Restlessness takes many forms – eyes start drifting to far-off corners of the room, notepads become canvases for impressionistic art, and fidgeting distracts students and teachers alike. What’s the best thing to do when faced with such challenges? Take a break!
It turns out that stepping away for a short period of time helps to break dulling cycles. The George Lucas Educational Foundation Edutopia explains that our brains are wired for novelty. “When presented with new material, standards, and complicated topics, we need to be focused and calm as we approach our assignments,” the article Energy and Calm: Brain Breaks and Focused-Attention Practices stated. “We can use brain breaks and focused-attention practices to positively impact our emotional states and learning.”
So, what are you waiting for?
A relaxed body put into motion clears the way for improved brain functionality. Let’s get those kiddos out of their chairs and moving – this will get them back in action and ready to learn, while better retaining information.
Dr. Justin Rhodes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told Scientific American, “Research shows that when we exercise, blood pressure and blood flow increase everywhere in the body, including the brain. More blood means more energy and oxygen, which makes our brain perform better.”
Taking a time out from scheduled learning can invigorate kids and help them to stay more productive in the classroom or while studying at home. Call it what you will: Brain Breaks, Energizers, Brain Boosters – these are just a few of the names for these much-needed physical activity breaks.
Check out these evidence-based resources that work in the classrooms – but also can be applied to your home school (hey, if it works for teachers…):
- Instant Recess is designed to improve health and learning by Central Michigan University. These carefully developed 10-minute physical activity breaks can be done in the classroom as well as all-school activities at designated times.
- Energizers are 10-minute classroom-based physical activities that integrate into academic concepts and can be used by elementary teachers to provide physical activity to students. They were developed as part of the North Carolina State Board of Education’s Healthy Active Children Policy.
- TAKE 10! ® is a classroom-based physical activity program for kindergarten to fifth grade students. The 10-minute curriculum integrates academic learning objectives (in language arts, math, social studies, science and health) with movement.
Tips for Engagement
Now you’re convinced that kids can benefit from these Brain Breaks. How do you get started?
First off, ask your child what they love doing in their gym class. Some of the activities kids do in P.E. class can also be done throughout the day as mini-breaks or in the backyard or basement.
But don’t stop there. Here are a few suggestions to get students moving:
- Share physical break ideas – give each child a turn to be the Brain Break leader, and come up with fun or silly ideas for 5 minutes of ‘crazy time’ to let off steam
- Check out these fun & easy ideas in our blog
- Integrate learning activities into the breaks. Likewise, get moving even when you’re focused on academics. For example, teach them the basics of coding while they step, hop, and turn.
- Send them on a scavenger hunt! You can create your own, or try this adorable See ‘n Snap Picture Hunt that also teaches matching skills!
- Set goals while looking at recommended activity. Kids should get 60 minutes of physical activity daily, while screen time should be limited to no more than two hours per day (this includes TV, gaming, mobile phones, and computer time).
Mix it up
The goal is to get kids into a free-flowing, calm yet focused, and joyful state of being. There is an array of fun-filled games to play with young students that are meant to boost learning.
Raffi’s song Shake My Sillies Out is a prime example. Encouraging youngsters to shake their sillies out nurtures imagination, wordplay, and last but not least, physical exercise.
Some tried and true may also be the answer after a hectic day of math or science. Classics such as Red-light-green-light or Follow the leader never grow old. You can also improvise as needed by turning up the volume on a favorite kid-friendly song and freeze dancing.
For parents who practice yoga, work that into the fun! Focusing on poses that are based on the animals kids love will further their interest.
These fun-filled breaks will bring life to school work and keep kids healthy, setting pace for years of healthy learning to come!
Learning is Where We Play: