On average, a five-year-old child can focus on a task for anywhere between 5 and 20 minutes.
Of course, it depends on the child’s ability to concentrate as well as the task itself- a child will be able to concentrate better and longer on a familiar, enjoyable task as opposed to a new, challenging one.
As a teacher, I could see when my little students were losing focus. Their eyes were beginning to measure the room up and down, they started moving or poking their neighbour. You know, the usual.
That’s when I knew that it was time for a brain break activity.
I’ve been using brain breaks for kids in my kindergarten groups as well as at home with my own child. These brain break activities are a fantastic way of relaxing the mind thus boosting cognitive function and maximizing the information retained by the brain.
But before I tell you the brain break games that I used in my classroom as well as at home, let’s take see exactly what these activities are and their benefits.
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What are Brain Breaks?
A brain break, as the name suggests, is a short respite from an activity that the child was focusing on. They are generally between 5 and 10 minutes long, just enough time to allow the brain to reset.
Depending on your students’ / child’s preferences, abilities (read more on Kids and Multiple Intelligences here) or what you believe is appropriate for the moment, you can choose between movement brain breaks, mindfulness brain breaks, sensory ones or brain breaks that involve logic and reasoning (mental brain breaks).
What are the benefits of brain breaks?
There are countless studies on the detrimental effect that stress has on learning. It has been proven that shifting a child’s focus on another activity even for a short period of time, allows the brain’s areas that have been overused and stressed to revitalise and be ready to work again.
So, brain break activities can have the following benefits:
- they get kids refocused
- they reduce anxiety, stress and frustration
- they help children be more productive
- brain breaks positively impact the child’s emotional state
- Brain breaks can increase self-confidence (because of the brain break that allowed the child to relax and refocus he was able to finish the task successfully).
- Children are better behaved (we all know how a tired child behaves)
- In a classroom setting or a homeschooling group, brain breaks develop social skills
However, in order for these activities to be effective, a few things need to be taken into consideration that I am going to share with you in the “tips” section of this post.
Below I am going to share with you some of the brain breaks for kindergarten kids that I used myself. They are fun, effective and don’t take a long time to set up or play.
I have divided the activities into five categories: movement brain breaks, mindfulness brain breaks, sensory, mental and board games.
Movement brain breaks
The most common type of mental break is energizers. They are meant to oxygenize, re-energize and re-focus the brain.
1. Energizer songs
One of the easiest ways to bring movement breaks in the classroom or at home is energizers. You can find many appropriate songs on Youtube or on sites like GoNoodle. Some of my favourites were by The Singing Walrus, The Learning Station, Patty Shukla and Susan Roser (there are grown people doing the energizers in her videos but they can totally be used for kids as well).
2. Simon says…
Simon says… is a great, simple classic game that is always a hit with kids.
Simon says… can be the perfect kindergarten brain break as you have full control over how long the game takes, it is always fun and it involves movement as well as a little focus.
3. What’s the time Mr Wolf?
This is a good game for a group of children and ideally should be played outside or at least in a spacious room.
There are a few variations of this game out there but I will tell you the one that I played with my little ones.
One child is the Wolf who sits at one side of the room. The rest of the children are on the opposite side. The group will ask the Wolf: “What’s the time, Mr Wolf?” The Wolf answers: “It’s (5 o’clock)”. The children will have to take (5) steps in the direction of the wolf.
The game continues in this manner until the Wolf says: “It’s dinner/lunch/breakfast time!” The moment he says this, he will chase the other kids and try to tag someone. The child who is tagged becomes the wolf and the game starts again.
4. Musical Chairs
Musical chairs game was quite a popular game in my classroom that the kids asked to play whenever we had a break.
All you have to do to play this game is to arrange some chairs in a circle (the number of your students minus one- so if you have 10 students, arrange 9 chairs) and play a song. I often played this game with cushions instead of chairs as they were easier to arrange.
While the song is playing, the kids have to walk/dance around the chairs. When the song stops, they quickly have to sit down. The child who is left standing is out of the game. You take out a chair and the game continues until one child wins the game.
Now, you have two choices here, you can either play the classic game with one winner or you can play the version that I played with my class where I’d take out the child left standing for one round. After this, she’s go back into the game. Thus, I avoided having a bunch of kids just sitting, doing nothing until the game was finished.
5. Red Nose
This game is guaranteed fun for young kids as it involves movement and silliness.
The rules are simple: one player will give commands like “red nose”, “blue elbow”, “purple back” etc. The other players will have to find the colour somewhere in the room and touch it with the mentioned body part.
This is a great game to play in a group although it is just as much fun in fewer players.
Two players will go outside the room or turn their back to the group. Each of the players will think of an action (you can choose a topic beforehand if you want to make things easier) and freeze in a position representative for that action.
The two players will then come in/turn around and try to guess as many actions as possible. They will tap one “statue” to bring it to life. The statue will start doing the chosen action while the two players compete in guessing it.
In the end, the player who has guessed the most actions is the winner.
Mindfulness Brain Breaks
Practising mindfulness in the classroom has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety and help with attention and focus (among other things).
So, when you want to reset a tired brain for a few minutes, mindfulness brain breaks might be a great idea. Here are a few activities.
1. Do some Yoga
One of the best ways to incorporate mindfulness into your routine with the kids is to do some yoga.
But because we are talking about young kids here, you will have to make it fun for them. I recommend the Youtube channel Yo Re Mi, they have loads of fun yoga videos for children that are short and fun.
2. Blowing bubbles
You can turn a fun activity like blowing bubbles into a mindfulness activity since kids love bubbles.
Tell the children to inhale deeply and feel all the stress and tiredness gather into their chest. Hold it in there for a second and then slowly exhale into the bubble wand. All their worries will go from their chests into the bubbles. Watch the bubbles float away with all their worries and pop.
3. Draw what makes you happy
Ask the kids to think about something that makes them really happy and then allow them 10 minutes to draw it.
While they are drawing you can play some soothing music for them. After they are done, if you have the time, you can either invite a few volunteers to present their work or put all the drawings on a board and invite the children to admire each other’s drawings.
4. Breathing exercises
Breathing exercises are great for oxygenating the brain and obtaining a calm state.
Sensory Brain Breaks
Sensory play has many benefits for kids. One of them is that it has a calming effect as it helps children regulate their internal discomfort, whatever that may be.
1. Sensory bins
Sensory bins are very popular nowadays and with good reason. They are excellent for stimulating all the senses, they are calming, fun and invite kids to make use of their imagination.
If you are not familiar with what a sensory bin is, basically it is a plastic tub filled with different kinds of materials. You can put rocks, sticks, different toys, rice (see this idea of a Simple Alphabet Rice Sensory Bag), cooked spaghetti, shaving foam, water, beans, sand etc. Your imagination is the limit here regarding the things you can put in a sensory bin.
There are many ideas of sensory bins on the internet from the very simple ones to more complex ones, depending on what you want to do.
A great sensory activity that doesn’t require any set-up is play-doh.
It is a fantastic toy that develops creativity, fine motor skills, improves hand-eye coordination and has a calming effect on kids.
This is why using play-doh is an excellent brain break activity for kids that will calm them down and help them refocus.
3. Finger painting
Whenever you want to take a break from a mentally challenging activity and you have 20 minutes or so, finger painting is a great activity for kindergarten children.
It has so many benefits like kids learning about primary colours and what happens when you mix them, improving their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, using their imagination and supporting sensory integration.
Although finger painting can get a tad messy it is an activity that is well worth it.
4. What’s in the bag
The game is simple. Put a few objects in a bag (they can be from a specific category or random) without the kid(s) seeing them.
Each child will extract an object from the bag and try to guess what it is by using their sense of touch/smell/taste. Use a blindfold to make sure that the player doesn’t peek.
5. Guess what I drew
This game requires at least two players as it is played in pairs.
Player 1 will use his finger to draw something on player 2’s palm/back. The purpose of this game is for player 2 to guess what player 1 has drawn/written.
Brain Break Board Games
Here are a few ideas of quick board games that you can play with your children on a break:
An insanely fun game for kids ages 4 and up that can be played in at least 2 players.
The game contains a bowl on which you put some noodles (there are 30 noodles) and a yeti puppet that goes on top of the noodles.
The aim of the game is for the children to extract the noodles one by one without the yeti falling in the bowl.
The basic idea of the game is by no means original but kids are guaranteed to have fun with the noodles and prevent the funny yeti from falling in the bowl.
When you want to give the kids a quick break and also improve their logic and strategic thinking, Connect 4 is the perfect game.
The pack comes with a sturdy grid, 2 legs, 21 red disks, 21 yellow disks and a slider bar for ease of use.
A fun and quick memory matching game for preschool and kindergarten kids to enjoy.
Each player is assigned a coloured shape. The players take turns in randomly selecting a swimming duck and looking at the shape on their bottom part. If the shape matches their assigned shape they keep the duck. If not, they have to put it back. The player who manages to collect three ducks is the winner.
Shark bite is an insanely fun game that will make kids (and adults) giggle.
The game is simple, the players have to take turns in rolling the dice and snag the sea creatures from the shark’s mouth using a fishing rod.
One of the sea creatures will trigger the shark’s mouth to snap shut. But you never know when it’s going to happen 🙂
Flip and stack the cards to form yummy sandwiches and double-deckers. But that’s not all there is to it. You have to watch out for thieves and munchers that will try to steal your cards.
Mental Brain Breaks for Kindergarten
Being on a break does not mean not using our brains. Here are a few simple activities that will exercise logic, strategy and memory.
1. Riddle competition
Riddles are not only fun but they make the brain work hard. Plus, when the children get the answer right, they have a feeling of pride and a boost of self-confidence.
If you have a larger group of children you can divide them into teams thus promoting cooperation as well.
Here is a list of great riddles for kindergartners for inspiration.
2. Spot the Differences
Spot the differences is always a fun, quick game for kids. This activity helps children improve their focus, refine their observation skills and their attention to detail.
You can either opt for worksheets or see what the internet has to offer. Take, for example, this video.
3. Pattern problems
Introducing young kids to patterns is very important because they provide a sense of order, kids learn to make educated guesses and make assumptions and they develop critical thinking skills, not to mention that simple patterns pave the way to more advanced mathematical skills.
You can find patterns everywhere, at home, in nature, you can use worksheets or toys.
Here is an example of how we used the Melissa&Doug Lacing Beads to create and play with patterns (among other activities).
For a brain break, I would recommend you stay away from worksheets and gravitate more towards manipulatives.
Puzzles are magnificent for the development of young children. Whether we are talking about jigsaw puzzles, alphabet and number puzzles, tangram and blocks puzzles, these are the perfect games to practice problem-solving skills, perseverance, hand and finger strength, fine motor skills and more.
Using puzzles as a quick brain break activity always gets kids excited.
5. Play Card Games
Card games are among the most popular and easy to set up games that you can play when you want to give the kids a break.
There are so many options of games like Go Fish, Snap, Old Maid etc. Here is a list of fun card games for kids that you can try.
Tips on successfully implementing kindergarten brain breaks
Whether you use brain breaks at home or in the classroom, here are a few tips to maximize the positive effects that these little respites have.
- Find out the amount of time that your children can stay focused for. For kindergartners it can be around 20 minutes, depending on the task (they can focus for less time on a challenging task and more on easier tasks). Plan your brain break activities based on the maximum time that the kids can stay focused for.
- Keep the games short. Around 10 minutes is enough for the brain to recharge and be ready for work once again. You can use a timer to let the children know that the time is up.
- Use these breaks to motivate and excite the children. They will be more driven to finish the task knowing that there is game awaiting them.
- You can sometimes allow them to choose their favourite game.
- Choose the brain breaks according to your children’s preferences and abilities. For example, if you have children with a predominant kinesthetic intelligence, gravitate towards movement brain breaks, or if you have a child with intrapersonal intelligence, mindfulness brain breaks will be more effective.
Interested to find out more about what types of intelligence your child might have? Read more about Multiple Intelligences
As a teacher, I have been using brain breaks for kindergarten children for a long time with positive results.
Even a 5-minute break from a task they have been working on can result in better behaviour, less stress, greater motivation to learn and getting kids refocused.
Brain breaks can be used for the youngest of learners to the oldest, in the classroom or at home.
Brain breaks can make homework time more pleasurable when the kids know that they will have a fun activity after a certain amount of time or after they finish the agreed-upon portion of the homework.
What type of brain breaks work best with your kids? Do they have a favourite activity? I would love to know in the comments section below 🙂
Mom of two wonderful children, dedicated teacher and book lover.