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7 Somatic Exercises for Kids

As someone who has spent countless hours working with kids, I’ve seen firsthand how physical activity can positively impact their well-being. Somatic exercises are an excellent way to help kids become more aware of their bodies, reduce stress, and improve overall health. In this blog, we’ll explore seven effective somatic exercises that you can introduce to your kids to promote their physical and emotional development.

1. Body Scanning

Body scanning is a mindfulness technique that helps increase body awareness by focusing attention on different parts of the body. To practice body scanning with your kids, ask them to lie down comfortably and close their eyes. Guide them to bring their attention to their toes, gradually moving up through each part of their body, noticing any sensations they feel.

This exercise can help kids understand how their body feels in different states, whether they’re relaxed or tense. Research shows that body scanning can reduce anxiety and improve focus in children. For instance, a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that mindfulness techniques like body scanning can significantly reduce stress and improve emotional regulation in children.

somatic movement exercises girl doing yoga with mom
Read More: What is Somatic Movement?

2. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, or deep breathing, is a technique that involves breathing deeply into the diaphragm rather than shallowly into the chest. This method can improve posture, spine stabilization, and oxygen intake. To teach this to kids, have them place one hand on their chest and the other on their belly. Instruct them to breathe in deeply through their nose, feeling their belly rise, and exhale slowly through their mouth.

Deep breathing exercises can help kids calm down and manage stress. A study by the American Psychological Association found that deep breathing exercises can significantly lower cortisol levels, the stress hormone, in children. By practicing diaphragmatic breathing, kids can develop better coping mechanisms for stressful situations.

3. Somatic Yoga

Somatic yoga is a form of yoga that emphasizes awareness of the mind-body connection through gentle movements and mindful breathing. It’s a great way for kids to develop flexibility, strength, and body awareness. Simple poses like the cat-cow stretch or child’s pose can be a fun and relaxing introduction to somatic yoga for kids.

Incorporating somatic yoga into your child’s routine can help them become more attuned to their bodies and reduce anxiety. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology, yoga practice can enhance emotional regulation and decrease symptoms of anxiety in children. This makes it a valuable tool for promoting mental health and well-being.

4. Grounding

Grounding is a basic somatic technique that involves connecting physically with the earth to improve health and mental well-being. This can be as simple as walking barefoot on grass or sitting with hands touching the ground. Grounding has been linked to reduced inflammation, improved sleep, and enhanced mood.

Encouraging kids to spend time outdoors and engage in grounding activities can help them feel more connected to their environment and themselves. A study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found that grounding can positively affect mood and energy levels, making it a simple yet powerful practice for kids.


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5. Breathwork

Breathwork involves using conscious breathing techniques to regulate the nervous system, increase oxygen levels, and promote relaxation. Techniques such as alternate nostril breathing or box breathing can be taught to kids to help them manage stress and improve concentration.

Breathwork can be particularly beneficial for neurodivergent kids who may experience heightened levels of anxiety. According to a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, breathwork practices can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and improve emotional stability in children.

somatic movement exercises little girl playing with ball
Read more: 5 Calming Exercises for Anxiety in Kids

6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation involves clenching and releasing different muscle groups to decrease tension in the body and mind. This exercise can be done by asking kids to tense a muscle group for a few seconds and then slowly release the tension, moving through various parts of the body.

This technique can help kids become more aware of physical tension and learn how to release it. Research published in the Journal of Pediatric Nursing suggests that progressive muscle relaxation can effectively reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality in children.

7. Seated Spinal Twist

The seated spinal twist is a stretch that can improve posture and relieve tension in the neck and shoulders. To perform this exercise, ask kids to sit on the floor with their legs extended. They should then bend one knee and cross it over the opposite leg, twisting their torso gently towards the bent knee while keeping their back straight.

This simple stretch can help kids alleviate tension and improve flexibility. According to a study in the International Journal of Yoga, spinal twists can enhance spinal health and reduce stress, making it a beneficial addition to any child’s routine.

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In conclusion, these seven somatic movement exercises offer versatile, effective, and enjoyable ways for parents to support their neurodivergent kids and peers alike. Try incorporating a few—or all—of these exercises into your daily routine and witness the benefits for yourself!

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FAQs About Somatic Movement Exercises

What are somatic movement exercises?
Somatic movement exercises are body-focused activities that improve awareness of the body's internal sensations, enhancing physical control, flexibility, and emotional well-being.
How can somatic movement exercises help my child?
Somatic exercises can boost your child's focus, reduce stress, enhance body awareness, and improve emotional regulation.
Can somatic exercises be integrated into a child's daily routine?
Absolutely. Somatic exercises can seamlessly incorporate morning stretching, playtime, or calming routines before bedtime.
Are somatic movement exercises safe for all children?
Somatic exercises are typically safe for all children. However, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional if your child has specific physical conditions.
What is a simple bodily movement exercise?
'The Butterfly Hug' is a great starter. Your child crosses their arms, laying each hand on the opposite shoulder, then alternately taps each shoulder. It aids in calming and grounding.

This post was originally published on 05/27/2023. It was updated on 06/23/2024.

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