by Rachel Wells
Whether a child is 5 years old or 15 – it’s important to take breaks when learning or studying. In fact, most middle and high school students still need about a 5-minute break after every 30 minutes of critical or attentive thinking to do. Brain breaks are a simple way to prevent students from feeling overwhelmed while also helping to develop a strong classroom community.
So what exactly is a brain beak? Brain breaks are short (3 – 5 minute) mental breaks kids can take between learning or other tasks, and can be relaxing or active depending on children’s individual needs. Brain breaks work by switching neural activity to different networks which allows the brain to reset these areas – improving learning and reducing stress.
Benefits of brain breaks also include:
- Supporting critical thinking
- Helping eliminate distractibility
- Encouraging self-regulation
- Increasing time on task
- Sharpening short-term memory
- Reducing burnout
- Boosting motivation to learn
There are plenty of effective (and fun!) brain break activities for older kids – some of which can also be used with younger students as well. Check out 12 ideas below:
Have a dance party
Put on a fun playlist and let the dance party begin – students will love to see you bust a move too!
Do simple exercises
Write different exercises on small pieces of paper and place the papers in a jar. When you’re ready for a brain break have one or two students come up and choose an exercise from the jar that the entire class can do.
Some simple exercise moves may include:
- Do 15 jumping jacks
- Do 15 sit-ups
- Run in place for 30 seconds
- Do 20 toe touches
Students will sit on their desks and toss a soft ball from one to another without talking (only non-verbal communication!) If someone talks they are ‘out’ and have to sit down in their chair.
Video brain breaks
Check out some fun video brain break ideas below:
Get competitive with pen flipping
See it in action: Pen Flipping Brain Break – YouTube
Play balloon volleyball
Have students take turns passing a balloon back and forth without letting it touch the ground.
Think outside the box
On the board show students a squiggle line or small shape that they need to creatively turn into an actual picture or item on their own paper.
Would you rather
Ask your class some fun “would you rather” questions. You can simply ask your students questions or turn this into a movement activity by having students stand on one side of the room or the other depending on which answer they choose.
Here are some examples:
Would you rather have three eyes or three ears?
Would you rather be a famous actor or famous author?
Would you rather be ten years older or four years younger?
Would you rather sweat slime or honey?
*The age of students will determine how many piece puzzles you will use for this brain break.
Put students in small groups and give each member of the group a small handful of puzzle pieces. The groups must work together to complete their puzzle using only nonverbal communication – no talking allowed! Remember this is only a 5 minute activity, so you probably don’t want anything bigger than a 48 piece puzzle.
Paper airplane contest
Give students 3 minutes to fold and design a paper airplane that they will enter into a classroom flying competition. Afterwards take a few minutes to have a flying contest and see whose plane can go the furthest.
Play 1,2,3 math!
This is similar to rock, paper, scissors, so students will need to partner up for this one. The pairs will say “1, 2, 3, Math!” before each player displays one, two, three, or four fingers in the palm of their hand. The first partner to call out the sum of both players’ fingers wins that round.
Make a handshake
Have students pair up and spend 5 minutes creating a cool handshake together. Be sure to let partners share their handshakes with the class if they want at the end!