Brain Breaks & Tips for Virtual and Hybrid Learning This School Year
We all know the struggles that COVID-19 has brought to the world. We were honored by the support of our camp community when deciding to operate this past summer (2020). The long-term effects of COVID-19 and the mental health implications from the isolation and break from routine will be studied and debated for many years. In the camp industry, we are usually living our school years “10 for 2” but this school year brings enormous challenges. A year ago, the term “hybrid learning” was foreign to most adults and children. As a foundation for growth, education in a traditional school setting brings more than just learning and reading. Schooling brings the opportunity for social interaction; interaction with a diverse community of peers; childhood and long-term friendships; and teachers who become positive adult role models. For many children, school also provides them safety, security, and a source of meals. Knowing that each school district has autonomy to decide their schooling based on COVID risks in their municipalities, many of our amazing Wekeela campers face the confusion that is brought by the juggling of in-person, online, or a form of hybrid schooling. In the spring when schools closed down teachers and school-boards were able adjust to fully online programs with resilience and speed. Although this enabled the continuation of school and learning (and possibly an end to snow-days in the future), the health effects of staring at a screen for hours on end is not beneficial. With many parents and children still learning and working virtually, we have compiled a list of “Brain Breaks” and tips to give yourself a pause from the screen or help yourself just a little bit.
First, what is a brain break? Brain breaks are mental rests designed to help students stay focused and attentive. The brain breaks get students moving to carry blood and oxygen to the brain to energize, reset, and relax. The breaks provide processing time for students to solidify their learning. Brain breaks can be active, passive, or meditative. Brain breaks can be physical activity like stretching or exercising; breathing and meditation exercises; or simple tasks like drawing or playing a quick game on a piece of paper. According to Understood.org, “To make a brain break effective for your child, there are a few things to consider. First, you’ll want to make sure it’s an actual break. Moving from homework to an activity that feels like more work won’t help your child stay focused.”
For kids who need quiet and relaxation, a brain break can be as simple as actively sitting still. While they do that, kids can also take a minute to feel their heartbeat.” Brain Breaks should not feel like work – they are designed to help one refocus and get back on task – doing a job will not allow the brain to refresh itself without worrying about the next task at hand. Breaks can be timed (Interval – better for younger children) or by behavior (ratio – better for older children). Whatever and however your child takes a break – make sure they get off the screen and refresh. We break our tips into 5 categories: Physical, Outdoor, Indoor, Creative, and Sensory.
- Physical: Get Moving.
Whatever you choose to do, circulating blood flow and working a sweat is a good way to get your body refreshed. A simple and fun way to get your body moving can lead to better brain function. Here is a quick list of many things you can do alone or with a sibling or friend.
- Fun games: Tag, Red Light, Green Light, Mother May I?, Hide and Seek, Simon Says.
- Jump rope or on a trampoline.
- Roller skate, Ride scooters, or bikes.
- Blow bubbles so they can run around and pop them.
- Use your sidewalk chalk to make a hopscotch court or a maze for them to wander through.
- Play sports: kick around a soccer ball, have a catch, play basketball, or any other sport.
- Practice Yoga and stretching.
- In addition to all the above activities, simple actions like running, walking, or taking a hike outside. Depending on where you live, the weather may become a factor outdoors sooner rather than later.
- The simple act of moving around indoors can also be a great break from the screens. In a normal school day, children usually get an hour, maybe 2 depending on weather, or time outside. The most important thing here is a break from the screen. Take a lunch break and have an indoor picnic, a dance party, a yoga class, indoor exercise routines, and indoor obstacle courses.
- Sometimes, children and teenagers don’t need to burn energy as much as they just need to daydream, imagine, and be creative – a mental break. Allowing your child to explore the more creative side of their brain – without making it a task or an assignment is beneficial to get them going after a long day of screens and virtual learning. More guided creative activities like coloring books and puzzles can be great. Or sometimes just freedom to explore their own creativity and doodle, build Legos freewill, or play an instrument on their own can be just as useful. TIP: try not to make this break “practice” for after school activities, more an opportunity to explore and let the mind flow freely.
- Not all children need sensory stimulation, but if your child does, sensory breaks can allow a child to calm down and relax. Sensory is great when your child is frustrated, cranky, or fed up with their screen. Sensory breaks allow kids to stimulate their senses in a safe way. Toys like kinetic sand, slime, balance boards, spinning tops, or weighted stuffed animals can be great to utilize for a few minutes to help your child refocus. For a long list of sensory stimulating toys visit: https://yourkidstable.com/sensory-toys/
We hope you enjoyed our tips for giving your child a break from their screen. The most important thing to remember is that every child is different. Not every model will work for every child. Figure out what works best for your child and go from there. One last piece of advice: invest in a pair of blue-light glasses for your family members. They are inexpensive and help to keep dangerous blue light emitted from screens from hurting you or your child’s eyes and causing fatigue and headaches.
We wish all of our camp community a safe and wonderful school year, no matter what their school looks like and we cannot wait to put all these tips into practice in our favorite – screen free – place in the world: Camp Wekeela!