19 brain breaks for distance learning and socially distanced classrooms

By The Understood Team

Expert reviewed by Amanda Morin

Kids have been learning in new ways since the coronavirus pandemic began. If kids are doing distance learning, they may be sitting in front of a screen for many hours each day. If kids are learning in school, there may be rules for social distancing that don’t allow them to move around like they normally would. 

All of this makes it hard for kids to pay attention and stay on track — especially kids who learn and think differently. Kids with ADHD in particular may struggle. Brain breaks and games can help.

Here are 19 breaks and games you can try both in school and at home. They can help all kids clear their minds, move their bodies, and stay more engaged in distance learning or socially distanced learning. 

  1. Create a sensory path using chalk on a sidewalk or blacktop.
  2. Make a slideshow of GIFs. Ask kids to imitate the movements in the GIFs. 
  3. Create a YouTube playlist of mesmerizing videos, like the Live Jelly Cam from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 
  4. Try activities from a sensory diet.
  5. Do some PE warm-ups, like toe touches, arm circles, and jumping jacks. Adapt as appropriate.
  6. Have a dance party. (You might use a channel like Kidz Bop for younger kids. For older kids, look for non-explicit versions of their favorite songs.)
  7. Play Charades. If you’re playing over video, one child can act out a vocabulary word and the others can put their guesses in the chat box.
  8. Tell some jokes, or have the kids tell some jokes. (Why are teddy bears never hungry? They’re always stuffed!) 
  9. Take a movement break or play a game on GoNoodle
  10. Invite kids to do some animal walks.
  11. Do some body-brain teasers. For younger kids, challenge them to rub their bellies while tapping their heads. For older kids, ask them to wink with their right eye while snapping their left fingers. Then switch.
  12. Create a low-cost, sensory-friendly chair for kids to move around in.
  13. Send kids on a scavenger hunt — it can be as simple as having kids find an item that starts with the letter t or something that is soft.
  14. Do yoga or chair yoga.
  15. Try out Google Quick Draw
  16. Invite kids to explore a virtual calming corner.
  17. Play traditional games like Simon Says and Rock Paper Scissors. These work over video and with social distancing, too.
  18. Try a breathing exercise like “take 5 breathing.”
  19. Do some mindful coloring or drawing.

Tips to help get you started