The Importance of Movement Breaks
When children engage in a movement break, blood flow and blood pressure increase in the body, including the brain. This increased blood flow helps to activate the systems of the brain related to attention, planning, memory, and processing of information. This leads to better learning. Several research studies also confirm this, showing that children who move perform better overall in math and reading and are able to maintain attention more effectively.
Easy Ways To Implement Movement Breaks In The Classroom
Movement breaks in the classroom can be easily implemented into the established routine. These breaks generally last between five and ten minutes, depending upon the needs of the students. For example, perhaps most students seem to need breaks in the afternoon versus the morning. A longer break could be incorporated in the afternoon and possibly two shorter ones in the morning. Ultimately, the classroom teacher can use discretion and alter the breaks based upon individual needs. Below, we have included a list of easy to implement activities for movement breaks in the classroom.
Cross-lateral movement activities
When children cross the midline, it helps both sides of the brain connect, which leads to more positive learning outcomes because all parts of the brain are working together more effectively. One cross-lateral activity is to have students stand and place their right hand across their body to touch their left knee, and then do the same with their left hand to right knee. Have them march while they do this several times. Another idea is to incorporate a small ball and have children pair up. Have them toss the ball to their partner with their left hand to their partner’s right hand and vice versa.
If possible, setting up three to four designated sensory stations in the classroom is a way to normalize movement breaks and integrate them into the students’ routine. Students can be split into groups and take turns at each station, or if a single student appears to be needing a break, they can utilize a station and then return to their desk. Some ideas for sensory stations include a mini trampoline, bouncing on a therapy or exercise ball, wall or chair push-ups, rocking chair or stool, jumping jacks, using a resistance or therapy band to complete arm stretches, etc. Consultation with the school occupational therapist is recommended and they may have specific recommendations for children who are receiving services.
Complete Class Work in Different Positions
Sometimes, classwork and movement can be combined as a way to promote learning. When possible, allow students to complete class work in various positions. For example, allow them to stand, use a bean bag chair, use a wobble stool or rocking stool, let them lean up against the wall, etc. Simply changing positions can increase blood flow to the brain and allow for improved processing.
Playing a game of musical chairs is a great way to offer movement plus sound/music, which can even further promote enhanced cognitive function. Split the children into two to three groups to play. Once a child is “out” of the game, they can stand on the side and continue to watch while tapping their feet to the beat of the music. Be explicit with these instructions before the game begins. Classical music is found to positively impact learning, so this is a music choice to consider.
Find It Game
This game is a way to add movement to the classroom routine while also promoting language skills. In this game, the teacher calls out a descriptor for the students to find and the children must move around the classroom to locate a corresponding object. Some examples might include: “find an object that starts with the letter B,” “find an object made of metal,” or “find an object that has the color black on it.”
Brain Break Card Basket
Brain break cards are a fun, creative way to offer movement breaks to children in the classroom. In our shop, we offer several types of brain break cards with several different themes and ideas. These cards are diverse and are based upon themes, such as dinosaurs, insects, pirates, etc. Teachers could place a basket with a set of cards in it and rotate the cards out to accompany the classroom theme throughout the year. This way, the activities are always new and exciting for the children and offer them a variety of ways to practice movement.
Yoga and Mindfulness Activities
Yoga and mindfulness activities offer children a way to become more in tune with their bodies and their arousal levels, which can in turn help them with success in the classroom. Yoga is also an effective way for children to stretch their bodies and move their muscles during a movement break. In our shop, you will find many types of yoga activity cards. Again, they are based on themes, making it simple to incorporate into classroom learning. Mindfulness activities, such as deep breathing, can accompanied with yoga activities. For example, children can learn about different breathing techniques and rate how this affects their body or state of arousal. Pink Oatmeal also offers a free mindful breathing printable that can be downloaded in the freebie library to get you started with deep breathing ideas.
Although Pink Oatmeal is an advocate for screen free movement as kids get so many screens during the day, Go Noodle and MeMoves are two screen based movement options. Go Noodle is a free website and app that offers movement and mindfulness videos for children. It is geared towards children in the classroom setting. The videos typically involve movement, dances, and music to get children up and moving. The mindfulness videos provide a visual to help children learn skills such as deep breathing, calming the body down, and social skills such has having a positive attitude. Learn more about this program by clicking here. MeMoves is a program focused on increasing attention and helping children calm their bodies. The program has children complete various “body puzzles” and engages the auditory, visual, and motor planning parts of the brain at the same time. More information on MeMoves can be found at their website.
Free Movement Resources
Since movement in the classroom is so important to Pink Oatmeal, free movement resources are a must. Visit the Pink Oatmeal freebie library to gain access to free movement resources that are perfect to use in the classroom!
Movement Breaks In The Classroom For Success
In order for children to be successful in the classroom, they must be in a state that allows them to process information, maintain attention, and engage in the learning activities simultaneously. Most children are able to do this for some time period, but it isn’t long before these demands become more than the brain can handle at one given time. By incorporating movement breaks in the classroom, children are given the opportunity to move their bodies, change positions, and utilize different parts of their brain. This is all crucial for effective learning to take place. We hope that this article highlighted the importance of incorporating movement breaks into the classroom and gave you some ideas to get started on implementing these breaks into your routine.