In the whirlwind of today's rapid-paced world, where information flows ceaselessly and tasks pile up relentlessly, creating moments for your children to pause and recharge is more crucial than ever. Enter the concept of ‘brain breaks’.
These short, intentional pauses can have a remarkable impact on children's cognitive abilities, emotional resilience, and overall wellbeing.
Let's explore how you can harness the power of brain breaks to support your child’s learning journey.
Why We Need Brain Breaks
The human brain is an extraordinary organ, but like any other part of the body, it also requires rest and recuperation. Without adequate breaks, the brain can become fatigued, leading to reduced concentration, diminished problem-solving skills, and increased stress levels. This is where brain breaks prove their worth. They serve as mini-vacations for the brain, allowing it to recharge and return to tasks with renewed vigour.
For example, have you ever noticed that your child will concentrate well for the first hour of the day and then it seems as if they start to struggle with understanding concepts, completing assignments, or focusing in general? This is a signal that a child’s brain is tired and requires a short break before continuing with their studies.
The Science Behind Brain Breaks
Research has consistently shown that taking regular breaks can improve cognitive performance and boost creativity. Our brains operate in two main modes: focused and diffuse thinking.
- Focused thinking: this is when we concentrate on a specific task, such as learning about a new concept, completing an assignment, or practising a skill such as mathematics or writing.
- Diffuse thinking: this is a more relaxed state that allows our minds to wander and connect disparate ideas.
It’s important to recognise that both of these modes are essential for optimal brain function. This is because diffuse thinking allows the brain to process what has just been learnt and assists in information retention in this way, preparing the brain to continue with the task at hand.
Brain breaks facilitate the transition between these two modes. When we step away from a task, our brain's diffuse mode becomes active, enabling us to make novel connections, see patterns, and generate creative insights. Moreover, breaks help prevent ‘cognitive fatigue’, a state where the brain's resources become depleted, leading to decreased efficiency and accuracy in tasks.
Brain breaks are easy to work into your child’s study routine. All you need to do is set a timer for 25–30 minutes; once the timer goes off, your child can take a break for 5–10 minutes before continuing with the task at hand. Not only will this keep their brain active, but it’ll also encourage them to focus for these shorter periods of time, as they know they’ll be rewarded with a short break soon enough.
The Benefits of Brain Breaks for Kids and Students
There are a multitude of benefits that brain breaks can offer your child, which will not only make studying easier for them, but also more enjoyable, encouraging a love for learning.
Imagine your child tackling a challenging math problem or diving into a history lesson. As they engage with their tasks, their brain is working hard, using up valuable mental resources.
Just like a computer that needs to cool down after running a demanding program, your child's brain benefits from a break.
Brain breaks act like a reset button. When your child takes a break and then returns to their task, their focus becomes sharper, and their concentration improves. This means they can work more efficiently and effectively. It's almost as though their brain gains a boost of energy, helping them accomplish tasks with a renewed sense of purpose.
Even though we as adults might not always realise it, childhood can sometimes be filled with stressors, whether it's completing assignments, writing tests, improving grades, or social pressures.
Stress can take a toll on a child’s mind, affecting their ability to learn and make decisions. This is where brain breaks come in as powerful stress busters.
During a break, your child can engage in activities like deep breathing, gentle stretches, or even a moment of quiet meditation. These activities help soothe their minds and release any built-up tension. When they return to their tasks after a brain break, they do so with a calmer and clearer perspective, better equipped to handle challenges.
Have you ever noticed how your child comes up with the most creative ideas when they're relaxed and having fun? Brain breaks tap into this innate creativity.
When your child steps away from their schoolwork and engages in an enjoyable activity, their brain's ‘creative mode’ switches on. This mode lets their imagination run wild, allowing them to explore new possibilities and find innovative solutions to problems.
So, the next time they're stuck on a puzzle or a project, encourage them to take a brain break. They might just discover an unexpected answer that leads to a big ‘aha’ moment.
Learning is like a journey, and brain breaks are like rest stops along the way. When your child is studying or learning new things, their brain is absorbing a lot of information. But if they keep pushing without breaks, it's like driving for hours without taking a break to stretch and refresh.
Brain breaks act as those rest stops, allowing your child's brain to catch up. When they take short breaks during study sessions, they're giving their brain the time it needs to process and organise the new information. This helps with better understanding, retention, and ultimately, more effective learning.
Physical activity isn't just good for the body, it's also good for the brain. When brain breaks involve movement, like stretching or a mini dance session, they have a wonderful dual effect.
They energise your child's body by getting the blood flowing and muscles moving, and stimulate the brain. This is because movement increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients, which the brain needs to function at its best.
Therefore we suggest that you encourage your child to get up and move during their brain breaks. It's like giving their brain a little workout that leaves them feeling refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.
Effective Brain Break Activities
Brain breaks work best when children perform certain activities. For example, if a child scrolls through social media or watches TV during this time, the break will not be as effective. Effective brain break activities include:
- Engage in physical movement: it can be helpful to engage in activities like jumping jacks, skipping rope, stretching, or even holding a dance party. These activities can be performed quickly making them perfect for a 5–10 minute break. A quick burst of physical fun can invigorate your child’s body and mind, making them feel more alert and ready to dive back into their tasks.
- Practise mindfulness: it’s important for children to learn how to be present in the moment and pay attention to their thoughts and feelings. One easy exercise is to have them close their eyes and focus on their breath. As they breathe in and out, they can notice the sensation of their breath and how it feels as it enters and leaves their body. This practice can help them quiet their racing thoughts, reduce anxiety, and create a sense of calm. This technique will also come in handy during exams if they struggle with test anxiety.
- Encourage a change of scenery: a change of environment can work wonders for refreshing your child's mind. Encourage them to step outside, whether it's in the backyard or just onto the balcony. They can gaze at the sky, watch the leaves rustle, or observe the clouds drifting by. Nature has a magical way of soothing the mind and offering a break from their usual surroundings. If going outside isn't possible, even moving to a different room can make a difference.
- Engage in fun activities: sometimes, the best way to recharge is by doing something that brings pure joy. Let your child choose a fun activity they love. It could be as simple as doodling on a piece of paper, solving a puzzle, or even building a mini LEGO masterpiece. When they engage in these activities, they tap into their creative side and relax, preparing them for their next study session.
By incorporating these specific strategies into your child's routine, you're providing them with an array of tools to recharge and thrive. Each of these activities addresses different aspects of their wellbeing, from physical vitality to mental clarity. Not only will these techniques help your child study more effectively but they’ll also assist them later on in life, at university and beyond.