathing exercises. Full credit goes to Kira Willey, author of Breathe Like a Bear, and her amazing illustrator Anni Bets.

Breathe Like a Bear Book


Kira Willey wrote a magnificent book full of 30 different breathing activities that help children to calm, focus, imagine, energize, and relax.  (We do not use the energize activities with Sunshine as they activate her brain too much.)

Our entire family LOVES this book because it takes deep breathing to the next level, helping children visualize and engage with their mind and body in positive ways that not only help with behaviors, but also the emotions behind them.

Breathe Like a Bear

How doe Kira Willey do this you ask?

Each breathing exercise comes with a story and visualization. The exercise takes the child out of current circumstances and transplants them into another that is positive and enjoyable. 

For Sunshine, this is HUGE. 

Her brain deactivates. 

Instead of going to a dark place in her mind while she takes simple deep breathes, she visualizes the breathing exercises and goes to a happy place.

Once the result of the breathing exercise has been reached, she is able to talk about her emotions calmly and safely.

We absolutely LOVE the book, Breathe Like a Bear.

Breathe Like a Bear Cue Cards


Now, I've shared all of the pros of this book, but I must confess there is one con.

This book does not fit in my purse and is really hard to carry around to other places outside of the home!

To my knowledge, the author and publisher have not created portable cards to carry around to use in all settings. If they do, I'll be the first one to purchase them. I would LOVE it if they included the story on the back with the picture on the front for my reference.

But alas, there is no such thing, nor will there be until the author, illustrator and publisher decide to do so.

If and when they do, I will be replacing the resource below with the author and illustrator's work.

 In the meantime, I've had to come up with my own portable option.  I have created Breathe Like a Bear Cue Cards.


FREE Breathe Like a Bear Cue Cards for Kids

Now let me clarify what these cards are and aren't.

  • These cards do NOT include instructions and stories written by Kira Willey related to the breathing exercises found in the Breathe Like a Bear book.
  • These cards do NOT include the beautiful illustrations created by Anni Betts, nor claim to be anything like them.
  • These cards do NOT replace the incredible effort that Kira Willey and Anni Betts put into their masterpiece.
  • These cards do NOT work without having full details of the breathing activities in the book, Breathe Like a Bear.
  • These cards DO give true-to-life visuals that represent breathing activities listed in the book, with a title and a one word description of what type of breathing activity each card represents.
  • Those who choose to use these cards DO need to purchase the book in order to understand what any of the titles and exercises are.
  • These cards DO allow me to provide Sunshine with visuals for the breathing activities in the book, Breathe Like a Bear, when we are on the go and I'm unable to transport the book, but only after we've used the book to practice and memorize all that's necessary to remember while using the cards.
  • These cards are for personal use only.

How We Use the Breathe Like a Bear Cue Cards


Option 1:


These cards were created two years ago when we thought that Sunshine would be returning home to us sooner than later.

Before her last hospitalization we read through the book together and had her choose one to two breathing activities that she liked most. 

After practicing the breathing activities when she was calm to ensure that she had mastered them, I would initiate their use when emotions were high.

The goal was to have Sunshine eventually initiate them, choosing one or two a day to use when necessary.

Selecting her breathing cards for the day would be part of her initial check-in of the day.

These exercises worked every time, when Sunshine's brain wasn't too activated.

Option 2:


 Big emotions are not just something that happens at home. These cards are perfect for carrying in my purse when I don't have the book on hand to use.

When we prepare to leave, Sunshine will pick one or two breathing exercise cue cards to bring along if necessary. That way when she struggles, she has something tangible and visual to remind her of what to do.

If you do not own the book, Breathe Like a Bear, I HIGHLY recommend it. Though it's designed for children ages 4-8, I love it as an adult!

Finding the breathing techniques that work for your child specifically is so important. Understanding that every child is different is crucial to success.

The Breathe Like a Bear Cue cards are a subscriber's only freebie. To obtain your copy, follow the directions below.

Directions on How to Obtain Subscriber Only Freebies

1. Click on the Subscriber's link at the bottom of this post.

2. Subscribe to our free newsletter.

3. Open the thank you message you receive after subscribing. (Be sure to check your spam folder, as sometimes it ends up there.)

4. Click the confirmation link in the thank you message.

5. Once the confirmation is complete, you will receive another message with the Subscriber Only Freebies Link and Password.

6. Click on link and type in password. (The password is cap sensitive.)

7. Find the printable pack you are looking for listed in alphabetical order, click on it, and voila!

We hope you enjoy your free printable.

Note: If you are already a newsletter subscriber, open your most recent newsletter. At the bottom you will find a link to the Subscriber Only Freebies page, along with the password in case you forgot it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below. 


4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in ChildrenOne Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions How to Create and Use an Individualized Emotional Regulation Chart 5 Lessons to Teach Kids About Balancing EmotionsAnger Management for Kids
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How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart

 It's no secret that Sunshine REALLY struggles with emotional regulation and anger management. 

One of the biggest challenges we have when others care for Sunshine is that they do not understand what Sunshine's behaviors mean.
 
When caregivers miss important emotional regulation cues,  everyone suffers. 

Instead of working on prevention and regulation strategies, caregivers end up focusing on behavior strategies.

This is why it's so important to teach emotional regulation in ways that a child can understand. 

Today I'm going to show you how to create and use an emotional regulation chart for your child!


How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart


Emotional regulation is something that we've always worked on at home in various ways. It was super easy when Sunshine was home all the time.


But when she started attending a day program emotional regulation was not a focus in the classroom. Sunshine suffered because of this.


After some great meetings with her team, they introduced a color based emotional regulation program and chart at school. We carried over what was being taught at home, adding on to what we were already doing.


The program used at school introduced green representing the emotion happy. Blue stood for sick and/or sad. Yellow stood for emotions like anxious, nervous, scared, etc. Red stood for angry.


The concepts taught in the program at school were great, but based on Sunshine's struggles with brain activation, we realized we needed to add another emotion option to her chart, which we call "fire red." 


Sunshine reaches "fire red" when her brain is activated to the point of having a behavioral seizure. During this time, behaviors do not stop until the seizure is finished. Most often these behaviors include hurting others and sometimes Sunshine hurting herself.


The goal with Sunshine is to always keep her as calm as possible. As she identifies what color she's on at check-ins throughout her day, the goal is return to green as quickly as possible through using various coping skills.

Using a chart with colors and corresponding emotions is a huge help! It's the perfect visual for kids.

How to Create an Individualized Emotional Regulation Chart


1. Identify target emotions and assign color to them.


When creating an emotional regulation chart, you do not need to use the same colors and emotions introduced by Sunshine's school. You can choose any colors and emotions you'd like based on observations of what your child will respond most positively to.

If you're enlisting the help of your child when creating a chart, have them pick their own colors and match them to emotions.

For us, the colors introduced at school transformed into multiple emotions based on observation and identification.

2. Choose a way to represent emotions that match colors.


I chose to use emojis to represent corresponding emotions in our chart because Sunshine LOVES emojis and still can't read.

If you choose to create a chart similar to mine, it's super easy to purchase emoji stickers and use them.

Other options you may consider are drawings, photographs of the your child in different emotional states, or simply writing out the emotions depending on your child's age.

Whatever your choose is completely up to you! 

If it's possible, and your child is willing, they could participate in this process. 

3. Create a three column chart.


The first column is for colors. Next comes corresponding emotions. Last is a check in space is available for the child to use when possible.

4. Place color markers and corresponding emotions in the appropriate places on the chart.


This is the fun part where everything comes together!

Children may enjoy putting their chart together using glue, stickers, markers, crayons, or whatever you choose to use.

I created ours on the computer since Sunshine isn't at home right now. This way it can be printed out and used in multiple settings. 

When she does come home, I'm excited for her to create her own.

This is Sunshine's chart!

Sunshine's Emotional Regulation Chart

This chart was created by me and is designed specifically for Sunshine. It is not available for use by anyone else for free or through purchase.


Please know it's okay if each color has only one corresponding emotion. 

Sunshine's chart is based on her ability to recognize different emotions. If your child isn't able to recognize more than five simple emotions, only include those.

5. Decide how your child will do an emotional check-in.


The third column is a place where the child does a check-in about how they're feeling. It can be used in various ways.

Your child can draw the emotion their feeling in the proper box.

Your child can use a clothespin and clip it to the correct box.

Your child can draw a check mark in the correct space.

In all honesty, the sky is the limit!

Whichever way you choose to use the last column, be sure to use cardstock and/or laminate your chart for durability. 

I will be asking Sunshine to use white board markers to draw the correct emoji face when possible at home.

6. Make a list of emotions and corresponding behaviors.


DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP!  

It is one thing to teach your child how to identify their emotions by color, but a completely different to identify emotions by behaviors, which is the whole point of creating the emotional regulation chart in the first place.

Take time to observe your child.

Observe the child's behaviors and emotions.

Ask questions based on your observations. 

"I am observing that when you are feeling nervous when playing, you are unkind to your friends. Is this correct?"

Obviously you will modify questions based on what the child can understand and answer.

Write down behaviors that you can associate with emotions. 

This is your guide to helping your child understand emotional regulation.

Sunshine's list is below. I use colors rather than emotions to make it easier.
Sunshine's Emotional Regulation Colors & Corresponding Behaviors

Once you have your list, use it!

When using the emotional regulation chart, the goal is to teach your child how they feel and what behaviors they display when they have that feeling.

From there they can learn to identify the emotion and behaviors themselves and decide to change them to those that are more positive.

We have handed this list out to Sunshine's day program, respite workers, and every RTC team she has had. When they choose to use it, it makes such a difference.

Adults are able to catch Sunshine before she escalates too far and activates her brain.

Over time the goal is to teach Sunshine to catch herself before she activates, after lots of practice and constant use of the chart, associating behaviors with emotions the entire way.

It may take a LONG time, but I do believe it's possible!

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the resources below.


Anger Management for Kids Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors One Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions 5 Lessons to Teach Kids About Balancing Emotions Fun Ways to Teach Children About Emotions
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Birthday Bash Bundle Sale

One doesn't turn 40, but only once in a life time. 

It so happens that this month on the ninth, I did just that.

April is always and extremely chaotic month.  Sunshine's recent transition to another RTC, the stomach flu spreading through each member of the family, and Easter have all postponed my birthday celebration.

But now that those events are all over, it's time to spend the rest of April embracing my 40-year-old self.

I'm kicking off this celebration with a Birthday Bash Bundle Sale!

All Every Star Is Different Bundles are 40% OFF now through Tuesday, April 26, 2022 at 11:59 PM EST.

Birthday Bash Bundle Sale

 Did you know that we have created THIRTY bundles over the last few years? 


We have so many resources available for Montessori preschool and elementary classrooms at home and at school.


All are designed to meet the needs of every child in the classroom no matter their skill level or abilities. 


Every Star Is Different Bundles are filled with beautiful true-to-life images.


This Birthday Bash Bundle Sale is not to be missed! 


It will be the only time during 2022 that all of our bundles will be on sale.


Be sure to grab them while you can. No promotional code is needed. The prices already reflect the discount.


Every Star Is Different Bundles


To purchase the bundles that you would like, just click on the images below and add the products to your cart. Happy shopping!


Back-to-School Bundle The Ultimate Montessori Math Bundle Montessori-inspired Language Bundle Montessori-inspired Art and Music Bundle Montessori-inspired Holidays Around the World Bundle Montessori Grammar Bundle Montessori Telling Time Bundle Montessori-inspired Continents Bundle Montessori-inspired Astronomy Bundle Montessori-inspired Self-Care Bundle Montessori-inspired Chemistry Bundle Montessori-inspired Vertebrates Bundle
Cursive Montessori-inspired Language Bundle Montessori Arthropods Bundle Montessori-inspired Halloween Bundle Montessori-inspired Thanksgiving Bundle Montessori Word Study Bundle Holidays Around the World Bundle II Montessori Skip Counting and Multiplication Bundle Winter Activities Bundle Diversity and Inclusion Bundle Fractions Bundle U.S. Presidents Bundle Earth Day Bundle United States Government and Constitution Bundle Day of the Dead Mini Bundle Money Bundle for Beginners Scandinavian Christmas Mini Bundle Valentine's Grammar Bundle Construction Site Bundle

This month is the perfect time to start planning for the next school year!

Don't forget to plan for holidays as well.

When you purchase bundles now you have plenty of time to print, cut, laminate, and prepare for next year's work.

April is also the perfect time of year to start preparing for any summer learning that might take place. In our home we learn year round. Summer is usually our least hectic time of year for us.

No matter when you're planning for, these bundles are absolutely spectacular as you'll read about in reviews left by others who have purchased and used them, when you click on the images above.

Don't wait until it's too late! Grab your Every Star Is Different Bundles today at 40% OFF as part of my 40th Birthday Bash Bundle Sale!
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How We Do Montessori Middle School at Home

This year we have made the transition from a Montessori elementary focused homeschool experience to one that is Montessori middle school focused. 

I won't lie. The transition has been a work in progress and has taken most of the school year. 

We started this journey in September. Now, in March the kids are finally settling into it and are enjoying most moments.

Instead of transitioning to a Montessori-inspired middle school model all at once, we've introduced it piece by piece over the school year.

I did this to prevent unnecessary meltdowns and negative behaviors. 

I am so excited to finally share the many phases of this transition and how we do Montessori middle school in our homeschool environment.

How We Do Montessori Middle School at Home

How Do I Know it's Time to Switch to a Montessori Middle School Approach to Learning?


At the beginning of the school year, my three older children were ages 12,13, and 14 and documented by our school district as being in grades six, seven, and eight.

Dinomite, 14, and Bulldozer, 13, are autistic and have developmental delays as well as academic delays in the areas of math and writing. On average they're about two to three years behind their peers.

Princess, 12, who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, is quite advanced in academics, but struggles with emotional development.

As a result, all three are learning the same things at the same time, at about the same pace.

Due to the three kids' interests, learning preferences, and the concept of following their lead, we are still working on some Montessori elementary curriculum, especially in the areas of language and math. 

But, what I've noticed this year, is that the kids prefer learning using paper and pencil, over the use of Montessori materials and printables.

They are craving research and showing an interest in writing assignments that are larger in nature.

Emotionally they are at a place where they can handle homework, studying, and preparing for tests. In fact, they've requested these things. 

I love their new desire to practice and master a skill over an extended period of time. Their piano and foreign language skills are blossoming this year.

For us, the transition to Montessori Middle School wasn't about the curriculum and checking off boxes in regards to what the kids had learned. It was about HOW the kids' preferred learning styles were changing.

This change in learning style is directly related to brain development and the planes that Maria Montessori speaks about.

How Do I Change the Learning Environment to Accommodate Montessori Middle School Learning?


I must admit, the hardest aspect of transitioning to a Montessori-inspire middles school environment for me was changing my classroom set up.

I LOVED the Montessori preschool classroom with all of the beautiful and attractive work set up on trays for the kids to choose from. 

I LOVED preparing the trays!

When we transitioned to an elementary set up, I learned to love the bigger materials and bigger work.

Instead of using trays and baskets for individual activities, they were used to store printables that went along with materials.

In both preschool and elementary settings, I was still able to set up an area of the classroom for each subject.

But the transition to middle school...

There are no more trays or baskets, except for those that hold paper for writing.

There is no longer a set of shelves for each subject. 

Instead, the kids use one shelf for each subject they're studying, where they store their notebooks, textbooks, workbooks, reference materials, and necessary tools like calculators, protractors, rulers, etc.

The rest of the classroom has turned into my office and storage for important papers.

If the kids had desks, notebooks, textbooks, workbooks and tools would be stored there, leaving only references for each subject on the shelves. But, they still very much enjoy working wherever they'd like in the house, and have opted to use the shelves to store items.

We all use dry erase lapboards when learning a new skill and for practice.

How Do I Create Middle School Routines and Schedules?


Settling into a new routine and schedule definitely took time when transitioning into Montessori-inspired middle school learning.

Based on the kids' skills, abilities, and needs we have created a routine and schedule that works for us. This may not be a set up that works for you, and that's okay.

Lessons


Monday through Friday, we begin with math and language, reviewing assignments and progressing through lessons. 

The kids receive math and language homework four days a week.

Lessons go at the kids' pace. Some new concepts take only a day to master. Others can take a week or two. 

When everyone feels comfortable understanding concepts and any processes that are necessary to solving problems, we move forward.

After math and language lessons, we rotate through other subject areas. We follow an eight day schedule. Each day of the eight day schedule is dedicated to a different subject. The eight day schedule is followed Monday through Thursday.

The kids have selected which topics they'd like to study for the school year, outside of the basic subject areas.

  • Day 1: Geography
  • Day 2: Human Anatomy
  • Day 3: Art
  • Day 4: Foreign Language
  • Day 5: Oceanography
  • Day 6: Practical Life
  • Day 7: Music
  • Day 8: History

If it's Day 4 of our schedule, I present a foreign language lesson, review any assignment that was given, and check in to see where the kids are at, and if they need extra support.

At the end of the review and lesson, the kids are given an assignment to complete by the next Day 4 in the schedule. 

The kids are also given daily practice assignments. 

On foreign language days, they may receive a new vocabulary list or a set of verbs to practice until the next scheduled foreign language day.

Their favorite foreign language assignment is to watch a full movie in their foreign language, writing down ten new vocabulary words or phrases and meanings to share when we next meet.

Disney+ is such a fantastic resource to find movies in Spanish, French and German with matching subtitles. 

The kids watch a new movie every week, because they love this assignment so much. 

Their ability to read and pronounce words in their selected foreign language is skyrocketing.

Work Time


Lessons for the day usually take about 60-90 minutes. The kids are then given work time where they have a choice of working on any assignments they feel they may need help on.

I am available during that time to answer any questions or provide any extra support that may be needed.

Rough drafts of essays are reviewed. 

Art projects are underway. 

The computer may be occupied with one of the kids typing a final draft of a paper.

If someone is struggling in math, that kid may take that time to ask for help.

The kitchen may smell of fresh ingredients being used in the preparation of lunch.

Nature observations may be underway.

On days when everyone needs help, I set a timer for each child, giving them 20-30 minutes.

Work time lasts between 90 minutes and 2 hours, and takes us to lunch time, where we continue our read aloud tradition.

Homework


After the lunch, the kids are free to create their afternoon and evening schedule to ensure that all homework assignments and daily practice tasks are complete.

Each day the kids are required to complete 30 minutes of cardio exercise. They usually choose to play sports outside or ride my exercise bike.

All three kids are also required to practice piano for 30 minutes each day to prepare for their lessons on the music day of our schedule.

Other tasks include studying, math and language homework, essays, and projects they're working on.

The kids choose what and when they work on these things, knowing when they are due. 

During homework time, I am not available to help. They are to complete assignments on their own or ask a peer for help.

Homework time, including exercise and piano, usually takes anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, give or take.

The goal of homework time is to encourage as much independence as possible in the areas of time management, effective study methods, and responsibility of assignments.

In our home, we have a designated media time from 6 PM until 8 PM where the kids can use any and all of their media devices, watch TV, etc. All of them finish their homework, eat dinner, do chores, and shower before media time begins, creating their own schedule for the afternoon based on their individual needs.

Friday Game Day


As mentioned previously, Monday through Thursday, we follow our eight day schedule. On Fridays, we take a break and dedicate time to playing a board game or card game together during work time.

We have found that Game Day is just as important as any other day in the week. So much learning takes place on Game Day.

The kid work on communication skills, emotional regulation, problem solving, strategizing, working as a team (when playing cooperative games), positive peer interactions, and so much more.

We take turns picking out a game. A new person selects a game each week. 

Even the process of playing a game that's not a favorite, because someone else has chosen it, is teaching the kids so much about compromise.

I think my favorite part about Game Day is that Fridays are always a day the kids look forward to. They may think it's just about fun, but they're actually working harder on Fridays than some other days during the week.  Lol.

How Do I Incorporate Service into a World with COVID-19 and Other Extenuating Circumstances


Part of the Montessori middle school curriculum is service. This was the last piece of the middle school experience that we've added.

Due to COVID-19 and Sunshine's monthly visits and appointments, it's been difficult to secure a place for continued service over an extended period of time.

Instead, we have set the goal of completing one service project a week. The kids come up with the plans. They prepare. Then they execute the task.

I love that they are focusing so much on helping others and starting to develop skills necessary to secure employment in the future.

How Do I Continue to Inspire a Love of Learning through the Middle School Years


The transition to homework, tests, and grades can be a difficult, but it is necessary in preparation for higher education and employment. 

Learning time management, prioritization and organization skills can be a huge challenge for some. 

The sooner we can start teaching these skills, once the child is emotionally and developmentally able to handle the tasks, the better the results will be.

The challenge is keeping the focus on the process and not the results. It's not about the test grade. It's about preparing and being ready for the test.

So how do you balance all of the necessary and still make things fun?

You continue to follow the child!

You go at the child's pace.

You allow freedom to choose course work in areas where it is possible.

You introduce topics, and wait for further interest before pursuing them.

You offer choices in learning and how to demonstrate mastery of a skill.

Every child is different. 

This idea does not change once a child reaches puberty and embarks on their middle school journey.

If anything, middle schoolers need even more support than elementary students, due to the massive changes their bodies and hormones are going through.

Despite these changes, middle schoolers are capable of so many incredible things! 

Sit back. Relax. And enjoy the ride!

Now that we have fully transitioned to this model I am LOVING it!

If you would like to read what others have to say about Montessori Middle School, check out the articles below.



If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the following resources below.

Gingerbread Christmas STEM ProjectsA Year's Worth of Monthly Service Projects for Families 12 Months of Family Service Projects

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