All work and no play can make for a dull day! And, a non-productive one, too, according to various studies on mental fatigue, long study sessions, and related stress.
As we know, kids spend most days at school learning – and the workload only increases as they get older! In fact, many kids and teens face burnout on a daily basis due to study demands.
So, how to remedy educational stagnation and mental fatigue? Well, one of the emerging trends, backed by scientific studies, is to engage kids in regular brain breaks!
So, what is a brain break, and which are the best brain breaks for kids, you ask? Well, I’ll be covering all this and more right here in this post!
What is a Brain Break?
A brain break is a short rest period taken between mentally demanding activities, such as studying or doing homework. Contrary to the name, a brain break can be an activity, too.
For example, a brain break can involve doing physical activities, such as jumping jacks or running. According to studies, activity-based brain breaks like these are very beneficial for kids.
In fact, physical brain breaks have been proven to improve kids’ behavior and performance in and out of the classroom! Of course, brain breaks for kids can also include other activities.
These include doodling, a comedy relief break, and even doing absolutely nothing for a few minutes. And, brain breaks don’t just benefit kids, either – adults can gain a lot from them, too!
The Best Brain Breaks for Kids
The best brain breaks for kids are those that either get them moving, laughing, or relaxed. These activities form a contrast to their studies, allowing them to reset and release stress.
In this way, they can recommence their studies refreshed and rejuvenated, allowing them to learn better. Furthermore, resetting through brain breaks improves their knowledge retention!
Here are some of my top brain breaks for kids, including a section each for fun, active, and relaxing options. Feel free to change these up, make up your own, and join in, of course!
After all, kids often do as we do, not always as we say. So, the best way to make brain breaks a regular part of their lifestyle is by modeling these in yours first!
11 Activity-Based Brain Breaks for Kids
As mental activities are an internal process, so activities are the opposite – an external reflex and action. That’s why the activities below make such excellent and effective brain breaks!
Besides this, adding some of these breaks counts towards their daily exercise goals! In fact, this is a sneaky way to get them active, which releases beneficial endorphins and neurotransmitters.
Slipping these into their day is the perfect way to get them to reset and get active all at once. They (and you) won’t even notice you’ve done a fair bit of exercise during the day!
Take a Walk
A pastime as old as time – a good walk never did anyone any harm! In fact, one can do a whole lot of good, especially if taken in a scenic area – though not necessary.
Kids can also walk around the room for a few minutes, if in the classroom or at home. Walking will give their brain a moment to relax while the surroundings may offer a welcome distraction.
A Vigorous Few
Sitting for long periods can lead to an accumulation of extra energy and tension for kids. So, get them to do a highly-vigorous activity, such as jumping jacks or skipping rope, for a few minutes.
If your kids have proverbial ants in their pants, I highly suggest this brain break! On top of a break, these exercises will also make kids’ brains release happy endorphins and dopamine!
Drumming is an almost meditative activity as it requires the drummer to concentrate on timing, rhythm, and movement simultaneously.
Kids don’t necessarily need an actual instrument, such as a hand drum, drum set, or a bongo, though. They can drum with their hand or fist on any suitable surface, too.
A Mini Bootcamp
A boot camp is typically a good way to get into shape and challenge our own physical limits. However, a mini boot camp is an ideal exercise to do as a brain break, too.
For this activity, get kids to do a random sequence of exercises, such as sit-ups, squats, and push-ups. You can include any interesting, new options and model them for the kids first, too.
Gymnastics isn’t purely a physical activity – these moves require extra balance, thought, and practice. As such, they’re an excellent brain break to do over again without feeling repetitive.
Get them to do (or try to do) a cartwheel, a handstand, or play with equipment such as ribbons and hula-hoops. The overall aim of this activity is to have a break, not move perfectly, though!
Cut It Out!
Physical activities also include those that engage kids ’ fine motor skills. As such, you can also include these activity-based brain breaks for kids into their routine!
Have them cut out something from a print-out or magazine, sew, embroider, string beads, or do something else similar.
Play a Musical Instrument
Learning to play a musical instrument is both meditative and engrossing. As such, it is the perfect brain break for kids, too!
Any musical instrument, such as an electric guitar, piano, violin, flute, harmonica, or guitarlele, is ideal. Again, kids’ don’t need to know how to play well; the aim is to take a fun brain break!
A Spot of Martial Arts?
There are various martial arts types, including Kung Fu, Karate, Jujitsu, Tai Chi, Taekwondo, and more. Each of these arts is unique and focuses on various types of movements.
The aim of each is different, too, ranging from wrestling to self-defense, non-resistance, movement, and more. As such, learning a few of these moves makes for an excellent break!
To Fidget or Not to Fidget?
Fidgeting is typically frowned upon, but it’s a physical activity we do to release energy, stress, and tension. So, let kids take a brain break and release this energy by fidgeting!
You can also let them play with fidget-worthy items, such as fidget spinners, Rubix cubes, stretch strings, and other sensory toys. Or, let them solve a brain puzzle.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
A fun game of rock, paper, scissors will definitely give kids a break. This activity is also a social one, taking their mind away from studying and towards interacting with their opponent.
Keep It Up
Get kids to toss a bean bag, inflatable ball, soccer ball, or another safe object as a brain break. The aim of the game is to keep the object in the air without it touching the ground.
This brain break is ideal for a group of kids in class, homeschooling siblings, or those doing a study group. Though, you can definitely play this game one on one with kids, too!
10 Relaxing Brain Breaks for Kids
All that studying and knowledge-acquisition requires an antidote of calm!
These relaxing brain breaks will help kids to loosen up during the course of the day, leading to a more productive one!
Activities like this are also valuable life skills for use in other emotionally stressful situations. In fact, kids can apply these to manage anger, disappointment, and sadness!
So, teaching these exercises to kids may have profound effects in other areas of their life. And, perhaps even later on in life!
Meditation is a mindfulness exercise where the meditator focuses on an object or action, such as breathing. The aim is to achieve a state of focus, calm, awareness, and mindfulness.
However, there are many types of meditation, as well as various exercises one can do. If you’re unfamiliar with these, meditation cards, as well as books, are ideal for introducing beginners.
Doing nothing may seem easy, but in our fast-paced, overstimulated world, it’s actually not as easy as it sounds!
The best way to achieve this aim is to sit or lie somewhere screen and stimuli free. Once there, kids can breathe, relax, and plug out for a few minutes.
Breathing may be considered a natural reflex and even taken for granted at times. However, it’s amazing how a simple breathing exercise can completely change your mindset!
Breathing exercises are an excellent brain break, though kids will definitely need to get taught these. There are wonderful books, such as Breathe Like a Bear, that cover this subject for kids.
Stress Ball Movements
As implied by the name, a stress ball is a perfect way to relieve some tension. Get kids to play, squish, and squash one for a short space of time in order to take a brain break!
These pretty galaxy, squishy balls, jumbo, inspiring affirmation, and tri-density stress balls are all excellent options.
Massage is a great way to relax, but did you know kids can learn to do some on themselves? The feet, back, calves, and many more stress-storing points are ideal areas to focus on.
You can learn simple massages for these areas online or in books and teach kids. Doing this in a quiet, calm space will make these even more relaxing.
A few tools, including a back massager, massage ball, foot roller, head-scratcher, or roller massager, are also all excellent additions!
Yoga comes in many shapes and forms, from Vinyasa to Hatha – intensely physical to slow and meditative. Incorporating some light yoga poses as brain breaks for kids is a great idea.
Kids will also get to learn some basic yoga in the process. Practicing these moves early on will make it that much easier for them to graduate to doing yoga regularly later on in life.
Music is a healer and inspirer in so many ways. In fact, it almost has magical qualities and a supernatural effect on the mind and wellbeing of adults and kids alike.
This is down to the neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, that get released when we listen to it. So, do take a therapeutic musical brain break and play some inspiring music!
The genre need not only be classical – it can be energizing, relaxing, up-tempo, or whatever else they enjoy!
Are you interested in learning more about the amazing link between music and the brain? If so, read This is Your Brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin.
Continuing on the theme of sound-inspired breaks, harmonic sounds, such as those of a singing bowl or chime, make an excellent break, too. Take a few minutes to play these in a silent room.
Press Those Pressure Points
Pressure points are certain meridian points on the body that, when pressed, release stress and pain. Be sure to read up on the topic before trying any of these or teaching them to kids, though.
Our posture can tell people around us a lot about our mental state. But, did you know it can also affect our own mental state, especially for kids hunched over a desk?
Getting kids to strike healthy, strong, and confident postures like the open heart pose, remedy this. And, practicing these poses is the perfect brain break to restore inner confidence and calm.
10 Fun Brain Breaks for Kids
Fun and play are essential aspects of learning. In fact, studies show that humor and laughter can boost memory retention and improve kids learning across the board.
Yes, laughter and fun are a remedy in themselves and should get integrated into all kinds of learning. So, do integrate these fun brain breaks for kids to take studies to the next level!
Take a Comedic Break
Literally, taking a comedic brain break is an excellent brain break idea! During this time, do anything to make them laugh, including cracking a few jokes or watching a funny short film!
This type of brain break is a fun activity that works best with a large group of kids. Get the kids to do a synchronous movement, such as the wave.
A lot of stress comes from thoughts. That’s why a copying game, such as Simon Says, makes an excellent brain break! During this activity, all they need to do is not think and do as you do.
Do you know how to play air guitar? I’m sure you do, as do kids! For this brain break, think up any action, such as making a goal, and get them to do it air-guitar style.
Art and creativity are innate to all of us. In this brain break, give kids some art supplies and let them doodle. This exercise is purely for fun, not with the aim to create something perfect.
Contemporary dance shuns rigid choreographed routines over instinctive freestyle movement. That’s why this type of dance makes for such a fun brain break for kids!
Let kids move naturally and instinctively for a few minutes to music in order to take a break. You can also teach them the steps to a choreographed dance, such as the Waltz, though.
The face and its associated muscles, such as those in the neck, shoulders, and jaw, can hold a lot of tension.
Get kids to wiggle these out by moving their eyebrows, pouting lips, and generally pulling silly faces.
Making “O” shapes with their mouth and relaxing can really release some tension and laughs!
Coloring-in is a therapy session in itself. The best part about coloring is that kids don’t need to be particularly artistic to do it. You can print out pages at home or buy a nice coloring-in book.
Take a Chat Break
Human interaction can have a variety of stress-relieving benefits. Plus, bonding with those nearby can promote a sense of belonging and wellbeing in a group.
These feelings promote a positive stress response and give kids the gusto to succeed. So, do get kids to engage in a conversation with you or anyone else nearby as a brain break.
Shaping clay is a cathartic experience that kids can surely benefit from during a brain break. So, it’s also a lovely activity to include in their schedule!
Lay out some age-appropriate air-dry clay, playdough, or modeling clay and let them play for a few minutes.
When sending kids to school, we can pack lunch, stationery, and necessary sports kit items. However, arming them with effective coping skills can make a world of difference to their day!
As such, one of the best back-to-school tips I can give is to introduce brain breaks for kids! These exercises will help them learn happier, better, and more successfully.
Check out these other great posts!
10 Back to School Activities for Kids
How to Homeschool: 8 Simple Steps to Help You Get Started
How to Make School Lunch Fun for Kids
Is Homeschooling Right for You? 10 Things to Consider