With all the running around adults do, it is often said that adults need a “sensory break” now and then. Well, children need sensory breaks now and then, too. Just as adults need a break from the grind of the work day, students of all ages need a mental break from the pressures of … well, of being a student.
A sensory break or “brain break” is a fancy word for just taking a regular old break from seated learning activities or sedentary activities. For children with sensory needs, this is often referred to as a sensory diet or sensory break. It is a time for them to gain the sensory input they need in their bodies to stay alert, on task, and focused.
This type of activity works for both regular students and those with modulation disorders such as ADD/ADHD, where they have difficulty regulating the sensory input they are receiving.
Sensory breaks are a way for any child, whether they have sensory needs or not, to reset, decompress, and get the blood flowing back into their brains. We all know that children learn best through movement and exploring with their hands. Giving them breaks throughout their day allows their brains take a rest and reset, while still learning.
There are a number of ways you can distract and disengage your students throughout the day. These activities can be taken outside when the weather is nice or in the classroom if it’s not.
- Bouncing on a therapy or exercise ball
- Standing and stretching at their desk
- Reading in a beanbag chair
- Fidget toys
- Lifting light weights
- Coloring, doodling, or drawing
- Jumping jacks
- Squishing/squeezing play dough or a stress ball
- Deep breaths and slowed breathing
The list is endless. Early childhood and elementary-age students are going to require more sensory breaks than older students. Because their attention span is shorter, they may even need a few sensory breaks within one lesson. Sensory breaks can make the school day more fun for this age group. These breaks also help build gross motor skills and core strength.
Therapy at home is important, too. It’s not just homework or school that children need a break from. The tools recommended for schoolroom therapy work well in the home, too.
In this day of social everything, older students are tempted to keep their phone on in case someone texts them, emails them, or, heaven forbid, calls them. Both adult and children are on the computer 24/7, doing homework, surfing the net, playing games, and chatting. The brain needs a break from that, too. Be sure to walk away from social media and electronics and do something on an individual level, like take a walk, read a book, or pet the cat. Encourage your children to do the same thing.
And guess what? It works for teachers, too!