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November 8, 2020

Brain Breaks: You need it more than you think!

If you sit at a desk most of the day, you know that sometimes you have to get up and move.

You may think it’s an indulgence to step away, but these brief breaks come with a surprising benefits. You’re more productive when you return.

The same goes for your child.

We’ve spent a lot of time in front of computer screens recently, Zooming to lessons, clubs, meetings and activities that we used to attend in person. Even students who have returned to school on campus may work on computers more than they used to, as teachers connect them with classmates who stayed at home, take them on digital  field trips or arrange virtual visits with guest speakers.

With so much sitting, it’s easy to start zoning out. Although it may seem counterintuitive, stepping away from your desk periodically can make you better in school or better in business.

Known in schools as “brain breaks,” these short opportunities for movement increase students’ time on task in the classroom. Brain breaks can improve comprehension and concentration, making it easier to focus when you return to your work.

So whether your child is learning at home or remotely—or whether you are zoned out from too many Microsoft Teams meetings—here are some ideas to get your blood flowing again and send more oxygen to your brain.

At school:

Corbett Prep builds its curriculum around brain-based learning, and teachers draw from many strategies to engage students with different learning styles. In addition to hands-on lessons that encourage movement, teachers also incorporate brain breaks throughout the school day.

Exercises, games, dances and songs all provide the chance to stand up and move inside the classroom. Jumping jacks, jogging in place and mountain climbers require little room and perk up sleepy learners quickly. From their desks, students can join in the “wave,” jumping to their feet when the wave comes their way as they would in a stadium. “Silly Sports and Goofy Games,” part of Kagan Cooperative Learning, offers dozens of ideas for games involving balance, challenges or creativity that raise energy levels or calm a class. The “Silly Sports” games, which Corbett Prep teachers have used in classes and CAMP IDS for years, also build camaraderie in a class as everyone has fun together.

Music is also a great motivator. Florida Virtual School teachers shared in a blog post some of their favorite videos, especially for younger students. Koo Koo Kanga Roo, Jack Hartmann and Badanamu have YouTube channels with catchy songs that make for lively brain breaks, according to FVS. Popular songs such as the Macarena and Cha Cha Slide also work well by mixing music and easy dance moves. At Corbett Prep, middle school students love taking a dance break in Spanish class to Shakira’s “Waka Waka (Esto es Africa).”

At home:

A balanced remote learning schedule likely will have brain breaks scattered through the day. During periods when students work independently, parents may want to step in with their own ideas if they notice focus lagging.

Simple stretches or yoga poses such as downward dog, cat-cow or tree pose feel amazing after sitting for a long time. Items you already own can inspire more active breaks. A mini-trampoline, balance board, jump rope, hula hoop, bean bags or leftover birthday balloons are perfect places to start. Even playing a handheld game like “Bop It” can turn around energy levels in a short time.

The online resource GoNoodle, popular with educators, created “Good Energy at Home” in the spring. It’s a roundup of energizers and stress busters for families doing remote learning. Free videos and downloadable content are available on GoNoodle’s website and mobile apps.

Have time for a longer break? Play outside during recess or, if you’re at home, take a half hour for a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood, a game in the backyard or maybe even a splash in the pool. Research has shown that fidgeting increases before recess and decreases afterward. So leave your desk and your work behind for a little bit. It’s good for you!

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