At some point, most of us have said the words, “I need a brain break…” or some variation of it. Brain breaks are important not only for kids but for adults as well. In life, we often feel like we need to focus on things intently to understand something or finish a project. Sometimes, during a long day at school, there is only so much we can take and only so long we can concentrate on one thing before everyone’s brain gets too tired to keep on. Hence where brain breaks for the classroom come into play.

Brain breaks are a great tool in almost any setting but especially helpful in the classroom, either with small children up through the high school senior. These little moments to take our minds off the task’s intensity allow for refreshing the thought process and a moment to let loose.

Why are Brain Breaks Important for Kids?

Did you know that the average attention span of a six-year-old child is only 12-18 minutes? An article by the Brain Balance Achievement Centers further breaks down attention span times: 4-6 is 12-18 minutes; 8-10 years of age is 16-24 minutes; 10-12 is around 20-36 minutes; 14-16 is maxed out at 28-48 minutes. The average school day can last anywhere from 6-8 hours, depending on the type of school and any extra-curricular activities that might occur before or after the actual school day. All of these things are important to consider when thinking about incorporating brain breaks into the class.

Because so many schools have so many different schedules, even the oldest students on this chart may have difficulty concentrating in the hour and half long block. So why a brain break? Basically, because naturally we get distracted, and our brains get tired, if we re-direct attention to a different task for a short period, the brain and body become energized enough to re-focus on the task hand.

There is so much science and research regarding the mental and emotional stresses that come with not relaxing, moving, and taking breaks. Further, more research on continual movement in the classroom increases productivity, decreases stress, and increases brain activity and learning with greater retention rates hence why the flexible seating movement has become so popular in the mainstream classroom. So why would not be applying those same principles in a brick-and-mortar classroom or one from home? The answer is, we should apply them in whatever classroom children are in.

How to Plan and Use Your Brain Break Ideas in the Classroom

As with anything in any classroom, whether it be from home on in a typical school building, your brain breaks should be planned accordingly. Are you a parent teaching your child? While you (of course) know your child best, kids behave differently for their parents than they would for someone else. This should come into play when thinking about how to plan brain breaks. The same concept applies to teachers in a classroom setting and thinking about the kids and class personalities. Here are three things you can do in preparation for planning and using your classroom brain breaks.

1 . Read Your Class

As a teacher, I have discovered that every class has its own dynamic, personality, and mood. Also, kids act differently at different times of the day, which means you need to consider the types of activities you choose for them. If your class in the morning needs a bit of waking up, choose a more active or upbeat brain break. On the flip side, if you have a class in the afternoon and are a bit more energetic than you would like, a calming brain break activity would be a great way to achieve a little more peace and focus.

If you are a parent teaching your child at home or monitoring virtual class, the same concept applies. Choose brain breaks that will fit your child (or children) best depending on the time of day and energy level for them.

2 . Have a List to Choose From

Great brain breaks for the classroom are ones that are well thought out and planned. The best way to do this is to have a go-to list of brain break ideas that give students either the energy or the calming effect needed. Also, having a list put together with the brain breaks you know work takes all of the guesswork out of what to do for your class.

3 . Give Verbal Time Warnings

Because brain breaks are fun, kids can get caught up in the moment and lose track of time. Coincidentally, so do we as teachers and parents. Make sure you have a timer on the board going as well as giving verbal time warnings. This way, kids can both see and hear how much time they have for their activity.

4 . Have Ready-Made Groups

Because of Covid, nothing is the same. We can’t just tell our class to pair up because of social distancing and implicating contact tracing procedures. So with that said, have your students already in pre-made groups of no more than three or in a buddy system where they already know who their buddy is. Always keep safety in mind when you use brain breaks.

The 12 Best Brain Break(s) for the Classroom and Virtual Learning

Okay! Now to the fun part! This list of brain break ideas will allow your students to get up and moving, recharge their motivation, de-stress and calm down, and increase brain activity. Since we are currently in the middle of a pandemic, and likely, your classes are vastly changed from how they normally are, we will make sure to provide ways to have these fun breaks safely. Plus, your kids will love the chance to take a break!

1. The “Would You Rather” Game

This game is fun for kids and adults alike. Because students are likely socially distanced within the classroom, have your students pair up with their assigned buddy or small group of three. Give each student a piece of paper with a list of fun “would you rather…” questions, with each question having two choices for kids. Allow your students no more than 5 to 6 minutes for this activity and ensure that they get up out of their seats and have students stand up while participating.

Not sure what to ask? There are a ton of fun questions online, or use some of these!

Would you rather…

  1. … have to ride a goat or a donkey to school every day?
  2. … stay young forever or speed up to being 70 but be a millionaire?
  3. … eat a bowl of worms, or eat a bowl of grasshoppers?
  4. … have the power to read minds, or have the power to fly?
  5. … go a year with no eyelashes, or go a year with no eyebrows?
  6. … have to kiss a frog, or give a presentation to the whole school?

Adapting to Virtual Learning

With this particular brain break, have students from home participate in a quick Zoom class with you! If you monitor your old child with virtual class and this is an assignment, go ahead and make a video asking each other questions and submit it to the teacher. In the case that you are the teacher, have fun asking these silly questions with your child!

2. Jumping Jacks

Jumping Jacks are such a fun way to get students up and moving in the room. They are quick, everyone looks silly doing them, and they get everyone’s blood pumping and brains working. Want to get up kids energized? Make a contest out of it to see who can do the most jumping jacks in the period you set for them. Anywhere from two to five minutes is a great amount of time for this quick brain break activity.

Make this activity a go-to when your students are feeling tired or are getting bored with sitting and working lengthy assignments in a traditional classroom setting; this may be a great brain break for right after lunchtime when kids tend to get super tired or even first thing in the morning to wake them up and get them energized for the day.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

Obviously, this is brain break is a super easy one to adapt to any environment. Parents, Jumping Jacks are a fun way to incorporate physical activity into your busy schedule while keeping your kid’s mental stamina (and your own) going! Possibly, have a Jumping Jacks challenge to see who can get the most done in the time you have set.

3. Trash-ket-ball

When thinking of what activities my students love the most, trash-ket-ball is at the top of the list! This short brain break can be made into an educational game; however, sometimes it’s just fun to wad up a piece of paper and Michael Jordan into the trashcan.

One easy way to orchestrate this while still keeping students socially distanced is to have your class make a giant circle around the classroom keeping at minimum and arm’s length apart. Then, place your trashcan right in the middle of the circle so that it is the same distance away from all students. Hand each student two pieces of paper, one to throw with their right hand, then one to throw with their left hand.

Make your starting point something fun. For example, start with the tallest child or even the one with the longest hair. From this point, one child at a time, go around the room shooting with the left hand the first time and the right hand for the last round. The students who can make both baskets get the bragging rights for the day. This brain break typically takes no more than 5-10 minutes and is best used with students who need a little bit of energy!

Adapting to Virtual Learning

This particular brain break can seem like it is a little more difficult in the virtual education environment. Students turn into class via Zoom of Google Video during the lesson, set up a laptop on a desk in the circle, and allow that student to turn to toss the paper into their trash can just as they would if they would be there.

4. Rock-Paper-Scissors

Not only is this a great game to use when kids are arguing over something they want, but this classic game is also a great brain break activity and can be done from a student’s seat by simply turning to the person on their left or right. If you want more movement or think that your kids need to get out of their seats, let them! Have students stand up while they are playing the game.

This brain break can be short, making it no more than five minutes. You can allow students to pair up and have two or three rounds of best-out-of-three, or make this a longer brain break and have a tournament between pairs around the room. Because this can be done from a sitting position or standing and varied greatly according to the class’s energy, this game is great for tired or active students.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

You can use one method to make this an exercise that any student can play by asking them to video their interaction with a parent or sibling and upload it to the classroom’s virtual site.

5. Deep Breathing Exercise

It is oftentimes easy to think about the getting up and out of your seat type of brain breaks. However, sometimes some deep breathing exercises are just the ticket to revitalize a tired and stressed mind. This particular brain break can be done from the student desk and gives students time to focus on their breathing.

Dim or turn the lights on in the room or maybe play some soothing music without words for a few minutes. You must model this breathing exercise and walk through it with them. Have students close their eyes and place one hand on their chest. Have them breathe in through their nose for five seconds, then out through their mouth for five seconds. Make sure to walk around the classroom while you repeatedly give the instructions for however long you want this brain break to last.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

Because these brain breaks can be super short and do not require anything special, they can be done anywhere at any time. If you teach your child at home, you make need this just as much as your child does. When you use brain breaks that make your child center themselves for a moment, they can take their mind off stress and work and be more focused.

6. Yoga

Yoga brain breaks are great for energizing not only the mind but also the body. While you probably don’t want to do a whole bunch of yoga positions with your students, there are a few that you can do that kids will enjoy, and it will help them relax in the classroom. Because yoga focuses on deep breathing and focuses on the position, students should find a comfortable place around the room or stand behind their seats. See the list below for some yoga pose ideas for students!

  1. Standing Balance Pose: This requires placing hands in a praying position at the chest and place one foot at the inner thigh of the opposite leg. Essentially, stand on one leg.
  2. Raised Arms: Bring your arms up above your head and place hands together.
  3. Warrior Pose: Have students get into a front-facing half-lunge position and hold their arms out to each side.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

There are many online Yoga videos for entirely free kids, and they only take a few minutes. Explore YouTube and do these with your kids at home when they need those significant brain breaks. Also, at home, you have the ability to do a few more yoga poses, as well as the space to do them.

7. Dance Off!

Dance off brain break is so much fun! Ideally, this is a great activity for students who are lagging in energy and might be sluggish. Similarly, with the trash-ket-ball, have your students get up out of their seats. Since all students will be nervous, let them know they all must participate…including you (the teacher!).

Have your kids create a line on one side of the room and then a line on the other. A student from each side will go down the line, two in the middle of the room at a time, and give their very best quick dance move. The movement and laughter will definitely revitalize a tired classroom full of kids.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

This type of break could be even more fun when learning from home. Let your child see your awesome moves, and let them take you on by showing you theirs! If this is for a classroom brain break, record the dance-off and submit it to the teacher. Since you aren’t waiting your turn with other students, go back and forth a few rounds and then declare the winner.

8. Kahoot

Kahoot brain breaks are a fun method for students to have a little friendly competition. Creating a Kahoot account is completely free and easy to use. Plus, teachers will love all of the extra educational material and activities they can use when learning specific material. You can choose from easy math trivia, movies, music, vocabulary, and a whole lot more. This is a great method to give your kids a different brain break and allow them to learn maybe something they didn’t already know.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

Kahoot is a great adaptable activity that can be used in a group or individual mode from anywhere! Use this both at school and at home for a fun time of seeing who knows what.

9. Beat-Box Rhythm Competition

beat-box rhythm as a brain break activity

This brain break is certainly a different one and not typically anything you would find on an educational website! However, beatboxing is one of the few things that are even better when wearing a face mask all day long. Take a few moments to have each child give the best beat-boxing rhythm in their assigned group of three. Encourage them to use their hand and stand up as they get into the rhythm. Have each group vote on a winner at the end of the quick brain break. At the very end, go around the room and declare who the winner was in each group.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

Students at home will also like the chance to show off their skills to parents and the teacher alike. Have the student participate by submitting a video of their favorite beat-box rhythm or have your own little competition at home.

10. Keep the Ball Going

This is one of my favorite brain breaks because there is really nothing to prepare and kids absolutely love it! All this take is one beach ball and some hands to keep it off the ground. This activity provides a lot of excitement and movement from the student’s seat and will only last a few moments. When I see that my kids are running a little low on energy or are getting distracted, I take out that beach ball and throw it into the air. This game immediately catches the attention when hands start going up to help keep the ball from hitting the ground.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

This is such a fun game that can be played in the classroom and at home. If it is just the two of you, hit the ball back and forth for a minute or two and make the objective to keep it off the ground. Together you can get up and get your body moving while having a bit of fun.

11. Simon Says

While some activities seem to be geared towards smaller kids, this one is timeless and can be used with all students of all ages. I have played Simon Says with students from the age of 5 up through twelfth grade (almost adults). This is a quick activity that you can do together that gets students up and moving to boost that brainpower.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

Without going into a great amount of detail, you can easily see how a simple game of Simon Says can be a great method to break up tough work or a long assignment. This particular brain break can be done anywhere at any point in time and does not require the use of anything but yourselves.

12. Don’t. Do. A. Thing

Sometimes, the best course of action is to announce to your students that they are allowed to stop for a moment not to do anything. These types of brain breaks allow students the opportunity to get up, grab a drink of water, play on phones (if you allow that) for a few moments, or possibly get up and stretch it out. It is important to have both visual and verbal time reminders for your students with these brain breaks.

Adapting to Virtual Learning

When kids are at home, things are just different. In the case of helping guide your student through the virtual classroom experience may involve allowing them space and the time to sit or a few moments to grab a snack whenever they need it.

Final Thoughts

These brain break ideas are a sure-fire way to revamp and revitalize a tired group of students. Also, with a few of these ideas, they are the perfect solution to calm down a group of amped-up kids. In the end, it is important to read your class and incorporate brain breaks into your everyday instructional and classroom environment. You will certainly find that incorporating these activities will make your students happier and healthier. Lastly, brain breaks are incredibly beneficial for your students’ mental health, stress levels, and ability to function and focus at their personal highest ability.