Quick and easy Remote Learning Brain Breaks for Kids at home, or in school! Get your FREE PRINTABLE and improve your kiddo’s focus today!
Today was our first day of homeschooling because of the Coronavirus. And as I was worrying about the academic aspects of homeschooling, I completely overlooked and over estimated how long my kids can focus!
And I am a School-Based Occupational Therapist for 15+ years! This is MY area of expertise! Also a topic that I talk about all of the time when I am in schools.
With many restrictions in place to keep students healthy among the COVID-19 pandemic, brain breaks are more important than ever. Especially remote learning brain breaks!
Kids are not used to sitting in front of computers for extended periods of time or in one spot! And if you are new to homeschooling, you might think your kiddo is acting out, but really they just need a break.
What are Remote Learning Brain Breaks?
Brain Breaks are quick activities that last 3-5 minutes. They often involve movement and can also be called movement breaks.
Remote Learning Brain Breaks are important because kiddo’s, as a whole, are not used to learning remotely through a computer. Within a classroom, teachers are able to to engage with their student’s differently. And student’s can engage with other students.
Without these engagements due to social distancing, student’s are required to rely on their own sensory regulation to maintain focus…. a huge task that requires adult guidance.
Brain breaks can:
- increase your kiddo’s ability to focus, which can lead to increased learning
- help keep kids sensory systems regulate
- increase a kiddo’s level of alertness
- be used as a calming strategy!
They are also a great way for co-regulation, an adult guided activity with student’s to help maintain their sensory systems to be ready to learn.
When Should I Use a Brain Break?
Brain breaks can be used several times within a day. If your kiddo is younger, then you can expect to use them more often.
As a school-based Occupational Therapist, I always recommend brain breaks during transitions and especially after lunch/recess and gym!
Why would a kiddo need a brain break after lunch/recess? Lunch and recess can be very stimulating to a kiddo because it is not structured. Some kiddos need a brain break to signal to their brain that it is now time to learn.
Brain Breaks can be scheduled throughout a day. But they can also be used spontaneously when your kiddo has that glazed over look when they should be focusing!
Remote Learning Brain Breaks for Kids
These activities can be used for either a calming or alerting effect. And some can be used to accomplish both!
- Roll A Dice – Pick 6 movements and label each movement to a number one through six. Roll the dice and whichever number comes up, do that movement!
If you don’t have a dice, take 6 pieces of paper and write a number on each one until 1-6 are written. Shuffle the pieces of paper, and flip them over either spread out or in a pile. Pick one of the papers to see what number you got. Do that movement!
Alerting Movements: animal walks and cardio (running, jumping, crossing midline activities)
Calming Movements: stretching, yoga poses, deep breathing, crossing midline activities
- Crossing Midline Activities – These are one of my favorite brain breaks because it works both sides of the brain!
Learn more about Crossing Midline and how it can negatively impact your kiddo.
If your kiddo is just learning how to cross midline, have them spread their knees apart slightly and then tap each knee with both hands at the same time. Try to do this without moving your trunk!
Here are more Crossing Midline Activities that you can do
Alerting Movements– Increase the speed of the crossing the midline activity. Also, try standing with your feet shoulders width apart. Then jump crossing your feet so that your legs make an X. To make it harder, cross your arms the same time you cross your feet!
Calming Movements – Repeat pattern of crossing midline to a slow beat. While standing, bend over and hang your head and arms toward the floor. Sway your arms back and forth slowly.
- Simon Says – This is a great quick game to play and so versatile with what you can have them do! Mix in crossing midline activities, cardio, and brain tricks!
Alerting Movements– Use quick or silly motions like sticking out your tongue or making a silly face. Also try switching the motions quickly!
Calming Movements– Complete slow rhythmic movements. Try whispering what Simon Says!
- Follow the Leader – Similar to Simon Says but this time, your kiddo will follow EVERYTHING that you do! Take turns being the leader!
Alerting Movements: Quick full body movements will get the blood moving again! Try running in place, jumping, animal walks, silly faces, and say silly words.
Calming Movements: Use slow rhythmic movements. Try switching through yoga poses like downward dog, tree, or warrior pose. Also try having your kiddo follow you taking deep breaths with long exhales or tapping different body parts.
- Balance Games – These are great activities that get kiddos out of their chairs and doesn’t necessarily require a lot of space.
-Hop on one foot – make sure to use each foot at different times! One leg will be stronger and better than the other one
-Stand on one foot with your knee bent in front of you. Also try balancing while holding your bent leg behind you
-Place a paper plate on your head and walk around and try not to let it fall off. Need something harder? Balance a paper plate on your head while playing Freeze Dance!
Alerting Movements: Moving while trying to balance yourself or an object is more alerting than standing still! Try to see how many times you can hop on one foot before putting the other foot down!
Calming Movements: While holding a position, take a few deep breaths! If balancing on one foot is too hard, hold onto a table or chair with one hand.
- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast off – Count backwards starting at 5. After saying each number, squat down lower and lower. When you say blast off, jump up into the air and land back on your feet.
Alerting Movement: Do these quickly with little breaks in between!
Calming Movement: Complete the movements in slow motion! You will have to sustain a squatted position longer which will use more energy!
- Jumping Jacks – If your kiddo is just starting to learn jumping jacks, have them start standing with their feet together and their hands down by their side. Then have them jump and land with their feet apart and their arms together above their head! The key to mastering jumping jacks is to start slowly at first and then increase the speed!
Alerting Movement: Jumping jacks are alerting! If you want to make them harder, cross your legs and arms when you jump out! You can also try doing them to a beat!
- Table Top Push-ups- Place your hands on the table so that your fingers are almost touching. Take 2-3 steps away from the table. Lower your chest to the table so that your chest touches the table.
Why table top Push-ups? First, most kids can’t do regular push-ups.
Secondly, having your kiddo look at the table while doing them gives them something to focus on. As you lower your body toward the table, your eyes converge, or go in. When you push up, your eyes diverge, or move apart.
Having your eyes move together and apart when doing a task is a great brain break, especially for kids who are looking at a computer screen for a while.
Alerting Movement: When you lean through your straight arms and through your hands, this gives your body proprioception input. Proprioception is one of our senses that tells our brain where our body is in space.
Calming Movement: Have something to look at when lowering your body to a surface is very calming! Kids who are excited are usually looking around the room! Calm their eyes by giving them a place to look at!
- Movement Songs- Here is a great list of movement songs. Some of these songs can make your kiddo extra silly, while others are calming. Before choosing, think about what you want to get out of the brain break! You can always add some calming strategies if your kiddo is too silly at the end!
Learn these calming strategies all kids should learn….. and adults too!
If the songs on YouTube are too fast for your kiddo, slow it down! Click on the gear, or Screen Settings, in the lower right corner of the YouTube screen.
Then change the playback speed to .75 or lower! You will need to play around with it. Some songs can be played slower than others without being too distorted.
Alerting Movement: Pick a song that is fast tempo or one that has fast movements. Movements that move your head side to side, or upside down are alerting. Also twirling is a quick alerting action!
Calming Movement: Songs that have slow tempo’s are calming. Sometimes just playing calming background music can help keep your kiddo focused.
- Stretching- Stretching feels so good, yet it is often over looked! Stand tall with your arms over your head stretching for the sky! And then reach down to your toes, keeping your knees straight! Take a few deep breaths while holding the stretch.
Don’t worry too much if you can’t touch your toes. The focus is the stretch through the hamstrings, and back. Also hanging your head is a powerful sensory position! It’s also a great way to open your chest so that you can expand your lungs more!
Alerting and Calming Movement: The same activity can be calming and alerting!
- Shake it Out Brain Break- Stand up and shake out your different body parts separately and then all together! Separating the movements works on coordination but also gives your kiddo feedback on moving just one section. This can be really hard for some kiddos!
If you find that your kiddo just want to move everything at once, try moving just one body part while sitting down or laying on the floor!
Alerting Movement: Shake out all body parts quickly!
Calming Movement: Pick one body part to shake out at a time. You can go as little as just the tip of your pointer finger!
- Give Yourself a Hug and Squeeze your Limbs- Wrap your arms around your chest and have each hand grasp the opposite arm just below the shoulder. Count to 10 while hugging yourself!
Before you drop your arms from hugging yourself, use your hands to periodically squeeze your body moving from your shoulder down to your hands. Do the same for your legs starting at your thighs and moving to your toes! See if you can get 10 squeezes on each limb!
Calming Movement: Giving yourself a hug or squeeze is a calming activity. It’s a great activity that can be done in a group or during a lesson.
- Listen to Music and “Air play” the instrument- Who doesn’t love to air play music! Play these musical instruments and have your kiddo guess how it is played and the name of it!
Alerting Movement: Upbeat songs with fast tempos can increase focus, and give a sense of positivity and empowerment!
Calming Movement: Songs that have slower tempos can reduce stress by calming your mind and relaxing your muscles.
- Hand Beats- Create a rhythm by clapping, slapping a table, tapping your feet, or stomping! Need inspiration? Create the rhythm to “We Will We Will Rock You” or “We Like to Move It”.
Alerting Movement: Pick a quick tempo and use all body parts to create the sound!
Calming Movement: Create a slow tempo that uses only one body part at a time.
- Movement Cubes- Are a fun and easy way to get your kids moving! Roll the cube and do whichever movement is on top! Don’t want to put the cube together? Cut the pictures out and glue them onto an index card. Flip the index cards over and randomly pick a card.
Alerting Movement: Choose movements that include animal walks, or cardio movements to get your kiddos moving. Here is a free one at the time this post was written!
Calming Movement: Cubes that have stretching or breathing exercises work best.
- Walk Around Your Chair- Pick a way to walk and do it around your chair – on your toes or heals, stomping, marching, slow motion, walk backwards, run, walk heel to toe, take one step per side to form a square
Alerting Movement: Most of these activities fall within movements that increase alertness! Kids generally find walking around a chair silly. Once you pair it with a certain way of walking, it becomes sillier!
- Brain Tricks– Have your kiddo rub their head and tap their belly at the same time. Once they get it, switch instructions so that one hand taps their head and the other rubs their belly!
Another fun brain trick to try! Give a thumb’s up with one hand. With your other hand, point at your thumb with your pointer finger. Now switch back and forth alternating which hand is in the thumb’s up position and which hand is only pointing.
Alerting Movement: Brain tricks are fun ways to increase engagement with kiddo’s! They require you to move your body parts in different patterns, and it can be tricky to coordinate!
Why Brain Breaks are NOT the same as Free Time
Brain Breaks are quick activities that stimulate different areas of the brain. When you are focusing on a task, taking a quick break that focuses on something else helps increase your ability to focus.
Often kids will not choose activities that will stimulate their brain in different areas. For example, after working on writing a story, Molly decides to color a picture. Although writing a story, and coloring a picture are different tasks, they are working on the same parts of the brain.
Or you often will see that some kids view free time as a time to be silly. Yes, this will stimulate a different part of the brain. But being silly often raises your energy level and decreases your ability to focus.
Brain breaks are purposeful activities chosen to stimulate a different area of the brain to improve focus.
How do I know which Remote Learning Brain Break to choose?
When deciding what kind of brain break to use, think about the outcome that you want.
Does your kiddo need more energy? Then try a movement activity that requires bigger movements. The movement cube or 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, blast offs would be great!
Need a calming brain break? Stretching, and give your self a hug and then squeeze your limbs would be a great place to start!
Over time, your kiddo will tell you which one they like!
Grab Your List of Brain Break Activities Today!
If you found these activities helpful, please share them with other families or your kiddo’s teachers! United, we can best support all kids on their learning journeys.
Get your FREE copy of these brain breaks by clicking link below!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. I am sure that you are not the only one with the same question! I read all comments and would love to hear from you!
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Kelly is a licensed Occupational Therapist with 15 years of experience servicing school-aged children and Early Intervention. She is the founder of OT Perspective and a mom to 4 children. To learn more about her, check out her About Me page, here.