Brain Breaks for Virtual Learning
by Kristen Henderson, M.S., OTR/L
Kids Place West Pediatric Occupational Therapist

For families across Arizona, virtual learning is our children’s’ new way of life. A child’s main occupation is to learn through play and movement, which can be tricky during this time of online learning. Try some of these brain breaks during the day for a quick and simple way for your child to reset and recharge for virtual learning.

Eat a crunchy or chewy snack

Eating a snack that is crunchy or chewy can be alerting. It may help your child feel regulated and focused for the next portion of the school day. Crunchy and chewy snacks can be especially helpful for kids who seek out oral sensory input by chewing on hands, clothes, or pencils. Some snack ideas include: apple slices, pretzels or pretzel rods, jerky, fruit leather, etc.

Wear a heavy backpack to gather supplies

Take your child’s backpack and fill it with a few heavy books or cans. Have them gather their school supplies for the next subject. For example, if markers, paper, and glue are needed for art class, have your child put on their heavy backpack to find the supplies. The movement of searching for the supplies gives the whole body a break from attending to a screen, and the weight of the backpack can help the child re-organize and get ready for the next section of learning.

Animal walks

Animal walks are a great way to get your child moving. Some ideas for common animal walks include: bear crawls, crab walks, wheelbarrow walks, ostrich walks, and starfish jumps. YouTube has great examples of all sorts of animal walks. Try learning the animal walk yourself and then teaching it to your child to help promote connection and eliminate additional screen time. You can even try having your child bear crawl to snack time, or while gathering school supplies!

Yoga

Yoga is a great way to reset for virtual learning. Not only can it help to focus and relax your child, but many poses help us move out of the flexed position we fall into when working at a desk all day. You can have your child participate in yoga cards, or just follow along with you to eliminate additional screen time. This is also a great way to connect with your child.

Bilateral integration exercises

Bilateral coordination and the ability to cross midline are very important skills for a child to have in order to complete many learning and daily life tasks. Bilateral integration helps us to coordinate both sides of our body and brain to work together. Some simple bilateral integration exercises your child can complete at home include: kneading and rolling play dough or putty, cross marches (marching while tapping each knee with the opposite hand), tracing a horizontal figure 8, using both hands to build with Legos or MagnaTiles, stacking plastic cups, stringing and lacing activities, helping to mix food in the kitchen, and many more.

These are just a few of the many ways you can help your child break from virtual learning and all of the necessary screen time.