Skip to content

The importance of using brain breaks in the classroom

It is customary for most schools to have a break in the middle of the first two sessions of the day (usually literacy and numeracy) because it is well researched that sugary cereals etc may not be the best start for the day, however, it can often be the mainstay of many of our student’s breakfast.

Sugar levels will drop around the 10 o’clock mark, so crunch and sip breaks (or fruit break) are included as best practice in many schools. Students get a chance to have a healthy snack and a chat, then prepare them for the following session. Click on this link to find out more information about the effects of sugar on thinking and behaviour.

Hydration is also important for healthy brain function, so incorporate a drink in this session. Hydrated students will think more clearly, be more energised and it is better for all systems of the body to be receiving at least 2 litres of water a day. This is also an essential message for teachers too, many of whom will not drink enough throughout the day for fear of having to have too many toilet breaks.  This can result in a headache at the end of the day…..a big one.

Teachers need to remind themselves to be good models for their students and re-hydrate and enjoy a healthy fruit or vegetable snack at the same time. Getting the students outside at this time is a great way to re-energise them, as it is proven that vitamin D intake is essential too.  In moderation of course, but a good run around and expansion of lungs via a healthy intake of oxygen will certainly help the brain to ‘de-fog’ and be receptive for the next lesson.

There are many great websites that can help to transition students into a new activity.  Websites like Cosmic kids, GoNoodle , just dance for kids etc. are engaging and encourage students to move in the classroom if you are unable to take them outside. GoNoodle is a favourite of full time and relief teachers alike it has fantastic videos linked to yoga, dance moves, and a host of activities to re-energise and transition your students between activities.

Sitting for too long can be challenging for both adults and children alike. We need to get up and move to get the ‘wiggles’ out. The University of Colorado has created a brilliant PDF that is free to download with links to videos and a host of ideas to use in your classrooms, 152 pages which will be valued by Secondary Teachers.

Lateral thinking games

These are a wonderful way to start a Maths session, and these websites have some fantastic links for you to explore:

  • The Nrich maths website is a treasure trove of fantastic ideas.
  • Maths starters is one of my go to websites to get the brain fixed into math mode. You may enjoy this resource to add to your bag of tricks.

The Alphabet Tree also have a variety of resources, specifically, Lateral Thinking Puzzles, Optical Illusion Brain Break and Art Lesson and Logic Puzzles and Brain Teasers.

This is one of my favourite bloggers and if you haven’t subscribed to her blogs then you are missing some great tips for teaching. She has a wonderful blog which has 20 3-minute brain breaks that you can add to your resource kit. These are great to use anytime your students are feeling restless and are struggling to pay attention. Most of these will only take a few minutes, and then you can get back to the lesson with your students ready to focus on the lesson at hand. Click here to access her blog – Minds in Bloom.

Why students need brain breaks and how you can help

Why movement matters

Being seated for long periods of time has some major drawbacks for kids. Not only does it make it tough for them to get enough physical activity in the day, but it also makes it harder to pay attention and learn. 

Angela Hanscom, a pediatric occupational therapist, writes in the Washington Post: 

Children naturally start fidgeting in order to get the movement their body so desperately needs and is not getting enough of to “turn their brain on.” What happens when the children start fidgeting? We ask them to sit still and pay attention; therefore, their brain goes back to “sleep.” 

For children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move. Movement does “turn on” the brain. 

Ideally, students should get multiple Brain Breaks in the day and be active in other ways as well.  

Here’s an ideal schedule for students: 

  • Walk to school 
  • Classroom learning with hourly energisers 
  • Recess* 
  • LUNCH 
  • Classroom learning with hourly energisers 
  • Recess 
  • Classroom learning with hourly energisers 

*It’s been shown that kids waste less food, eat more fruits and vegetables, and have better behaviour when they have recess BEFORE lunch versus after lunch. (Read more here.) 

What can you do?

If you’re a teacher, consider incorporating Brain Breaks into the day. If you’re a parent, talk to your child’s teacher about the idea. Here are some resources and videos that make Brain Breaks easy and fun to do. And they’re FREE! 

Move to Learn Fitness Energisers: More than 30 fitness videos for students K-8 with routines kids can do alongside their desks. 

Energisers for Grades K-2: Ideas for incorporating academic concepts into physical activity, such as games that mix jumping and running in place with learning letters and numbers. 

Go Noodle Brain Breaks: Tons of free, short videos to get kids moving in the classroom, including short Zumba routines (my son’s teacher uses these when they have indoor recess and he loves it!). 

Time for 10: Free 10-minute fitness videos featuring fitness experts and kids, with themes like kickboxing, core, and flexibility. 

Adventure to Fitness: Videos that incorporate physical activity and common core-aligned learning, like jogging (in place) through Yellowstone National Park. Free registration gives teachers access to some videos; more are available with a paid subscription. 

Teach Train Love: This teacher has compiled several lists of fun Brain Break videos from YouTube. 

Action for Healthy Kids: A Pinterest page full of classroom brain break ideas, including some for middle school. 

Recent Posts:

Q&A with Kelly Quilter

Q&A with Kelly Quilter

We sat down with Kelly Quilter, founder of Teacher for a Day, to hear how she approaches her own PD and learn more about her new course launching soon on ClassCover Learn.

Read More

Get the latest tips, advice and updates straight into your inbox, monthly. Never stop learning.