Everyone may benefit from a short break now and again. Hence, it is likely that your kids will need a little break from the classroom routine to re-focus and be productive. Therefore, having a supply of fun brain break activities on hand might come in handy. Let’s go through the science behind brain breaks as well as some examples that you may use in your classroom to help your pupils feel re-energized and ready to learn.
The Science behind Brain Break Activities
Each student learns in his or her own unique way and at a distinct speed. A student’s brain must deliver sensory impulses to where the brain stores memories for them to realize their full potential and grasp knowledge effectively. These sensory receptors are specialized cells that respond to physical and chemical stimuli including what kids see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
When kids are bombarded with information, their brains struggle to recall what they have learnt. They get blocked, and the information given is not stored in the right manner. Thus, when the amygdala (the collection of specialized cells that sense stimulus) has reached its full capacity and cannot appropriately sustain memory or knowledge, fresh information cannot reach the prefrontal cortex.
Brain break activities permit the restoration of neurotransmitters (molecules used by the nervous system to transmit messages between neurons) to assist brain recovery. Because our brains have a limited supply of neurotransmitters, it is critical to enable one part of the brain to rest and recuperate while another part of the brain is active and functioning. This guarantees that no brain regions are exhausted, allowing knowledge to be kept and maintained.
Therefore, brain break activities allow pupils to transition between multiple brain networks, revitalizing and refocusing the exhausted neural network, allowing the brain to accomplish memory retention once rested.
Advantages of Brain Break Activities
Brain breaks have been around for decades, but instructors throughout the world have only recently begun to recognize the benefits of implementing brain break activities, which are as follows:
Brain breaks have been shown to boost student engagement
Several studies have found that taking frequent brain breaks during the school day improves a child’s cognitive performance and capacity to focus on academic activities. Although these brain break activities only take a few minutes in the classroom, the benefits of enhanced engagement and cognitive functioning have been found to greatly improve school achievement. Children who take frequent brain breaks score better in key courses like Mathematics and English, as well as on academic standardised examinations
Breaks help to re-focus attention
Maintaining attention in informal learning situations is particularly challenging for young children. The teacher’s voice, a waving classmate, or brightly coloured posters gracing the walls all fight for student attention in a normal primary school classroom. While the students digest all of this information, their ability to pay attention is likely to end. Brain breaks can help in such situations.
Brain breaks can help to strengthen teacher-student interactions
Offering students a brief social and pleasant break during class can improve chances of greater attention post the break. Moreover, it offers a fresh environment for teacher-student connections to flourish. Additionally, brain break activities have been found to promote student engagement. This is because, when kids are more interested, teachers become more engaged, which in turn helps to develop healthy connections and a positive learning environment.
Brain imaging studies back it up
It is revealed that when we concentrate on a task, our brains allocate additional processing resources to areas that will improve our performance. Mental tiredness may indicate that we are expending too much energy in comparison to the value of staying on task, therefore the brain withdraws these resources. Breaks can help with this. Multiple studies demonstrate that interspersing brief bursts of physical exercise can help youngsters stay on target and attentive.
Brain activities help with learning
The “spacing effect” states that breaking big courses into multiple little pieces of time is preferable to cramming learning into one block.
A study conducted in 2008 showed that toddlers recall new item names better when there is a short 30-second pause between each presentation of an object. Because of the amount of time it takes to recall, spacing is quite beneficial.
According to Haley Vlach, the scientist behind the above-mentioned study, forgetting drives the child to practice remembering knowledge. This experience of accessing information from the past benefits them later when they need that information for a final test.
Students should be rejuvenated and refocused
As previously said, children learn better when they take breaks because their brains have a chance to refresh and reset. Additionally, when the pupil’s use of the brain pauses, they reduce overload and help the brain become more open to new information.
Brain beaks promote creativity
Numerous researches have found that taking pauses helps with creative understanding and problem-solving. When given a 10-minute break between sessions, young people were more than twice as likely to discover a secret shortcut to an arithmetic issue, according to the researchers. In another, breaks consisting of a basic job assisted participants in coming up with creative applications for everyday things. Individuals in this group indicated that their minds stayed sharp longer as compared to people who napped or did not take a break at all.
Encourages students’ social skills
When you take mental breaks, you engage the entire class. Many of these pauses take the shape of a game or encourage students to connect in some manner, or they get them to do pleasant things together, forming groups of a certain size based on your instructions. These activities allow youngsters to collaborate with one another. This implies that you are assisting in the development of social skills and preparing youngsters to learn more.
What are the many forms of brain break activities?
Brain break activities can be of three types: physical brain breaks, breathing brain breaks, and mental brain breaks. For each of these types, we will look at the various activities you can perform in class in the next section.
What are some examples of good brain-break activities?
Physical brain break activities
Physical brain breaks consist of physical and occasionally strenuous movement. Yoga, jumping jacks, jogging in place, dancing, and other motor exercises are examples of such activities. These sorts of brain breaks can encourage enhanced cardiovascular capacities and higher oxygen, making them an excellent learning aid.
1. Scavenger Hunt
Instruct students to discover an object in the classroom that satisfies a specific criterion and return to share it on their screen. Younger children can search for items by colour, season, quantity, and so on, but older children may appreciate displaying an object that makes them laugh, an item that provides them comfort, and so on. Make a few rounds to allow them enough time to move.
2. Simon Says
Incorporate everything from gestures to sound effects into this popular primary classroom staple.
3. Get outside
Give youngsters an outside job, such as riding a scooter, running, sprinting, or simply searching for anything outside, such as a flower or leaf. Apart from rejuvenating the brain, being outside, breathing fresh air, and basking in the sun also has several health advantages.
4. Lip Sync Battle
Have them act out or lip-sync to one of their favourite bands’ lead singers or songs. Play a song from Kids Bop or Disney for smaller children to lip-sync to. False microphones are encouraged to add to the experience.
5. Ball Tossing
Bouncing and playing with a ball takes a lot of coordination. Allow children to bounce the ball back and forth with another person or even with a wall. This will compel them to concentrate carefully on the motions of the ball and their body’s reaction to them, essentially shutting out other regions of thinking.
Lead children through a faster-paced stretching practice to get their bodies moving. Bridges, crab walking, side stretches, and roll downs are examples of yoga and Pilates positions that can help reset the body after a long period of sitting.
7. Move & Freeze
There are a plethora of free Move & Freeze YouTube videos you can watch to keep youngsters interested, active, and having fun.
8. Quick Exercises
Choose a sequence of exercises and teach pupils to complete them in fast succession, starting with 5 of the first, 4 of the second, 3 of the third, and so on. Squats, jumping jacks, pushups, high knee leaps, skaters, and sit-ups are all simple workouts.
Children enjoy jumping, and it is a highly energizing activity for our bodies. Even better if they have a tiny trampoline! Allow them some time to just jump, or play some music that you start and stop to give them unexpected pause.
Play some music and encourage all the kids in your classroom to get off their seats and dance. This is sure to get their brain prepped for further learning.
Mental brain break activities
These brain breaks entail taking a break from an activity that requires a lot of focus and “shifting gears” to work that requires less concentration, such as playing a game, answering trivia questions, or cracking jokes.
11. Kinetic Sand
Kinetic sand is inexpensive and enjoyable to play with. Just 5-10 minutes of playing with kinetic sand can assist to refresh developing minds in preparation for more academic work.
Do you think you could start a tiny garden? Digging in the ground and seeing plants develop is a terrific learning activity as well as a sensory respite.
Bubbles are a lot of fun. Take a few minutes outside to blow bubbles and allow your students to pop them.
14. Sensory Bins
These are simple to make with easily obtainable materials like coloured grains and beans and dollar store add-ins. They may also be made outside, using items such as filthy toys, large bins and vehicles.
The video below explains some pre-school concept activities you can conduct with a sensory bin.
15. Choose a Friend
If you’re doing this with a class, rotate pairs of youngsters to speak with each other. You may also provide them with conversation starters or amusing questions to ask and discuss with others.
16. Play for Free
Allow them to pick the activity. Give youngsters 5-10 minutes to do anything they like. They can dress up, do art, rest, play a game, play with a sibling, or do anything they wish. You may merely wish to specify that they cannot select anything technological in nature.
It’s Doodle Time! It’s time to go, so grab some blank paper and something to doodle with. Allow their imaginations to go wild, or play a fun how-to-draw video for them to follow along with.
18. Playing with a pet
Playing with a pet, such as walking a dog, playing catch, or snuggling with a cat, triggers the same hormonal reactions as human connection. This is why dogs may be beneficial to one’s mental health. Make time for students to play with the class pet.
With this set of scaffolded tangram forms activity cards and cut-out tangram templates, the children can investigate the characteristics of geometric shapes. Tangram requires students to utilise the provided tangrams to make 2D drawings such as a triangle, swan, boat, fish, key, heart, plane, cat, helicopter, and rocket.
Each design is divided into three degrees of complexity for students to progress through. They are as follows:
|Level||How the tangram activity can be modified|
|Level 1||Cloured tangram shapes and designs|
|Level 2||Black tangram forms and patterns|
|Level 3||Black tangram forms and silhouettes|
You can use the downloadable resources provided below for a fun tangram activity.
Breathing brain break activities
Deep breathing and imagery are included in these workouts. Gentle stretches, rotating the neck, lifting the arms over the head, or shaking out the hands while standing are all examples of breathing activities. These sorts of brain breaks can be beneficial to mental health in a variety of ways.
20. Guided Meditation
Use a free app like Headspace to get guided meditations tailored to your kids. Choose a comfortable, peaceful location where they can zone out with headphones.
Refer to the video given below to learn how headspace can be used for kids. In the video, Samantha Snowden, a family mindfulness specialist, reveals her favourite strategies, activities, and tactics for helping kids find emotional balance and cope with stressful situations.
Because our brains are so powerful, repeating positive phrases over and over may help to boost self-esteem, inspire a growth mentality, and enhance attitude. Make a list of positive affirmations and have your children select a couple that really speaks to them. Then they just repeat these affirmations to themselves silently for a few minutes each day.
22. Breathing exercises
Learning to manage breath is a great technique to reduce stress and enhance emotional regulation. On YouTube, look for a kid-friendly breathing exercise meditation to teach children simple methods until they can perform them on their own.
23. Gentle movement
On the internet, look for a peaceful yoga video for kids or a tranquil video meant to de-energize. Save this activity for when your class needs a brain break.
24. Do nothing
Sometimes, you just need to rest or take a very brief nap. If that’s how your youngster is feeling, grant them that wish with a “do nothing” brain break.
1. How frequently should you take a mental break?
Scientists recommend taking a break after 75 to 90 minutes of learning. Research proves that 90 mins are the longest time for which students can remain focused and get a lot of stuff done.
2. How to introduce brain breaks in a classroom?
a. Inform the children of your plans
Explain to your students that you will incorporate brief breaks into your sessions as needed and that the breaks will consist of guided exercises, breathing methods, or a fun game. Some children may feel uneasy or uncomfortable engaging at first, so encourage them to interact and speak up if they have any questions.
b. Plan in accordance with your class’s timetable
You are the most knowledgeable about your classroom. When it comes to incorporating brain breaks into your daily teaching, it’s critical to select the time that works best for your class. It might be at a different time every day or on a predetermined timetable. Experiment a little to determine when brain breaks are most effective for you.
c. Experiment with different breaks for different brains
It’s a good idea to utilise various exercises based on the grade level if you teach numerous grade levels. For example, if you’re teaching a particularly impatient group of younger kids, you may attempt some movement activities with them. On the other hand, older children may enjoy greater social contact.
d. Clearly define when a brain break begins and ends
- Brain breaks should be brief and to the point. Their objective is to offer your class a quick respite so that they may return to their studies focused and attentive, however some children may find it difficult to transition from a break to learning mode.
- Avoid the possibility of chaos by creating behavioral expectations before beginning to use brain breaks.
- Setting an alarm for the class, such as a kitchen timer, to go off when the brain break is completed is a terrific way to keep your class on track and communicate to your pupils when a break has begun and ended.
- If you observe that a student is having difficulty transitioning from break time to class time, you may designate them as your official timer and assign them the task of setting the timer when the break begins. This will assist them in determining when it is appropriate to restore their focus to class.
e. Don’t be frightened to try new things
Just as there is no such thing as a “normal” day in your classroom, there may be no such thing as a “typical” brain break activity that works for your students. You should never become attached to any one brain workout, nor should you become disappointed if, after several attempts, you still haven’t discovered one that “works” for everyone in your class.
3. How to set up a brain break activity?
a. Begin the brain break
Start the break by setting a timer. Remember that the break should only last one to five minutes. Use a visible timer so students can know how much time is left.
b. Examine the surroundings
Prepare to adapt to the brain break when students begin their breaks. For example, you may have planned a revitalising getaway. However, if your kids are extremely animated, you may want to switch to a soothing break instead.
Additionally, some kids will require adjustments. Students with motor skill issues, for example, maybe unable to jump on one foot. Instead, have them start by jumping on two feet and then progress to hopping.
Some kids may be hesitant to participate in group brain breaks. Choose a nonverbal cue that pupils can use to let you know they’re opting out.
c. Conclude the break
Provide vocal reminders of how much time is left for a break. Say phrases like, “We’ll be back to work in two minutes.” Additionally, a quiet, 10-second countdown at the conclusion of the break can also be beneficial to pupils. The timer may also be used to announce the end of a break.
d. Share your thoughts about the experience
If this is your students’ first time using a brain break, urge them to discuss how the break aided them. Explain that you will gradually introduce several forms of brain breaks so that they may discover which types of breaks are most beneficial to them. You may also discuss how children could take these breaks on their own, such as when they are upset or preoccupied. Make self-directed activities, such as sensory instruments and a timer, available so that children may take separate breaks without bothering others.