Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Brain breaks for children and adults

Do you find your children losing concentration easily on a task like homework or being unable to focus?

Maybe you find the same thing happening to you at work… Then a brain break may be your answer.

A brain break is just what it sounds like – a break from whatever you or your child is focusing on. Short brain breaks during work time have been shown to have real benefits. They reduce stress and frustration and increase attention and productivity.


Brain breaks for kids

Most children have a short attention span and they need to move their bodies in order to be able to stay focused and to learn. A good thing to remember is that a nerve in the inner ear, called the vestibular nerve, serves to tell the body how upright and present to be in direct response to movement. The only way to activate the vestibular nerve so that it can do its job is to move.

Normally, a small amount of movement, like a quick stretch and turn of the head, will make the nerve fire and talk to the muscles. When children are fidgeting and finding it difficult to stay still, they are unconsciously attempting to activate that nerve in the inner ear to improve their ability to sit up and focus.

The key thing about movement breaks is to add them in before the children get fatigued or lose focus. For adults we can stretch this out, after a lot of practice, to 60-90 minute blocks. For primary school children they may only be able to truly focus for 10-15 minutes and 20-30 minutes for secondary school children.

A good brain break for children means that they step away from what they are focusing on and add some form of physical movement. This will increase the blood flow to the brain, activate the vestibular nerve and help them become more focused when they sit back down. It will also help reduce the stress, anxiety and frustration of trying to sit for an extended period of time on one task when the mind is fatigued. That goes for both parent and child.

Brain breaks might be something as simple as jumping on the spot for 30 seconds to a minute a number of times, doing some simple exercises like a squat and press-up or playing a fun game like
‘Simon Says’. Even letting children listen to some relaxing music while lying on the floor may has been shown to be equally as beneficial.


Here is a list of things to consider when adding Brain Breaks into your child’s study time:
• Set a planned time e.g. every 15-20mins
• Aim for a three minute brain break or longer if the child has been sitting for a while
• Make it fun and engaging
• Keep it equipment-free, so they don’t get too distracted
• Get involved with them
• Set guidelines with the children so when the brain break is over they agree to go back to study


Brain Breaks for adults

As adults we also need to be aware that brain breaks can benefit us. If you find yourself sitting in front of a computer or sitting stationary on one task for a while, allow yourself time for some brain breaks. It will help you refocus on the task at hand, which will help manage the stress and frustrations you may be experiencing. For business owners, brain breaks are incredibly impactful for an office environment and employees’ mental health. Encouraging employees to take such a break while they are in a state of irritation, fatigue, or lack of focus is sure to help.

Here is a list of Brain Breaks for adults:
• Stretch – preferably not in a seated position
• Walk – get up and go for a walk, get outside as much as you can
• Listen to some music – Stick the ear plugs in, close your eyes and listen to some relaxing music
• Nap – if working from home this is a great way to relax the brain
• Mini-workout – bang out a few squats or press ups, even jump up and down on the spot
• Meditate – just sit back, switch off and focus only on your breathing

When it comes to brain breaks, try and find the one that suits you and/or your child the best. Stick with it and soon you will see energy levels sky rocket along with productivity.
• Teachers and parents can also try out our CORE NI PE and Wellbeing Portal which has a number of Brain Breaks Activities for you to try. For more info, email

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