Written by Katie Lesoine
Brain breaks are the secret to rest and regrouping for you and your child.
The school work for spring is in high gear again, and its going to be busy and stressful. Parents are taking on a more active role in their children’s learning process.
Aside from the curriculum…math, reading, writing, science, and social studies…there is also the hidden curriculum.
The hidden curriculum is made of things a student is taught unintentionally. One element of the hidden curriculum is self-monitoring and focus ability.
The school days will seem long (even if the hours are technically shorter than a typical school day). Parents must help their children utilize brain breaks to help their long-term focus.
What Are Brain Breaks?
Brain breaks during school are scheduled, short, mental breaks for students that help the child’s brain refocus and learn more efficiently. As a parent, brain breaks are going to be as much of an important tool for your child as it will be to you.
The Science Behind Brain Breaks: Why Kids Need Them
Naturally, kids will get stressed while learning (and it is okay to admit that you, as a parent, can get stressed during this time as well). Brain breaks allow oxygen and blood to flow throughout the brain more efficiently to relieve stress.
Brain breaks allow for other parts of the brain to be activated, which results in those stressed-out areas time to calm down.
According to AddyPressLifeStyle, the neuroscience says for someone to learn something new, information must make its way into the prefrontal cortex. The information must pass through an emotional filter called the amygdala.
If a child is stressed, anxious, or overworked, the amygdala will not let new information pass through. Even if your child is not stressed out, the amygdala reaches a capacity in which it needs a break as well.
Think of a glass. You can fill it to the top, but everything else will spill over the top and not get into the glass. However, if you stop pouring water into the glass, take a drink, or even let it sit in the sun and have the water evaporate, there will be room to fill the glass again!
Brain Breaks During School
Brain breaks can be done frequently during the school day. They do not take a lot of time to complete, and many times, they do not take much planning to implement.
Teachers frequently use brain breaks as a transition between subjects (like when it is the end of science class, and it is time to switch to math).
Teachers can also use brain breaks when the kids are transitioning from one area of the school to another (for example, when the kids are coming back into class from recess or the lunchroom).
Teachers can also use brain breaks for the students when they notice kids becoming sluggish, bored, or disengaged, even if it is in the middle of a class.
Best Brain Breaks for Students
This is a screenshot of www.gonoodle.com.
- GoNoodle: This online resource is filled with a wide range of movement, singing, dancing, and yoga/meditation exercises that are quick and easy. Many school districts already utilize GoNoodle.
Your younger kids may have even seen and participated in some of their activities on Nickelodeon. This is a resource available to schools and families.
This is an image from www.ilovecrafts.com.
- Sensory Boxes: Sensory boxes are a great brain break resource that can be filled with a variety of brain break activities. These tools are simple things to hold and manipulate with the fingers and hands.
Items such as putty, stress balls, textured items, a weighted lap band, are just a few items that could be in the sensory box. You may buy pre-made boxes with items already included, or you can work with your child to create your own and determine what sort of items they would most like.
NOTE: Make sure you establish rules with break boxes. They can only be used at certain times and only choose items for the box that will not become a toy or distraction.
This is a screenshot of www.gogoyogakids.com.
- Go Go Yoga Challenge Cards: Not all breaks need to involve high-speed, high-impact movement. Yoga is a fantastic way to help kids calm down and refocus. Using an activity like this following recess or a loud, action-filled activity, would be a great idea.
It allows the child to calm down and refocus the mind to learn. These yoga cards are a great and quick tool for a brain break. Simply have your child choose a card, and all people in the room (*cough cough* you too) do the pose!
You can do just one or a few.
- Would You Rather: This brain break can be a fun and simple way for older kids to take a quick break. Have a stack of cards with “Would You Rather” questions or come up with your own on the spot.
Asking a teenager if they would rather have a chauffeur for life or their own car with free gas for life can turn into a fun conversation, and your teen or tween may open up more than you expect!
- Create Your Own Story: Another great brain break for older kids is to create a story, sentence by sentence. If a class was full of students, the teacher would begin with a story’s introduction sentence, and then go around the room in which each student creates the next line in the story.
However, when at home, this can still take place. Instead of only creating a sentence at a time, make it three sentences at a time.
- Words Connected to Words: Similar to the Create Your Own Story brain break, this uses a single word.
- A person says a word, and the next person says a word that begins with the last letter of the word just said. For example, “Rights…” “….Suffrage…” “Education…” and so on.
- Pinterest is Your Co-Teacher: Pinterest is filled with ideas, resources, and suggestions from real parents and teachers that have used a multitude of brain breaks!
The Bottom Line
The bottom line: learning can be stressful for all parties involved. Use tools like brain breaks that will help you and your children learn more efficiently. Taking 5 minutes between each “class period” will save you a lot of time and frustration in the long run.
Work with your child to develop a list of brain break activities that you would BOTH love to use. “Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” — Chinese Proverb