Whether kids are learning at home or in the classroom, it’s important to build time into schedules for brain breaks. Maybe they need a movement break to get the wiggles out? Or a quiet moment to just stay still? Research shows that giving kids frequent brain breaks to reset their energy level improves their ability to focus, retain more, and stay on task.
Here are 50 of our favorite educational brain breaks that are sure to increase productivity and give your kids a much-needed break. Almost every one of them can be done individually and safely by maintaining at least 6 feet between learners!
1. Use fitBoost for a 3 minute break
There are so many great educational brain breaks out there. This is why we love this amazing free resource from Sanford fit. Click “Let’s Go!” and you’ll get three fun moves designed to get your kids warmed up, moving, and cooled down—perfect for physical fitness and mental alertness. Plus, there are easy-to-print cards with dozens of action-packed brain breaks to have on hand.
2. Practice “focus ball” breathing
Walk your kids through the following exercise: Stand or sit with legs and feet together. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Keep your fingertips touching as you pull your palms apart, forming a ball with your fingers. Press your fingertips together until you feel the muscles in your hands and arms activating. See if you feel your core tighten too. Now close your eyes and as you breathe in, inflate your ball and as you breathe out, flatten the ball by pushing your palms together. (Then repeat these instructions for 60 seconds).
3. Try the old Ear-Nose Switcheroo
This is a quick and easy challenge to reset the brain. Instruct kids to touch their left ear with their right hand and at the same time touch their nose with their left hand. Then have them switch their hands and touch their right ear with their left hand and their nose with their right hand. Switch back and forth a few times. Then have them close their eyes, take a deep breath, and blow it all out.
4. Take a yoga break
Inspire kids to move, stretch, and practice mindfulness with fitFlow yoga. This activity makes incorporating yoga breaks easy with 22 printable cards, each with pictures and descriptions of 4 yoga poses. And don’t worry—it’s not a huge time commitment. The sequence on each card is designed to take only 3-5 minutes. See it in action here.
5. Just jump!
Sometimes kids just need to bounce their energy out. Have them pretend they are bouncing on a mini-trampoline (this will keep their movement on a vertical plane instead of all over the room) and give them a couple of minutes to let loose!
6. Take a cue from the stadium
Here’s one for a group of kids—start the wave! Beginning at one end of the room, kids stand up and throw their arms overhead, bringing them back down as they return to their seats. Each row follows until you reach the other end of the room. Amp it up by encouraging your kids to tap their feet or tap their hands on their legs so that they are in constant motion. This activity works great on Zoom too!
7. Stretch it out
It’s never a good idea to spend too much time sitting in one position. Allow kids to take a break and bring some flexibility back into their spines. Have them stand with their feet shoulder-distance apart. Put their left hand on their hip and raise their right hand overhead. Lean to the left and stretch their arm as far as they can to the left. Repeat on the right side. Then stand tall and slowly roll down one vertebra at a time until their hands reach the floor (or at least their shins). Have them take a deep breath then slowly roll back up. Repeat as necessary.
8. Stir the pot
Have kids visualize they are standing in front of an enormous cauldron. Inside the cauldron is an ooey-gooey pot of caramel. Take hold of a large stirrer and plunge it to the bottom of the pot. Slowly begin to stir in a clockwise direction. Have them use their whole body to help get a full range of motion in their wrists and shoulders. Instruct them to throw their hips into the action. After a minute or two, reverse the direction.
9. Make it rain
Conjure up a rainstorm! Sitting or standing at a desk or table, have kids tap 1 finger on the desk, then 2, then 3, then 4, then their whole hand until you all feel like you’re in the middle of a deluge. Work your way backward from 5 down to 1 as the storm ebbs away.
10. Focus on sound
Have kids sit quietly with their eyes closed. Ring a chime or gong. Have them listen carefully to the chime, feeling the vibration in their body as the sound reverberates and then slowly fades. Tell them to breathe slowly and deeply as they focus on the sound.
11. Practice mindfulness
These free printable cards are a great thing to keep in your desk. Each card will give a prompt for kids to try that will let them refocus and recharge. Perfect for moments when you need to bring down the energy in the room.
12. Chill out with this cross-body exercise
Have kids stand tall and cross one leg in front of the other while pressing the outsides of their feet together. Now have them cross their arms over one another at the wrists. Clasp their hands and curl their arms into their chest. Take a few breaths, uncross and cross the opposite way for a few more breaths.
13. Or energize with these
First, instruct kids to touch their left elbow to their right knee, then touch their right elbow to their left knee. Switch back and forth, going slowly at first, building speed until they are going at a vigorous pace. Next, do some windmills by standing tall with their feet shoulder-width apart, and their arms stretched out. Bend at the waist and touch their right hand to their left toes, then their left hand to their right toes. Switch back and forth.
14. Make lesson plans mobile
Incorporate movement into classroom activities to keep the learning fresh.
15. Make Xs and Os
Walk kids through the following exercise: Sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground and legs together, curl your body into your lap, folding yourself into a tiny O shape. Next, open your arms and legs wide, forming an X shape with your body. Pull back into an O shape, then back out to an X shape. Repeat three times.
16. Energize in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Get hearts pumping with a quick sequence of exercises. Call out 5 actions for your students to do as quickly as they can. For instance, 5 jumping jacks, 4 push-ups, 3 situps, 2 squat jumps, and 1 tree pose.