The Importance of Brain Breaks

“Brain breaks” are pretty self-explanatory. They are breaks that our brains need in order to be most productive. Anytime we are learning or engaging in any cognitive task that requires brain power, our brains need opportunities to rest. These breaks are especially important for children and adolescents whose brains are not only learning, but also growing and developing. While the duration and frequency of breaks will depend on the task as well as the individual, there are some general rules of thumb to follow. The following tips can be applied to the classroom, the tutoring session, homework time, and any other learning experience.

1. Be mindful of timing

Breaks should be scheduled at approximately consistent intervals during periods of cognitive workload. However, it is important to schedule breaks so that the flow of an activity is not disrupted and students’ momentum stays intact. In the classroom, this can be in between lessons/periods/activities. At home, find your child’s individual stamina threshold and have them set a timer to make sure they take a break once they’ve hit their max. While older children and adults will have increased work stamina, it’s still important that their brains get rest, too.

2. Incorporate movement

Brains love blood flow. Anything that involves light to moderate movement is great for helping brains recharge for the next period of learning. For students who are restless or need to get wiggles out, have them try an upbeat dance video or some jumping jacks. For students who need centering, a few minutes of yoga will be more helpful.

3. Avoid screens

Especially if work is on the screen, the best brain breaks are off screen. Screen fatigue is very real, and while extra screen time probably won’t kill your kid’s brain cells, it will fatigue their eyes after long enough. If their learning is off-screen, and a few minutes of mindless scrolling will help them get ready for the next segment of learning, that’s okay. But for screen-based activities, they should be getting outdoors, moving their bodies somehow, or otherwise engaging in unplugged restorative activities periodically.

4. Use music and/or meditation

Music is an incredibly effective energizer. It has the cognitive power to refresh our brain cells and get our focus back on track. Meditation is also a great option, and promotes stress reduction and heart rate regulation, both of which improve our mental state and prepare us to tackle more work.

5. Teach students how to self-monitor

The goal should be for students to eventually know and be able to apply all these guidelines to their own learning. When coming up with a plan for your child’s learning breaks, tell them exactly why they should be taking breaks and the do’s and don’ts of their breaks, using the tips above. Eventually, they will gain the self-awareness to determine when they need a break on their own, and the initiative to get back to work when it’s time.

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