Movement breaks for remote learning

Kids too restless to focus. Offer these activities to reboot

Get moving to relieve remote learning stress

Primary school teachers, like occupational therapists for kids with special needs, have a toolbox of activities to give students breaks from sit-down learning. Now that the pandemic has so many kids at home for online learning, parents can use the same exercises to give their kids a break that will enable them to get back to work refreshed.

If your child has attention issues or special needs, their occupational therapist will probably provide specific exercises to help them get through a day of remote learning without being overwhelmed or melting down. Kids of all kinds benefit from similar measures if they're staring at computer screens much of the day. Research has shown that such exercises improve concentration and may also help with math processing, language skills, and memory. The OT Toolbox (website suggests three different categories of “brain breaks” to help kids shift gears).

Physical breaks get the entire body in motion. Fast cardiovascular activity increases breathing rate and the oxygen level in the bloodstream. Heightened oxygen levels contribute to improving concentration and enable a child to focus on learning. If a run around the yard isn't available, try simple calisthenics—jumping jacks, running in place, dancing, marching in place to music or a hand-clapping rhythm.

Breathing breaks include deep breathing and visualization, which bring relaxation and a renewed ability to ground and focus. Combine deep breathing with stretching, raising the arms, shaking out the hands, and/or rolling the head in a circle. For visualization, the OT Toolboxwebsite includes short mindfulness videos that kids can listen to (with eyes closed, if they need a screen break to help them get calm and relaxed.

Mental breaks shift the attention from a concentrated task to an activity that's fun and relaxing, such as playing a game, answering trivia questions, telling jokes.

Keep in mind that adults need brain breaks too. If you're working at home, try some of these exercises yourself. You might want to arrange your schedule so you and your child can take breaks together. 

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