Quick, easy activities to help kids re-energise, refocus and give their brains a boost.
With kids at home, it’s important to build time into schedules for focused brain breaks. Maybe they need a movement break to get the wiggles out? Or a quiet moment to just stay still? Research shows that giving kids frequent brain breaks to reset their energy level improves their ability to focus, retain more, and stay on task.
Here are 50 of our favourite brain breaks for kids that increase productivity at home or in the classroom.
1. Take just 3 minutes.
Check out this 3 minute video from Sanford fit that shows brain breaks for kids in action. You’ll be inspired by the wiggles and giggles of the students as they crank up the energy and get ready to tackle the next challenge.
2. Practice “focus ball” breathing.
Walk your kids through the following exercise: Stand or sit with legs and feet together. Bring your palms together in front of your chest. Keep your fingertips together as you pull your palms apart, forming a ball with your fingers. Press your fingertips together until you feel the muscles in your hands and arms activating. See if you feel your core tighten too. Now close your eyes and as you breathe in, inflate your ball and as you breathe out, flatten the ball by pushing your palms together. (Then repeat these instructions for 60 seconds).
3. Try the old Ear-Nose Switcheroo.
This is a quick and easy challenge to reset the brain. Instruct kids to touch their left ear with their right hand and at the same time touch their nose with their left hand. Then have them switch their hands and touch their right ear with their left hand and their nose with their right hand. Switch back and forth a few times. Then have them close their eyes, take a deep breath, and blow it all out.
4. Stretch it out.
It’s never a good idea to spend too much time sitting in one position. Allow kids to take a break and bring some flexibility back into their spines. Have them stand with their feet shoulder-distance apart. Put their left hand on their hip and raise their right hand overhead. Lean to the left and stretch their arm as far as they can to the left. Repeat on the right side. Then stand tall and slowly roll down one vertebrae at a time until their hands reach the floor (or at least their shins). Have them take a deep breath then slowly roll back up. Repeat as necessary.
5. Take a cue from the stadium.
Here’s one for a group of kids—start the wave! Beginning at one end of the room, kids stand up and throw their arms overhead, bringing them back down as they return to their seat. Each row follows until you reach the other end of the room. Amp it up by encouraging your kids to tap their feet or tap their hands on their legs so that they are in constant motion!
6. 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!
7. Have an arsenal of activities at the ready.
There are so many great brain breaks for kids out there. Which is why we love this amazing free resource from Sanford fit that has easy-to-print cards with dozens of action-packed brain breaks designed to get your kids warmed up, moving, and cooled down.
8. Stir the pot.
Have kids visualize they are standing in front of an enormous cauldron. Inside the cauldron is an ooey-gooey pot of caramel. Take hold of a large stirrer and plunge it to the bottom of the pot. Slowly begin to stir in a clockwise direction. Have them use their whole body to help get a full range of motion in their wrists and shoulders. Instruct them to throw their hips into the action. After a minute or two, reverse the direction.
9. Make it rain.
Conjure up a rainstorm! Sitting or standing at a desk or table, have kids tap 1 finger on the desk, then 2, then 3, then 4, then their whole hand until you all feel like you’re in the middle of a deluge. Work your way backward from 5 down to 1 as the storm ebbs away.
10. Enjoy a golden moment.
Have kids sit quietly with their eyes closed. Ring a chime or gong. Have them listen carefully to the chime, feeling the vibration in their body as the sound reverberates and then slowly fades. Tell them to breathe slowly and deeply as they focus on the sound.
11. Chill out with this cross-body exercise.
Have kids stand tall and cross one leg in front of the other while pressing the outsides of their feet together. Now have them cross their arms over one another at the wrists. Clasp their hands and curl their arms into their chest. Take a few breaths, uncross and cross the opposite way for a few more breaths.
12. Or energize with these.
First, instruct kids to touch their left elbow to their right knee, then touch their right elbow to their left knee. Switch back and forth going slowly at first, building speed until they are going at a vigorous pace. Next, do some windmills by standing tall with their feet shoulder-width apart and their arms stretched out. Bend at the waist and touch their right hand to their left toes, then their left hand to their right toes. Switch back and forth.
13. Change up your lesson plans.
Incorporate movement into classroom activities to keep the learning fresh.
14. Make Xs and Os.
Walk kids through the following exercise: Sitting in a chair with your feet on the ground and legs together, curl your body into your lap, folding yourself into a tiny O shape. Next, open your arms and legs wide, forming an X shape with your body. Pull back into an O shape, then back out to an X shape. Repeat three times.
15. Energize in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
Get hearts pumping with a quick sequence of exercises. Call out 5 actions for your students to do as quickly as they can. For instance, 5 jumping jacks, 4 pushups, 3 situps, 2 squat jumps, and 1 tree pose.
16. Practice another language.
Teach your kids the alphabet in Sign Language. Use brain breaks to practice by singing the ABCs while signing the letters. Then practice vocabulary words by spelling them out loud while signing the letters.
17. Take a cruise on an imaginary skateboard.
Have your kids line up next to a wall and place one hand on the wall. Tell them to plant the foot closest to the wall and swing the other leg, as if pushing off the ground on a skateboard. Start slowly, with tiny swings, moving up to power pushes. Repeat on the other side.
18. Do the partner shuffle.
Have kids pair up and face their partners. Instruct them to clap their right hands together while at the same time touching their left toes together. Switch to clapping left hands together and touching right toes together. Have them continue going until they can smoothly switch back and forth. Try doing it as quickly as they can and then as slowly as they can.
19. Incorporate yoga into your routine.
Teaching kids mindfulness activities like yoga, will provide benefits that span a lifetime. This awesome free resource from Sanford fit makes incorporating yoga breaks easy with 22 printable cards, each with pictures and descriptions of 4 yoga poses. And don’t worry—it’s not a huge time commitment. The sequence on each card is designed to take only 3-5 minutes. To see it in action, watch a demo here.
20. Work on concentration.
This is a great activity for small groups! Line kids up in a single file line. Starting at the beginning of the line, have the first kid and second kid face one another with their arms bent at the elbows and palms facing in. Keeping their eyes locked, kids will try to clap simultaneously, making a single sound. After their attempt, the second kid will turn, lock eyes with the third kid and try to clap simultaneously. And so on down the line. It sounds simple, but it actually takes a great deal of concentration!
21. Break out the hot hands.
This is a good break when you sense a weariness in the air. Have kids rub their hands together vigorously until they warm up. Tell them to close their eyes and place their hands over their eyes. Instruct them to breathe deeply as they clear their mind and refocus.
22. Take a break to groove.
Music is a great way to reset the mood in a room and raise the energy level. Put on a fun song and have a 30-second freestyle dance party.
23. Or take it to the next level.
Teach your kids the steps to popular dances such as the Cha-Cha Slide, the Macarena, or the Kidz Bop Shuffle.
24. Try some facial gymnastics.
Have kids get their silly on for 30 seconds. Tell them to wiggle their eyebrows up and down as fast as they can. Then try to raise one eyebrow at a time. Then switch back and forth between a smile and frown. Throw a sneer or two in for good measure.
25. Open your heart.
We spend so much of our day hunched forward. Have kids take a break to open their chest and breathe deeply.
26. Take a doodle break.
According to researcher Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, downtime is essential for brain health. Kids need time for their growing brains to integrate and process the vast amount of information they receive each day. In other words, it is actually beneficial to give our kids time to allow their minds to wander. Try this: Set a timer for 3-5 minutes and let kids silently doodle with pencil and paper or a dry erase board and marker while soft, calming music plays in the background.
27. Do nothing for two minutes.
Never underestimate the power of stillness. When the energy gets a little ramped up and it’s time for the entire class to take a pause, have them drop everything and glue their eyes to the screen as you show this countdown. The gentle lulling of the waves and the sight of the sun sparkling off the water will reset their nervous system in a jiffy.
28. Call for a little call and response.
Pep things up with a little call and response clapping. It’s simple to do and is often used in the classroom to get students’ attention. Simply clap out a pattern that your kids will repeat back to you. Switch out the pattern a few times until everyone is focused and engaged. Alternatively, try a vocal call and response. Sing out a few riffs and have kids echo the tune back to you.
29. Take a comedy break.
Laughter is a great release when the atmosphere is feeling a little intense. Show a funny video clip or have kids volunteer to tell a joke or pose a few silly riddles.
30. Color yourself mellow.
Even grown-ups have picked up on the coloring craze as an excellent way to calm down and zone out. Put on some nice mellow background music, set a timer and pass out some of these free mandala coloring pages for kids to color.
31. Make a brain break spinner.
One way to make sure brain breaks for kids are effective is to change up activities. Check out this step-by-step video from Sanford fit that shows you how to make your own Wheel of Fortune-type game to help you your variety of brain breaks!
32. Set aside a little chat time.
Give kids time to do what they really want to do: Chat! Set a timer and let them mingle and chat—video chat is a great option too! This time is a nice release after a sustained period of focus and as a bonus, it’s a great way for kids to work on their social skills.
33. Ramp up with a round of cherry pickers.
This easy activity will get your students’ hearts pumping and give their brains a boost. Have them jump up off the ground, then down to the floor into a pushup position. From there, instruct them to hop their feet up into a frog position, then pop up to a standing position.
34. Clap on, clap off.
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. Or follow along with this fun video.
35. Skip it out.
When the energy is fading and kids need to get their blood flowing, put on a peppy song and pull out the imaginary jump ropes. Have kids skip or jump rope in place until the song ends.
36. Spread your wings (in slow motion).
Walk your kids through this winged movement: Sit cross-legged on the floor. Stretch your arms down by your sides with your palms facing inward toward your body. Slowly raise both arms while rotating hands forward. When your arms reach shoulder level your hands should be facing forward. Continue raising arms, slowly rotating palms so that by the time hands are overhead, palms are facing each other. Slowly lower arms repeating the rotation (palms facing each other, palms facing forward, palms facing sides) until they are once again resting at your sides. As you raise and lower your arms, stretch them as long as you can, as if you are scraping the sides of the room and the ceiling. Repeat slowly three times, breathing deeply.
37. Vote with your body.
This fun activity is an active community builder. Kids raise their heart rates while getting to know one another a little better!
38. Make like a blender.
Tell kids it’s time to make fruit smoothies. Ask them to pretend they are in a blender and they are strawberries (or blueberries or bananas, etc.). Dramatically pour orange juice or yogurt into the air in front of you. Tell kids when you flip the switch that they need to wiggle and jiggle (separately, not together) until they are each individually blended up. Start with a slow speed, moving up to medium speed, fast speed and finally turbo speed.
39. Toss a hot potato.
This is another of our favorite brain breaks for kids, and great for small groups of 4-6 kids. Have an inflatable beach ball, a large bean bag, or Nerf ball available for each group. Kids can stand next to their desks or in a circle, but they must keep one foot planted at all times. Have each group start passing their object around. Set a time limit that incorporates a learning concept such as counting by twos to 100 or singing the alphabet song from A to Z. Play a few rounds with different tasks.
40. Celebrate with a silent cheer.
This activity is perfect for the end of an activity or a sustained amount of work time. Let kids stand up and silently cheer and gesture in celebration.
41. Take a two-minute rock, paper, scissors break.
Tap into an old classic and let kids pair up for a few rounds of roshambo. The interaction is a nice break and gives kids a chance to work socially with their peers.
42. Play House, Tree, Rock.
This one is best played in the classroom, but could be adapted for a larger family. Have kids slowly mingle around. When you ring a chime, students need to form groups of 3. Each group needs to have a house, a tree, and a rock. The student who is the house raises their hands overhead in a triangular shape with fingertips touching. The tree stands tall with arms stretched upward like the branches of a tree. The rock squats down with their arms tucked around their knees. Play a few rounds until different groups of students have had a chance to be together.
43. Build a sensory pathway.
These color-coded posters will take your kids through a different set of tasks, to help them move, recharge and set their mood! Get the free set of posters from Sanford fit here.
44. Hit the wall.
Pushing against a solid object is a good way to displace extra energy from your body. Have kids stand facing a wall with their arms stretched out in front of them, palms on the surface of the wall. Push the wall away with all their strength for a count of ten. Relax for five seconds then push again. Other activities they can do at the wall include calf stretches and wall push-ups.
45. Try a cat/cow pose.
Have kids start on all fours and then give them the following instructions to complete the cat/cow yoga pose: Place your shoulders over your wrists and hips over your knees. Arch your back to the sky and tuck in the tailbone. Let your head fall between your arms. From there, sink the belly towards the ground, and lift the chest and chin. Gently alternate between the two poses while breathing deeply.
46. Teach your kids clapping games.
Many of us grew up playing clapping games like Miss Mary Mac and Say, Say My Playmate. Pass on the tradition to your kids with these fun and easy to follow videos. They’re super fun and a welcome break after a period of hard work.
47. For advanced clappers, try Boom Snap Clap.
This super fun clapping game is like a tongue twister for your brain! Check it out here.
48. 3, 2, 1 blastoff!
Instruct kids to stand and then squat down with their hands on the ground in front of them. All together, count down 3, 2, 1. When you get to zero, they should push up like a rocket, jumping as high as they can—letting all of their energy burst from their center.
49. Float with jellyfish.
When you really need to take the energy in your room down a notch, turn off the lights, set a timer, and put on this amazing video. Kids will find themselves under the brilliant blue sea in the middle of a swarm of jellyfish. They’ll be mesmerized by the slow, fluid motions and lulled into calmness by the soothing music.
50. Quick as a snap, wink.
This is a quick, easy refocusing activity. Tell kids to snap their left fingers while they wink their right eye. Switch to snapping their right fingers while winking their left eye. This activity is particularly effective for younger learners who may find both activities challenging.
What brain breaks for kids do you love?