As an educator, you’re no stranger to squirmy, restless, or sluggish children. When this energy permeates throughout your classroom, it may be time for a movement break.
Movement can break up long periods of academic work in fun ways. They can help your students balance their energy levels (whether they need less or more energy) and return to class ready to focus.
Here are some ideas for fun and mindful movement breaks you can use in your classroom.
What Are Movement Breaks?
Movement breaks are a type of “brain break” that is intentionally designed to help your students rest their thinking brains and get out any pent-up energy. There are many different types of brain breaks, but movement can be especially helpful because exercise increases blood flow to the brain.
It’s also difficult for many adults to sit still for long periods of time – and even harder for children! Movement breaks allow students to stand up, stretch, and move their bodies, but in a way that doesn’t derail the task at hand.
When you plan what activity to use during a movement break, keep your students’ energy levels in mind. Are they restless and hyperactive? Try a calming movement break. Do they seem sluggish or tired? Use an energizing movement break.
Ideally, students should return from movement breaks focused and ready to get back to work.
How long should movement breaks be?
You can time your movement breaks based on what your students need at the moment. Make sure they don’t go on for too long, or your class could become derailed and they could lose focus. Keep an eye on your students’ energy levels, and stop when it seems just right. Movement breaks as short as 2 or 3 minutes can be very helpful in centering your class.
It might be a good idea to set a timer for your brain breaks, so that your students know when it’s time to get back to work.
4 Movement Breaks for Kids
At Calm Classroom, we incorporate mindful movement breaks into our lessons. Mindful movement can be a great way to both rebalance classroom energy as well as teach your students how to practice mindfulness.
Here are 4 movement breaks for kids that you can try with your students.
We often use this activity with younger students, but it can be great for older kids as well.
Have your students sit in a circle, either in chairs or on the floor. The aim of this movement break is to pass the ball between students without dropping it. Remind your students that for this to happen successfully, everyone needs to be paying close attention.
Roll or throw the ball to one student who is paying attention to you. That student can pass the ball to any other student they choose, as long as they’re paying attention. If the other student has lost focus and is not paying attention, then they may not catch the ball. They can’t use any movements or words to get another student’s attention – this is a silent exercise.
This can be a calming movement break (sitting on the floor and rolling the ball) or an energizing one (sitting in chairs or standing and passing the ball quickly).
Sitting at a desk for many hours can put strain on the body. You can lead your class in mindful stretching (or somatic stretching) exercises during a movement break to help them release any tension.
Before you start stretching, tell your students that stretches should feel good, and that they should never hurt. If you instruct them to stretch in a certain way, and it hurts for them, then they have permission in advance to stop.
This means that they need to pay close attention to how each stretch feels in their bodies while doing them. Guide them to complete stretches slowly and gently.
There are many different stretching exercises you can use in your classroom, including hand stretches (especially after long writing assignments) and neck stretches.
A dance break can be a wonderful and fun way to energize a sluggish and burnt-out class.
Play a popular, upbeat song that you know your students will enjoy, and allow them to dance it out. This can help hyperactive students get out extra energy, and can provide energy to students who are feeling tired.
Make sure that you model great dance moves for your class, too!
Children’s yoga is another way to incorporate some bits of movement into your school day. If one is available to you, it may be a good idea to invite a yoga or PE teacher to instruct your students in yoga. But there are simple yoga exercises that you can guide your class in, too.
Yoga is similar to stretching, but uses more specific physical poses. Yoga poses can also be strengthening or balancing on top of increasing flexibility.
One popular yoga pose for kids is the tree pose. Guide your students to balance on one leg, with their opposite foot resting on their ankle, calf, or thigh (never on their knee). They can bring their hands together at their heart, or raise their arms in the air like tree branches.
Get More Movement Breaks and Mindfulness Ideas with Calm Classroom
Calm Classroom is one of the nation’s largest providers of school-based mindfulness programming. Our trauma-informed curriculum is filled with more creative ideas and lessons that you can use during brain breaks or SEL. All of our lessons are scripted and ready to use.