Brain breaks are planned mental breaks or movement activities designed to get more blood and oxygen moving to the brain. That boost can give kids an advantage in learning and creativity. Why? According to a 2021 study from the National Institutes of Health, researchers discovered that our brains may replay compressed memories of learning new skills when we rest. Using planned breaks as part of a learning routine may be a powerful tool that can help kids learn skills faster.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), meditation and relaxation have physical benefits as they calm the nervous system and decrease stress hormones. Brain breaks that are active, movement-based activities can promote increased oxygen to the heart and lungs, which encourages blood flow throughout the body. Numerous studies have also shown that bouts of physical activity can keep children on-task, focused, and offer other health benefits like:

We talked to Dr. Kristen Ford, an expert in health and physical education at Concordia College and co-founder of SchoolsAlive! alongside Dr. Jenny Linker, professor of physical education at North Dakota State University, about how we can use brain breaks to give our minds and bodies a much-needed energy bump.

“Brain breaks invigorate the body and mind. Even just five minutes will increase your heart rate, get the blood flowing, and promote mental focus. When people move, their heart rate increases, and it gets their blood flowing. This movement encourages more oxygen to travel to the brain and helps students learn because they are more alert, able to focus, and ready to learn,” says Ford.

Incorporating educational content into your brain boosts is a great way to help your child activate their mind even more. Adding content into your breaks can be as easy as playing trivia with class material or doing a jumping jack for every answer your child gives. According to Dr. Ford, even walking around or marching in place can help increase your child’s heart rate and boost their brains and energy levels.

Ready to get started for yourself? Try one of these brain break activities at break time to improve focus, boost the brain, and recharge the body's energy:

  1. Do nothing for two minutes. Don’t underestimate the power of stillness for your mental well-being. Drop everything for a couple of minutes to just sit and relax. Set a timer and let your worries fade away for a couple of minutes.
  2. Make time for a feelings check-in. Our feelings are always changing, and that’s okay! Set reminders to have periodic check-ins throughout the day and use this chart to record how your emotions change! This is also a great printable to practice your feelings and emotions vocab! 
    Kids using the Feelings and Emotions Chart to track their moods

  3. Enjoy a mo‘mint’ to yourself. Studies suggest peppermint increases your mental and physical alertness. Enjoy peppermint candy or gum, take a whiff of peppermint oil, or even take a brain break to brush your teeth. Come back to your work refreshed and ready to go.
  4. Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness comes in many forms ­­­─ meditation, listening to music, or getting up to enjoy a snack. Use our Mindful Moments cards for easy ways to practice mindfulness at home. Taking the time to act intentionally helps your mind recharge and encourages you to indulge in small moments during your day. For more ideas on ways to practice mindfulness, click here.
    Feature Image of the Mindful Moments Cards

  5. Warm hand warm-ups. Can you sense the afternoon slump on its way? Stop it in its tracks with this easy activity to recharge your mind. Have kids rub their hands together until their hands feel warm, then close their eyes and place their hands over their eyes. Take deep breaths as you recharge.
  6. Try an ASMR video. Find short clips based on the kids' interests from a kid-friendly or adult-supervised streaming channel. The sensations that can occur from ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) can be naturally soothing and mimic responses that newborns experience when being soothed by a caregiver. There are endless video possibilities, from underwater sounds to soap cutting and slime noises!
  7. Check out this movement activity.
    Different sides of each dice with movement activities to go with each number

  8. Act it out. Give kids different scenarios to act out. How many can they do in 3 minutes? Start with an activity like driving a car, grocery shopping, or blowing bubbles.
  9. Try the three-move recharge!
    List of three movement activities - arm circles, wiggle in place, and side stretches

  10. Use our fitBoost activity to get your body moving! Get active for a few minutes and get the family in on the fun. Pair the activity with our fitBoost cards, all you need is a quick break to get your move on before you get back to your day.
    Image of computer with exercise boost moves

  11. Get up and stretch out. Take some time to stretch and your body will thank you. Hop up from your desk and touch your toes or do a quick yoga flow. Getting the blood moving in your body encourages more oxygen to your brain and increases your ability to focus.
  12. Take a dance break. Put on your favorite song or playlist and dance it out. Even just a few minutes to listen to a song and get some wiggles out will encourage blood flow in your body and motivate your mood. Looking for a kid-friendly playlist? Check out our fit Music Playlist for some high-energy songs that encourage healthy choices!
  13. Practice that positive self-talk. Grab a crayon or colored pencil and let your creativity flow while practicing your positive self-talk! These free coloring pages are full of affirmations to add a little extra positivity to your room. Hang them on the wall or put them on the fridge when your kiddos are done!
    Positive Self-Talk Coloring Pages with affirmations like I can do hard things and I believe in me

  14. Make a brain break spinner. One way to make sure educational brain breaks are effective is to change up activities. Check out this step-by-step video to learn more about how to make your own to help you add variety to brain breaks!
  15. Clap on, clap off. This activity is a fun way to get your kids’ minds focused quickly. When you say “clap on,” kids clap their hands vigorously together. When you say “clap off,” they stop as quickly as they can and freeze.
  16. Try some facial gymnastics!
    Facial Gymnastics activity

  17. Cardio desk drumming. This is one of the best ways to keep kids at their desks and it can be easily done in the car, too! Use your hands or markers as your drumsticks and follow along with one of our favorite teachers that shows a simple, steady drumming routine for Believer.
  18. Puzzle time! Give your kids a fun activity sheet, like this printable word puzzle, and let them crack the codes! 
  19. Create a Take a Break Basket. Give your kids the power of choice and have them create their own Take a Break Basket. Fill it with coloring pages, chapter books, or challenge cards and let the kids choose how they want to spend their brain break. If you need some coloring inspiration, we’ve got you covered with our Positive Self-Talk Coloring Pages.
    A built Take a Break Basket filled with activities like Tic Tac Toe and coloring

  20. Just jump! Sometimes kids just need to bounce their energy out. Have them pretend they are bouncing on a mini-trampoline (this will keep their movement on a vertical plane instead of all over the room) and give them a couple of minutes to let loose!
  21. Make it rain. Conjure up a rainstorm with our Brain Rain Relaxation Activity! It’s a great, equipment-free activity to use when your kids need to relax. All you need are your hands and some imagination!
  22. Grab a dice and chat. 
    Affirmations assigned to each number on a dice
  23. Rub your belly and pat your head. This is a classic activity that’s a little trickier than you think! Encourage your kids to try it out and don’t forget to switch hands or directions for some an extra challenge.
  24. Practice a breathing exercise. Different kinds of breathing can help you and your kids relax and become mindful of your choices. Making healthy choices is as easy as pausing to take a deep breath!
  25. Tongue twister time! Tongue twisters are a great way to build literacy skills and have fun doing it. Try it together as a group! Here's one of our favorites:
    Tongue Twister - He threw three free throws

  26. Sensory bin fun! This is a great activity for kids with sensory needs. Use something like rice or dried beans in large buckets, then fill it with special items like scoops, spoons, measuring cups, small toys, or even funnels. Change out the special items to keep it fresh and fun!
  27. Enjoy a mindfulness meditation. This awesome guided meditation can help you practice being mindful or give you a moment of peace.
    Animated child waves at viewer

  28. Math dice. Take two large foam dice and have kids roll them to solve math problems. For example, one kid rolls a 6 and another rolls a 3. Ask them to work together, using addition, to solve for the correct answer of 9.
  29. Take a trip through the Sensory Path! These color-coded posters are perfect for a hallway movement break or a sensory path in your classroom. This free poster set will take your kids through a different set of tasks to help them move their bodies, recharge their minds, think about their food and drink choices, and motivate their mood!
    Wellness Way Sensory Path Printables flatlay

  30. Yoga break! Have kids pull one card from this free Single Yoga Pose deck and lead the other kids through the movement break for 3 minutes.
  31. Play a round of Animal Charades.
    Animal Charades activity - acting out animal sounds and movements

Regardless of which brain break you choose, these planned breaks can help improve focus, reduce boredom, and restore energy to resume learning tasks. To make the most of the breaks, try planning them out for the day as part of your transitions between subjects or activities, as part of content review or as an after-school refresher. Helping kids have the energy and focus they need to learn is vital to being creative and staying healthy. Learning doesn’t stop when you take a brain break, the brain is just working and learning in a different way!

Ready for More? You Might Also Like:

fit Workout: Yoga Flow
Every Day Dance Routine Printable
The Art of Recharging Video