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Activity and strategy

Brain Breaks for All Ages

Brain Breaks are an essential part of our day in order to be receptive to learning and tasks that may be more challenging.

Illustration for a brain with art on one side and math equations on another side.

Brain breaks during work time have been shown to have real benefits. They reduce stress, anxiety, frustration, and can help students focus and be more productive. Students who have a visual impairment and other students with special needs need brain breaks even more so than others since they are often working harder than their peers.

Classrooms, online learning, and a general school day can create stress, anxiety, and frustration. Taking moments throughout the day to reset and recharge are necessary to refocus and be more productive.

Calk outline of a tic-tac-toe game
Tic-tac-toe

Often a student’s IEP (individualized educational plan) has listed the need for brain breaks in their specially designed instruction. If your student has sensory issues, especially when in noisy, new, and/or non-preferred activities, the need for breaks is essential before behavioral concerns come into effect.

Get to know your student so that their cues are recognizable when they need a brain break. Small cues like rubbing eyes, wiggling more while seated, and distractibility can be signs that a break could be beneficial. Catching these small cues before they become much bigger cues is key. Once the student has reached a point of exhaustion, we have lost the ability to provide effective learning to take place at that point.

Motivation

By getting to know the student one also gets to know their interests, motivation, and personal learning styles. Let that student have opportunities to allow these interests to come into the learning process. This often creates ownership over learning and the student can participate in the learning. When a break is needed, knowing their interests can naturally provide a great reset opportunity. For example, if the student enjoys learning about animals, find ways to incorporate animals or give them time at the end of the lesson. “First this, then this” often works well so the student understands that working hard not only teaches us but also allows us to do preferred activities.

Don’t forget our older students need brain breaks too. Just because they can generally sit for longer periods of time doesn’t mean they don’t need a break. Getting them engaged in learning and respecting their time can create mutual respect.

A girl outside blowing bubbles.
Blowing bubbles

Brain Break Ideas for our Students with Visual Impairments

  • Music of their choice
  • Outside time
  • Scavenger hunt in school
  • Deliver mail to another teacher
  • Arts and craft time
  • Braille drawings
  • Guess the Sound Game

Mindful Moments

Mindfulness Definition: “Paying full attention to something. It means slowing down to really notice what you’re doing. Being mindful is the opposite of rushing or multitasking. When you’re mindful, you’re taking your time. You’re focusing in a relaxed, easy way.”

Free Mindful Moments for Kids Downloads

Kira Willey cover for her Mindful Moments for Kids downloads with a artistic lotus flower design.
Kira Willey Mindful Moments

50 Educational Brain Breaks

Quick, easy activities to help kids re-energize, refocus and give their brains a boost, created by Elizabeth Mulvahill on the We are Teachers website.

20 Printable Mindfulness Activities for Kids

Download and print these mindfulness activity cards when you need to pause and recharge your body or brain. Cards are dual-sided showing English and Spanish.

Movement Videos for Students

Movement can be one of the easiest ways to reset the brain. Sometimes its as easy as a few stretches. When the weather doesn’t allow for students to get outside for breaks, getting movement in our day is even more important.

Movement videos are fun, can be done easily in a class setting, and allow us to take a break without a lot of disruption. Try this one which was a favorite in our 2nd grade classroom.

Teachers Need Brain Breaks Too

Adults need brain breaks too. Skipping lunch is often a practice of teachers to get tasks off our daily “to do” list, but comes at a price. It’s often difficult just to find time to take a bathroom break. However, you can’t give your best to others if you are feeling depleted.

Teacher Brain Break Ideas:

  • Make a cup of coffee or tea and actually drink it
  • Take time to talk to a work friend
  • Organize your desk before starting a task
  • Set a time to leave for the day and stick to it
  • Do not check email after you get home
  • Don’t give out your personal cell phone number
  • Go outside and get some fresh air or take the long way to pick up students
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