Do you ever find yourself saying, “I just need a break!”? I know I do. Sometimes life gets overwhelming and I feel like I can’t focus on any of it because there’s just too much going on. Managing demanding careers, kids’ activities, pets, school work, housework, yard work, exercise, volunteering, and finding downtime is…a lot! Oh, and then there’s the deluge of information that’s always available on television or my smartphone. It’s no wonder focus is difficult some days!
We live in a fast-paced society, and that can be felt in the workplace and in the classroom, as well as during homework time. Many children feel like saying “I just need a break!” too. Young learners often struggle to stay focused. So how can we help them?
A break from the daily grind sounds really nice, and thankfully it’s not unreasonable to take one. Short breaks are feasible, pretty easy to accomplish, and they’re actually really effective. Research shows that taking routine, short breaks is beneficial for sharper focus, stress-reduction, and increased productivity.
You may have heard of the term “brain breaks,” as many teachers strive to implement them in their classrooms daily. Brain breaks are short periods of time when we take a step away from the routine work we are doing. They are quick and effective ways to energize and refresh our thinking. Using brain breaks with your children provides them with opportunities to develop their creativity through kinesthetic activities. They also boost brain function!
So if you’re feeling like your child needs a break during dreaded homework time, use these short brain breaks to help get your child refocused before getting back to work.
- Dance Party: Put on some fun music and dance!
- Keep It Up: Get a beach ball and keep it from hitting the ground. Add a second ball to make it even more fun.
- Jump Counting: Have your child count while jumping with each count. Challenge them by counting by twos, fives, or tens.
- Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes: Use a movement song like this one to get your child moving. For added fun, see how fast you can go.
- Would You Rather: Have your child answer a “would you rather” question and move to a specific part of the room to demonstrate their answer. Ask them to explain why they chose their answer.
- Freeze Dance: This is similar to the Dance Party brain break, but this one incorporates listening skills. When the music stops, your child must freeze and hold their position until the music begins again.
- Physical Challenges: Engage your child in the classic challenge of rubbing their belly and patting their head at the same time. Another version is to try to grab your nose with your left hand and grab your left ear with your right hand. Switch as fast as you can.
- Race in Place: Have your child stand up and run in place. Then, on your signal, your child will get back to work.
- Simon Says: Play this oldie but goodie to see how well your child can follow specific directions… but only if Simon Says!
- Rock, Paper, Scissors: Teach your child to play this fun, quick game and see who wins! Play best out of three to crown a champion.
For another approach to brain breaks, try these options:
- Drawing or coloring: Free drawing and coloring is a great way to refocus and harness your child’s creativity.
- Mental math: Give your child a sequence of instructions to follow while doing math in their head.
- Invisible pictures: Have your child draw an invisible picture in the air and let you guess what it is.
- Story starters:Tell the beginning of a story for one minute and let your child finish the story on their own.
Brain breaks are a simple technique that only take 5-10 minutes, but they have lasting effects such as a focused, productive, and (most importantly) happy child! By using them, you’ll take the stress out of homework time…and find yourself and your child giggling along the way.
By Caitlin Hardeman, former third through sixth grade teacher specializing in English Language Arts.