Upper School Blog: The Importance of Brain Breaks

Many children can struggle with focusing through longer tasks and children who learn differently can often struggle even more. Brain breaks between periods of lengthy work can help children avoid frustration, tantrums, and meltdowns. And believe it or not for elementary-aged children, that is usually after just 15-20 minutes of prolonged concentration. 

So what is a brain break? It’s just what it sounds like, a break from whatever the child is currently focusing on. Short brain breaks during work have been shown to have real benefits like reducing stress, anxiety, and frustration. 

Students in Montessori classrooms already benefit from having shorter small group lessons and the freedom to move around the room and take breaks as needed. But it’s important to remember this outside of school, especially for children who may struggle with executive functioning.

Allowing children to return to a task and complete it at a later time builds confidence and self-esteem. It shows children they can work through challenges and keeps them motivated to keep trying. 

The goal of a brain break is to allow the child to shift focus. Many times, this means getting up and moving. Movement increases blood flow to the brain, which helps children focus and stay alert. It also reduces stress and anxiety making it easier to complete important tasks. Research has also shown that children learn more quickly after exercise.

So what can kids do to take a brain break? They can simply walk around, do jumping jacks or push ups, they can stretch or do yoga or even play with a fidget. 

Looking for something a little quieter around the house? Relaxing and quiet brain breaks can have similar benefits. They can even be a better option for kids who get overstimulated by physical activity. Quiet brain breaks could be a moment of mindfulness, coloring, drawing or reading. 

It’s important to keep in mind that there are two types of breaks, breaks by intervals of time or by tasks completed. Taking breaks at intervals of time are known as interval breaks. Younger children often benefit from interval breaks. For instance working for fifteen minutes and then taking a five minute break. You can use timers or encourage your child to set a timer to manage their own time (a strategy they are familiar with from school).

Older children tend to benefit from ratio breaks. These breaks are generally tied to the number of tasks completed. For instance once they finish one task they know they will be able to take a break before moving on to the next. 

So next time your child is working on a task and having trouble focusing, consider the power of brain break to allow your child a chance to reset and come back to tasks when they are ready and focused. 


Sean Collins

Lead Teacher, Magnolia Lower Elementary Community


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