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.
17. Practice another language
Teach your kids the alphabet in sign language. Use brain breaks to practice by singing the ABCs while signing the letters. Then practice vocabulary words by spelling them out loud while signing the letters.
18. Take a cruise on an imaginary skateboard
Have your kids line up next to a wall and place one hand on the wall. Tell them to plant the foot closest to the wall and swing the other leg, as if pushing off the ground on a skateboard. Start slowly, with tiny swings, moving up to power pushes. Repeat on the other side.
19. Find out how it’s made
Remember that classic Sesame Street video about how crayons are made? We watched in awe as crayons rolled off the assembly line, wrapped in paper, and then slipped into those familiar cardboard boxes. Kids today are just as fascinated by how things are made! Here are our favorite videos about how things are made—from fireworks to LEGOs.
20. Break out the hot hands
This is a good break when you sense a weariness in the air. Have kids rub their hands together vigorously until they warm up. Tell them to close their eyes and place their hands over their eyes. Instruct them to breathe deeply as they clear their mind and refocus.
21. Take a break to groove
Music is a great way to reset the mood in a room and raise the energy level. Put on a fun song and have a 30-second freestyle dance party. Here are some kid-friendly music playlists.
22. Or take it to the next level
Teach your kids the steps to popular dances such as the Cha-Cha Slide, the Macarena, or the Kidz Bop Shuffle.
23. Try some facial gymnastics
Have kids get their silly on for 30 seconds. Tell them to wiggle their eyebrows up and down as fast as they can. Then try to raise one eyebrow at a time.
24. Open your chest
We spend so much of our day hunched forward. Have kids take a break to open their chests and breathe deeply.
25. Take a doodle break
According to researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, downtime is essential for brain health. Kids need time for their growing brains to integrate and process the vast amount of information they receive each day. In other words, it is actually beneficial to give our kids time to allow their minds to wander. Try this: Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and let kids silently doodle with pencil and paper or a dry erase board and marker while soft, calming music plays in the background.
26. Do nothing for two minutes
Never underestimate the power of stillness. When the energy gets a little ramped up, and it’s time for the entire class to take a pause, have them drop everything and glue their eyes to the screen as you show this countdown. The gentle lulling of the waves and the sight of the sun sparkling off the water will reset their nervous system in a jiffy.
27. Clap for a little call and response
Pep things up with a little call and response clapping. It’s simple to do and is often used in the classroom to get students’ attention. Simply clap out a pattern that your kids will repeat back to you. Switch out the pattern a few times until everyone is focused and engaged. Alternatively, try a vocal call and response. Sing out a few riffs and have kids echo the tune back to you.
28. Take a comedy break
Comedy is a great release when the atmosphere is feeling a little intense. Show a funny video clip or have kids volunteer to tell a joke or pose a few silly riddles.
29. Color yourself mellow
Even grown-ups have picked up on the coloring craze as an excellent way to calm down and zone out. Put on some nice mellow background music, set a timer, and pass out some of these free positive self-talk coloring pages.
30. Make a brain break spinner
How's this for a brain break during the day?!
Posted by Sanford Fit Kids on Friday, January 4, 2019
One way to make sure educational brain breaks are effective is to change up activities. Check out this step-by-step video from Sanford fit that shows you how to make your own Wheel of Fortune-type game to help you add variety to brain breaks!
31. Write it out
Don’t underestimate the power of journaling or creative writing. Give your kids a 5- or 10-minute break to open up a page of their notebook and write about anything they’d like. They don’t have to share it with the class or do anything else with it; just use the quiet time to focus on something they love and want to write about.
32. Ramp up with a round of cherry pickers
This easy activity will get your students’ hearts pumping and give their brains a boost. Have them jump up off the ground, then down to the floor into a push-up position. From there, instruct them to hop their feet up into a frog position, then pop up to a standing position.
33. Clap on, clap off
When you say “clap on,” kids clap their hands vigorously together. When you say “clap off,” they stop as quickly as they can and freeze. Or follow along with this fun video.
34. Skip it out
When the energy is fading, and kids need to get their blood flowing, put on a peppy song and pull out the imaginary jump ropes. Have kids skip or jump rope in place until the song ends.
35. Spread your wings (in slow motion)
Walk your kids through this winged movement: Sit cross-legged on the floor. Stretch your arms down by your sides with your palms facing inward toward your body. Slowly raise both arms while rotating hands forward. When your arms reach shoulder level, your hands should be facing forward. Continue raising arms, slowly rotating palms so that by the time hands are overhead, palms are facing each other. Slowly lower arms, repeating the rotation (palms facing each other, palms facing forward, palms facing sides) until they are once again resting at your sides. As you raise and lower your arms, stretch them as long as you can, as if you are scraping the sides of the room and the ceiling. Repeat slowly three times, breathing deeply.
36. Exercise your answer
This fun activity is an active community builder. Kids raise their heart rates while playing trivia.
37. Make like a blender
Tell kids it’s time to make fruit smoothies. Ask them to pretend they are in a blender and they are strawberries (or blueberries or bananas, etc.). Dramatically pour orange juice or yogurt into the air in front of you. Tell kids when you flip the switch that they need to wiggle and jiggle (separately, not together) until they are each individually blended up. Start with a slow speed, moving up to medium speed, fast speed, and finally turbo speed. And then reverse it! Start at turbo speed and go back to slow speed.
38. Celebrate with a silent cheer
This activity is perfect for the end of an activity or a sustained amount of work time—especially for kids who are learning remotely. Let kids stand up and silently cheer and gesture in celebration. How animated can they get?!
39. Do a full-body workout
This kid-friendly exercise video is great for your body and brain! Kids can follow along through a set of workout moves that will get their blood pumping.
40. Play popcorn
Students will all be sitting in their chairs, and at any time, a student can jump up and say, “Pop!” Once they do, that student remains standing. If two students pop up at the same time, everyone takes their seats, and the game starts over. How quickly can the entire class pop without having to start over?
41. Build a sensory pathway
These color-coded posters will take your kids through a different set of tasks to help them move, recharge and set their mood! Get the free set of posters from Sanford fit here.
42. Hit the wall
Pushing against a solid object is a good way to displace extra energy from your body. Have kids stand facing a wall with their arms stretched out in front of them, palms on the surface of the wall. Push the wall away with all their strength for a count of ten. Relax for five seconds, then push again. Other activities they can do at the wall include calf stretches and wall push-ups.
43. Try a cat/cow pose
Have kids start on all fours and then give them the following instructions to complete the cat/cow yoga pose: Place your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Arch your back to the sky and tuck in the tailbone. Let your head fall between your arms. From there, sink the belly towards the ground, and lift the chest and chin. Gently alternate between the two poses while breathing deeply.
44. Grab your favorite GIFs
Make a slideshow of your favorite GIFs and have your kids act them out. Funny animals are a good place to start!
45. Find the object
Kids don’t even have to get out of their seats for this one, but they can! Have one student start by finding an object and saying, “I see something beginning with the letter [fill in the blank].” The first person to guess the item correctly gets to choose the next object. This can be a fun one to play on Zoom too! You can have kids add in additional clues to help.
46. 3, 2, 1 blastoff!
Instruct kids to stand and then squat down with their hands on the ground in front of them. All together, count down 3, 2, 1. When you get to zero, they should push up like a rocket, jumping as high as they can—letting all of their energy burst from their center.
47. Float with jellyfish
When you really need to take the energy in your room down a notch, turn off the lights, set a timer, and put on this amazing video. Kids will find themselves under the brilliant blue sea in the middle of a swarm of jellyfish. They’ll be mesmerized by the slow, fluid motions and lulled into calmness by the soothing music.
48. Quick as a snap, wink
This is a quick, easy refocusing activity. Tell kids to snap their left fingers while they wink their right eye. Switch to snapping their right fingers while winking their left eye. This activity is particularly effective for younger learners who may find both activities challenging.
49. Balance break
A great way to get kids out of their chairs is to practice balance. Have them hop on one foot. Then up the ante by having them stand on one foot and bend their other knee out in front of them.
50. Tabletop push-ups
Kids can use their desk, a chair, the side of their couch—anything really. Have them place their hands on the table and focus their eyes in the center, moving down slowly and pushing back up.
What educational brain breaks do you love? Sanford fit has some of our favorite brain break ideas that you can use in your classroom or at home.