If you’re a parent it won’t come as a surprise when I tell you that a child’s attention span doesn’t last super long. In fact, the normal attention span of an average child is just 2 to 3 minutes per year of their age. When you toss in our current added bonus of dealing with a change in their learning environment due to the COVID-19 virus pandemic, it can make learning, and teaching, challenging. One of the things that can help while adapting to this new normal are brain breaks. Keep reading to find out how often you should give them and get ideas from our list.
Brain Breaks 101
What are Brain Breaks?
A break break is an interval of rest that is taken during academic instruction or study time.
Why are They Important?
Just as the body needs rest periods during exercise, the brain needs short amounts of time to recharge too.
These mental time-outs allow a child to move their bodies by getting up and starting a new activity. This gets the blood flowing and gives their brain the opportunity to reset and refocus. Brain breaks can also be used to calm a child and allow them to relax.
How Often Should a Child Take a Brain Break?
The frequency of brain breaks depends on your child’s age, learning style, and activity. However, in general kids need one every 15-45 minutes.
You can usually tell when they need one by their behavior, such as fidgeting, or getting easily distracted, but even if they are not showing signs it is still important to give them a mental intermission each hour.
The 45/15 Rule
A good rule of thumb when it comes to taking brain breaks is to use the 45/15 rule. This allows a student a 15 minutes break for every 45 minutes of study.
A child at any age should not be expected to sit in instruction or at a desk doing homework for any longer than that without a short break. Studies show that this is even true for adults! However, children especially benefit from these short mental rest periods.
What Types of Activities Qualify as a Brain Break?
The answer to this question is really up to you as you know your child the best. There are many options when it come to brain breaks.
Any activity that gets a child to move their body or redirects their brain to work in a different way qualifies. Each child is different, so the brain breaks they prefer may differ as well.
For example, some children may have a high amount of energy that they need to burn off in order to focus. Others may prefer to chill out and relax to help calm themselves before getting back to concentrating on school work.
However, if you need a little guidance you can keep scrolling to see our list of activities for brain breaks that will benefit your child during study time at home. Plus, get the FREE printable brain break files which includes a complete list of ideas, scavenger hunts, comic creator, and a kids workout.
As the parent who is also likely doubling as a teacher you can use these breaks to refocus and recharge as well. Join in or take advantage of these intervals to get a household chore done, pay a bill, or anything else that you want to check off your to-do list. Just remember to get back to work after the 15 minutes 😉
Brain Break Ideas While Learning At Home
Music has a unique way of uplifting moods, and you can use it in a few different ways for brain breaks.
- Listen: put on your child’s favorite songs to either relax or energize.
- Dance: crank it up and move your bodies to the beat.
- Sing: let them lift their voices. If they don’t know the words then find a video on YouTube that also has the lyrics to learn.
- Head, shoulders, knees, and toes: a song they can sing and that gets them moving.
- Learn a fun line dance: there are a number of line dances that kids can learn to by watching video tutorials and with a little guidance from an adult.
There are loads of fun games kids can play at home, but here are a few simple ideas that don’t require much.
- I spy: I spy with my little eye…..most kids know how to play this object seeking game.
- Find the quarter: my husband used to play this game as a kid. The way to play is to have one person hide a quarter in a room. The quarter has to be in plain sight. Once the quarter is in place, the “seeker”, or “seekers” must stand in the center of the room and try to spot it.
- Act like an animals: have your child, or children, stand in front of you. One by one shout out different animals that they can act out.
- Keep it up: grab a ball or a balloon and see how long they can pass it back and forth without allowing it to drop. Think volleyball without the net.
- Balloon tennis: use tennis rackets to pass a balloon back and forth. To make your own rackets you can glue Popsicle sticks to paper plates.
- Would you rather questions: take turns asking each other would you rather questions. Need some help?? Try this great list of questions.
- Red light, green light: a classic game to burn off some energy.
- Simon says: an oldie but a goody that gets your kids moving and thinking.
- Follow the leader: start a conga line of movements throughout your house and/or yard.
- Indoor basketball: kids can place a bucket, bowl, or container and toss a ball, pom-pom, or other soft object into it.
- Card tower: take a deck (or two) of playing cards and let kids attempt to build a tower with them.
- Build a fort: kids can take blankets or sheets, clothes pins or other household items to create a fort with. Our tip: drape a fitted sheet over a group of dining room chairs for a quick indoor tent.
Your child may just need a break to go play with their toys. Plus, it’s a good opportunity to teach them to clean up after themselves when the break is over.
- Building sets: this gets your child’s brain working in a different way. You can pull out a set you have or check out this list of my favorites, 10 Building Sets Kids Can Create With
- Pretend play: kids can pretend with action figures, dolls, play sets, or whatever else sparks their imagination.
- Play dress up: use dress up clothes to put on a fashion show or have siblings raid each others closet to dress up as each other. If you’re brave enough you can even let them raid yours.
- LEGO maze: use Legos to build a marble maze like this one.
- Bag-o-Legos: place a bunch of random Legos in a sandwich size Ziploc bag. Then challenge kids to build something with them. The rules are that they can add Legos but must use all of the ones that were in the bag.
- Nerf gun target practice: set up plastic cups or empty water bottles for kids to shoot their Nerf bullets at.
Getting outside for a bit of fun and fresh air is always a great way to rejuvenate and boost energy. Here are a number of suggestions to try.
- Hopscotch: grab a piece of chalk and create a hopscotch on the sidewalk for them.
- Blow bubbles and chase them: use a bubble machine or blow them the old fashion way and have your kids pop as many as they can.
- Trampoline: send kids out to the trampoline if you have one or get a mini trampoline for indoors.
- Play sports: set up a soccer net, get out the hockey sticks, or simply grab a glove to play catch.
- Go on a walk: step out into nature and enjoy a stroll around the neighborhood. Your child can even collect leaves or flowers on the way.
- Hula hoop: get your child a hula hoop and teach them how.
- Tennis ball challenge: I used to do this often as a child. Grab a tennis racket and ball and have your child count how many times they can bounce the ball on the racket.
- Pogo stick: someone gave us a pogo stick years ago and my kids have had so much fun bouncing around on it. Plus, it’s a great way to burn energy.
- Biking, scooter, skateboard: kids can ride around on whatever toy they have in the garage.
- Roller skate, or roller blade: let them strap some wheels to their feet and roll.
- Play four square: of you don’t know the rules of play find them here.
- Jump rope: kids can practice their jumping skills or have a contest with their siblings.
- Chalk track: have your kids draw a track with chalk outside to follow with their scooters or bikes.
- Yard gymnastics: practice somersaults and cartwheels in the yard.
- Scavenger hunt: make up a scavenger hunt or get our brain break files which includes ready made ones.
- Take chalk pictures: kids can draw a mural on the side walk or driveway. Then, they can lay by it and have a parent snap a picture. They can pretend to be flying over buildings wearing a cape or being carried away by balloons.
Some children prefer to use their creative side in their downtime. Here are just a few suggestions.
- Drawing, coloring, painting: take out whatever coloring utensils you have and let them create a masterpiece. Related post: “How to Draw” Videos for Kids on YouTube
- Crafts: check Pinterest for kids crafts that are quick and simple.
- Activity kits: buy or order a fun activity kit. Related post: Crafts for Girls from Target.
- Origami: one of my sons loved origami for a while. You can google different things to make or get a book.
- Make a comic: kids can use our ready made comic blank to create their own comics to read.
- Eye monster: glue two (or one, three, four….) plastic crafting eyes in the middle of a blank piece of paper. Have kids draw their own monster around the eyes and color it.
- Draw a treasure map: kid can create their own treasure map. They can even bury a real “treasure” to find if parents allow it.
- Tree house blueprint: give kids a large piece of paper to sketch out their dream tree house.
- Make play dough: we love this simple recipe!
- Finger paint: let kids get a little messy with a painting activity that is hands on.
- Write a story: give kids a blank story book or a notebook to make up their own story and share it with family.
- Write a letter: get out a piece of paper and a pencil and send mail the “old fashion” way, through the post office!
- Create a Mural: roll out a large piece of paper on the ground or tape it to a wall and let kids draw, paint, or color their own mural. You can use the white rolls of paper, multiple sheets of large paper, or a roll of craft paper.
Get a mental break and beneficial endorphins with a little bit of exercise.
- Push up challenge: see who can do the most push ups.
- Jumping jack interval: 1 minute of jumping jacks, 1 minute rest. Times 5.
- Yoga: try a yoga workout for kids.
- Make an obstacle course: I remember doing this as a kid both inside and out. Set up a course to get kids jumping, crawling, and rolling through it.
- Create a workout routine: make up your own routine or click here to get ours, it’s full of fun things to get kids moving.
- Paper plate skate: strap two paper plates to their feet so they can pretend to ice skate on the carpet.
There are plenty of ways to let your kids chill out and read during their brain break.
- Get them a book: you can visit your local book store if possible or order one from Amazon.
- Visit your library: if you can get to your local library you can pick up a few books for them borrow.
- Kindle: a kindle is a great way for kids to read books digitally. You can buy them individually or consider trying out a monthly membership with kindle unlimited or freetime unlimited, which has a vast selection of books for kids to read.
- Check with a teacher: your child’s teacher may also be able to direct you to some reading resources. Related post: 18 Online Educational Resources for Kids.
- Listen to audio: if your kids need a change of pace they can try listening to audio books through Amazon Audible. Currently, and for the duration of the school closures, kids listen for free!
- Find a podcast: there are plenty of podcasts for kids to listen to and in many different genres. Search with your child to find one that sparks their interest.
- Subscribe to a magazine: there are some great kids magazines you can get for your kids to read. Some even offer an online subscription for immediate access.
- Visit Scholastic: you can get books from Scholastic Book Club even from home. Order from the parent store and scholastic will ship to your house, but be sure to enter your classroom code before checking out to earn books for your teacher.
- Balloon rocket: follow these instructions to build a super fun balloon rocket inside your house.
- Alka-seltzer rocket: another rocket experiment but this one should be done outdoors. All you need are Alka-seltzer tablets, film canisters, and water. Place 1/4 tablet and a small amount of water in a canister. Then, cover it quickly and set in upside down on a flat surface. Wait a few seconds then watch it pop!
- Sensory table: there are plenty of ideas to make a fun sensory table. Many of them involve things you already have around your house.
- Cloud watch: kids can lie on their back outside on a partly cloudy day and watch the clouds drift by. They can even figure out what type of clouds are in the sky or call out shapes they see in them.
- Build a catapult: follow these instructions to build a simple catapult with your kids.
Keeping It Flexible
Learning can be loads of fun for kids, but it also takes a fair amount of energy. Therefore, including regular brain breaks in your child’s study schedule will help with their attention, focus, and ability to retain information.
However, as with any activity that involves children, be prepared to be flexible in your action plan. It’s a great idea to have a schedule to guide you and to be able to stay on track with your agenda, but don’t expect to stick to it perfectly.
If your child suddenly needs an extra break, then give it. If their 15 minute break turns into a 32 minute break, that’s okay. If they have a teary-eyed meltdown halfway through a math assignment, then shove it aside and pick it up again only when they are ready, even if it is hours later.
Flexible in More Ways Than One
Also, have as much grace with yourself as you do with your child when it comes to adjusting to the process of teaching and learning at home. Staying flexible and expecting to have to modify as the situation unfolds is a great way to stay positive and to motivate yourself to keep going.
The best part, and the most important thing to remember, is that the times you sit with your child to help with their education are moments you get to spend bonding with them and watching them progress and grow intellectually. Enjoy it and have fun with it. And who knows, you may learn some new things too!