Brain breaks for students are crucial for learning. They help little (and big) learners focus and re-energize so they can return to their desks refreshed and ready to learn.
Brain breaks can be used to give students breaks in the classroom or at home. The following brain breaks for students can be adapted to either situation.
Movement Brain Breaks for Students
Studies show that exercise can improve learning. This means that a quick break that involves large muscle movements or physical activity will help students return to their studies better able to take in information.
1. Dance Party
There's no need for a special occasion to have a dance party. In fact, it's a great idea to take a dance break after, or even in between, assignments to turn on some music and cut a rug.
Red Tricycle has some great ideas on how to set up a great dance party for your home or classroom.
Learn more: Red Tricycle
Studies show that the simple act of stretching can have positive effects on emotion, memory, and mood. On top of all those great things, it's been shown that stretching can help students think more clearly.
3. Lifting Weights
Lifting weights is an easy physical exercise that can help destress and revitalize students before they return to their desks.
Small hand weight can be used by older students, while items like books can be used by younger students.
4. Party Freeze Song
"When I say dance, dance! When I say freeze, freeze!" If you've cared for a young child in the past decade, you are familiar with the Party Freeze Song.
It's not just a helpful brain break for preschoolers, though. This is a great revitalizing activity for students of all ages.
5. Heavy Work
Many people are not familiar with the term heavy work. It's a technique used in occupational therapy that's used for sensory integration.
When children become overwhelmed or stressed, performing a strenuous gross-motor task, like carrying a basket of books, can help their ability to refocus.
Learn more: Reach for Montessori
6. Cardio-in-Place Exercises
Cardio exercises are great for brain breaks. There's no need to go for a jog or hit the YMCA to use the swimming pool, though.
Cardio exercises can be done right where a child is studying. Here are just a few brain break exercises that can be done in place.
- Jumping jacks
- Jump roping
Riding a bicycle is one of those brain breaks for students that has multiple destressing benefits. The exercise provided by this activity helps children learn, as well as the fresh air and scenery.
8. Dance Like an Animal
Next time you notice your students losing focus during a learning activity, have them put their pencils down and call out the name of an animal.
It's their job to dance around how they think that animal might dance if they could.
9. Hula Hooping
Hula hooping makes for a perfect brain break activity for students. They can keep their hula hoops near their desks, then stand up and use them when they feel like they are beginning to lose focus.
10. Duck Walk
Students can give their minds a rest and get their bodies moving with this fun activity. Using the exercise instructions here, have your students do the duck walk.
Quacking is optional.
11. Marching Around
Marching around, or doing leg lifts in place, is one of the brain breaks for students that can be done at any time, and without disrupting others.
12. Spontaneous Recess
Outdoor play is usually a planned activity for students. What a great, revitalizing surprise it would be to have an unplanned recess!
13. Spinning in Circles
Kids enjoy spinning, but did you know that the act of spinning can potentially have an incredible effect on some people?
For students who crave twirling around, controlled spinning could be the brain break they need.
14. Be a Flamingo
This is a classic beginner's yoga pose that is great for brain breaks. If you have very young children in your classroom, you can modify it to take their ability to balance into consideration.
Learn more: Cosmic Kids Yoga
15. Choreographed Dancing
You don't need to be a choreographer, or even a dancer, to think up some fun dance moves for the next brain break. Just use your imagination and assign each student a fun dance move.
Art Activities to Give Students' Brains a Break
Whether it's process art or an art activity with a designated endpoint, art activities make for a great brain break for students of all ages.
16. Squiggle Drawing
This is a fun and collaborative classroom art activity that shifts can de-stress kids and get the focus off their studies for a while.
Learn more: Teacher Vision
17. Process Art for Young Students
Students of all ages need opportunities to give their minds a rest. Young students, like toddlers and preschoolers, are no exception.
Just set up the supplies and canvas and when it's time for a brain break and let them get creative. The link below has 51 creative art-based brain break ideas.
Learn more: The Montessori-Minded Mom
18. Modeling Clay
Modeling clay provides unique sensory feedback and can be a calming break for students. Bonus points that kids can create something fun to paint after their studies are finished.
Playing with modeling clay can even help increase a student's attention span and concentration skills. Read more about the benefits of modeling clay play here.
19. Building Pipe Cleaner Structures
The sensory feedback provided by pipe cleaners is one of a kind. Give each child in your classroom several pipe cleaners and see what kind of neat structures they can create.
Origami is a great art activity for students to relieve stress during intense study sessions. Spruce Crafts has some great origami ideas for students of all ages.
Learn more: The Spruce Crafts
21. Draw in Response to Music
This is a lovely art brain break activity that incorporates music, for an extra de-stressing factor.
Learn more: Life Hack
22. Moving Magnetic Words Around
Art de-stressing activities for kids aren't all paints, playdough, and crayons. Moving magnetic words around is a creative way to de-stress on a brain break.
Learn more: Life Hack
23. Gear Painting
This is a really neat stress-relieving process art idea from Fun-a-Day. The art activity alone can provide stress relief and focus for kids.
The motion of the gears provides an additional mesmerizing and relaxing element.
Learn more: Fun a Day
24. Dot Art
Dot art is a great brain break activity for students because it's thoroughly engaging and dotting paint onto paper provides unique sensory feedback.
Fun-a-Day has a great explanation of dot art, as well as some fun dot art ideas.
25. Collaborating Circle Painting
This is a fun de-stressing activity that the whole class (teachers included!) can participate in. The activity starts with each child painting a single circle onto a canvas.
The results are amazing. Check out the full activity in the link below.
Learn more: Innovation Kids Lab
26. Making a Playdough Monster
The act of kneading Playdough provides a lot of stress relief for students. Playdough can be found in calming corners in classrooms all over the world.
Add some glitter and some googly eyes and you've got a neat little monster.
Learn more: The Imagination Tree
27. Painting with Nature
Outdoor brain breaks are the best. What's even better is bringing an art activity outside.
Pine needles, leaves, long grass, and even tree bark can be used instead of a paintbrush.
28. Tie-Dying Shirts
Tie-dying shirts is a fun brain break activity for students. Kids get the chance to take a break and get creative and squeezing the shirts for dying adds another brain break benefit.
Students can return to their work refreshed while their shirts dry.
Scratch-art is a layer of crayon that is cover with paint. Students scratch through the paint to reveal the colors beneath.
Scratch-art is a fun art technique you might remember from when you were a child.
Learn more: Happy Hooligans
30. Spin Painting
Be honest, do you actually use that salad spinner you bought from that TV ad?
Bring it to the classroom and let your students make some neat spin art on their brain breaks.
Learn more: Happy Hooligans
Mindfulness Brain Breaks for Students
Mindfulness brain breaks for students are those that refocus a student's attention from their studies to what's happening in the present moment and with their bodies.
31. Cosmic Kids Yoga
Yoga isn't just useful for helping children calm down when they are dysregulated. It's also great for brain breaks during studying.
Cosmic Kids Yoga is popular among parents of young kids, but many teachers actually use it in their classrooms, too.
Learn more: Cosmic Kids Yoga
32. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is a brain break activity that can be done anywhere and at any time. Deep breathing techniques can be used by students at their desks, on their own, or be presented as a classroom activity.
Read here about the amazing benefits of deep breathing.
33. The Silence Game
The Silence Game is a classic classroom activity that is used to help children calm and center themselves. It gives kids a chance to sit in peace and notice the sounds they miss on a day-to-day basis.
Learn more: The Montessori-Minded Mom
34. Mindfulness Printables
Sometimes students (and teachers) need visual reminders of calming activities. The link below will take you to some awesome, free mindfulness printables you can use in your classroom for brain breaks.
Learn more: Fit Sanford
36. Nature Walk
Getting your students outdoors and walking through the sights and sounds of nature is a great brain break activity that calms students and encourages mindfulness.
Sensory Brain Breaks for Students
Sensory play has so many benefits for kids -people of all ages, really. It is also a great idea for brain breaks for students.
37. Chewing Toys or Gum
Gum not being allowed in school is understandable, but it's also a shame. The sensory feedback provided by chewing can help kids to de-stress and concentrate.
Consider allowing a gum-chewing break or allowing kids who feel they need some sensory chewing toys to be brought to class.
38. Body Massage
Massages are great for relaxing and de-stressing. It's been shown that massages for kids can reduce anxiety and improve attention span.
Very Special Tales has some fun massage ideas for kids.
39. Weighted Balls
Weight balls provide lots of opportunities for sensory brain breaks for kids. Students can use weighted balls on their own or in group activities.
Click here for a list of weighted ball activities for kids.
40. Resistance Bands
Resistance bands are a great idea for brain breaks for students. This activity incorporates stretching with large muscle strength exercises.
Click here for instructions on how to teach kids how to resistance bands, click here.
Swinging is a great sensory brain break activity. It gets kids outdoors, increases their awareness of their body movements, and exposes them to several senses at once.
It's also great for their attention spans.
Learn more: Little Tikes
42. Jumping on a Trampoline
Jumping on a trampoline is great for the refinement of certain senses, as well as body awareness. It's also a great energy-burning activity, which makes it perfect for brain breaks for students.
Learn more: A. A. Joyland
Singing not only improves cognition, but it's great for a student's posture, as well. After slouching over a desk, a singing activity will help stretch those back muscles to help a student's comfort level.
Singing is a great sensory brain break activity.
44. Sensory Bin Play
Sensory bins are a popular item for toddlers and preschoolers. Sensory play can be a great brain break for students of all ages, though.
Learn more: Sara J Creations
45. Play I Spy
Playing a game of I Spy gives students a chance to look around the room and focus on other things for a bit.
For some fresh air and exercise, I Spy can also be played outdoors.
Using Music to Reset
Listening to upbeat music and dancing along, if you feel like it, is a great way for students to give their brains a break from the monotony of certain learning activities.
Here are some lively, kid-friendly music and movement songs that make for great brain breaks for students.
46. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes
Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes is a classic music and movement song. Going through the motions in the song gets students' blood flowing and stretches their muscles out.
47. Walking, Walking
"Walking, walking, walking, walking, hop, hop, hop, running, running, running...". You get the idea. This song is a great chance for students to stop what they are doing, de-stress, and have a little fun.
48. Dinosaur Stomp
This is a piece of fast-paced music and movement brain break activity that will re-energize your students.
You will want to play the video below for them so they can follow along with the moves.
Artist: Koo Koo Kangaroo
49. Boom Chicka Boom
This is a classic song that has been remade with new movements. The dances in the video below are simple enough for every skill level.
Learn more: Jack Hartmann
50. It's Oh So Quiet
This is a super fun song for a brain break. The song starts out quiet and peaceful, then students have the chance to get the wiggles out when the chorus comes in.
51. Cover Me
Bjork's dynamic musical style is great for brain breaks for students. There are dozens of her songs that are great for music and movement activities.
When your students listen to Cover Me, have them sneak around the desks in the classroom and scale the walls. Very fun.
52. Shake, Rattle and Roll
This is a fun song for music and movement brain breaks for students. Have your students get their shakers out and dance.
Learn more: Kindy Rock
As you can see, brain breaks are an important part of learning and there are so many different brain breaks for students you can try.
How do you implement brain breaks in your home or classroom?
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should students take brain breaks?
Brain breaks for students should be based on the individual needs of each child, and the needs of the classroom, as a whole. If you see that a single child, or the whole classroom, is losing focus and getting fidgety or frustrated, it's time for a brain break.
What is the best brain break?
The best brain break is the activity a particular child needs. For some children, calming sensory activity is best. For others, an upbeat music and movement activity is best.
Why brain breaks for kids are important?
Brain breaks for students are important because they divert a student's attention away from their learning task for a short period of time. They can help kids re-energize and return to their studies with better focus and concentration.