While I’m not a big fan of the phrase ‘brain breaks’ they are a powerful way to energise your group and refresh their attention.
Brain breaks, or whatever you may choose to call them, are a great mechanism to reset your class or training room vibe and help your participants regain focus and in some cases, release some pent-up energy.
These types of activities work by increasing the flow of blood to the brain, which has been shown to improve both focus and learning.
In contrast, calming brain breaks work by allowing overstimulated areas of one’s brain to rest, refresh and reload.
Much like a bunch of no-prop activities, you can never have too many energisers up your sleeve to refocus the energy of your group. Here are some really simple brain breaks for restless people – kids and adults alike.
Simple Brain Breaks
Spend a minute or two folding a paper plan and then coordinate a series of different competitions. There’s more to this than just flying paper planes across the room. Click the link for lots of fun ideas.
Holding an inflated balloon, ask each person to hit it above their head and keep it there by blowing on it. Super quick but super exhausting. Works just as well with feathers, too.
An all-time classic. Ideal for almost any setting, from small to large groups, seated or standing. Introduce just one fun exercise, and you’ll be done in less than a minute, or if you need the fun to continue, present a series of variations.
There is no shortage of online resources that can help you present a series of gentle yoga poses. Often known by different names, but look for poses such as downward-facing dog, plank, side plank, tree and the chair.
Click any one of the following links to learn how to present a fun, calming breathing exercise, complete with instructions and scripts – Mindful Breathing, Calming Visualisations, Breathe & Stretch, Drawing Breath and Inner World Art.
Click the link to invite a short period of chaos and then reflection in your group. All you need is pens & paper and a little bit of space.
Again, click the link to learn this wonderfully creative but energetic partner activity. The best part is, you won’t need a lot of room.
This is one of the first partner stretches I learned that didn’t scream “PE” to me. Ideally played in pairs, but there are no rule books so feel free to adapt and change as you see fit. No equipment needed, which means your group will be ready to play in a moment’s notice.
I’ve been leading and playing this game for 30+ years and it still makes me laugh every time. I challenge anyone to present this silly little stunt and not trigger a burst of energy from their group every time. Again, no props, but plenty of fun.
So simple, yet not always easy. Challenge a bunch of small groups of 3 or 4 people to extend a nominated number of fingers and see how long it takes them. Then move on to the next number, or prepare for your next task.
Tips When Playing Brain Breaks
Always give prompts to your group to help them understand when the activity starts and ends. I have found these little notifications to be a very useful and powerful way to help my groups continue their focus a little longer because they know where the finish line is. It may sound like this… “…just another 5 minutes before our next break…”
It is also useful to signal when the energising or claiming activity is about to end, too, lest the energy (or lack thereof) may bleed into the next activity.
As always, honour choice. If one or more people do not want to participate in the break break, or do not believe that they need it, permit them to find an alternative (and yet, productive) activity to occupy their focus.
Finally, check in with your group to see if the exercise worked. Brain breaks for restless kids only work when they work, so don’t be afraid to ask your group if the pause helped them re-focus their attention and calm down or indeed energised them.
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