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10 Distance Learning Break Ideas To Keep Your Kid Happy & Engaged

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Spending eight solid hours focused solely on school work is a lot for kids, so many schools build in breaks throughout the day. If your child is learning from home, you may be looking for some distance learning break ideas to help their brains. Instead of just staring out the window aimlessly for five minutes, these activities can actually help your child when it's time to return to their school work.

"These breaks are important because they provide a respite for the student to energize, which helps relieve stress, improves concentration once back on task, and gives them a chance to do something else they may find more fun or creative," neuropsychologist Dr. Sanam Hafeez, Psy.D. tells Romper.

As an adult, I find that if I lose focus during work, taking a few minutes to stretch, walk around outside, or have a snack really helps to get me back on track once I return to working. My kids are the same way, but sometimes they need my help in figuring out exactly what it is they should be doing during school break time.

From dance breaks to meditation and even playing with LEGOs, there are plenty of options when it comes to things your kids can do during school break time to help their brains. Taking a few minutes to do something different can definitely help reset your child's mood, improve their focus, and give them a chance to rest and not become burnt out during the school day.

1. Exercise

If your kids get restless while doing school work, utilizing their school break time to do a few physical exercises like jumping jacks can have a major impact on their brain.

"The physiological effects of movement offer psychological benefits and are helpful for learning and concentration," Dr. Drew A. Pate, M.D., chief of psychiatry at LifeBridge Health tells Romper. "The increasing blood flow and alertness that occurs through physical movement will improve a child’s ability to learn and retain information and help them manage their emotions more effectively."

2. Stretching & Deep Breathing

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"Children tend to have an excess of energy and it may 'come out wrong' if they don't have proper outlets for their energy," child psychologist Maureen Healy tells Romper. "Said differently, the use of physical movement or deep breaths or even closing their eyes provides them a necessary break from purely cognitive or mental development."

Doing some stretches or even a few yoga poses during school break time can definitely give kids the outlet they need to help them focus more when it's time to sit down and work.

"Boys and girls who are given the opportunity to stretch, take deep breaths and reconnect to their bodies feel better and, ultimately, learn how to become calm," Healy explains. "And isn't learning how to become calmer in 2020 a superpower?"

3. Have A Snack

When my kids are fussy or frustrated, it is almost always because they need a snack. Setting your kids up with a healthy snack like a piece of fruit or a handful of granola during their break time can definitely give them an energy boost.

While having a snack doesn't sound like the most invigorating use of break time, it can be just as necessary for kids as more stimulating activities like painting or playing games if that's what they specifically need. Planned activities are wonderful, but sometimes something as simple as a snack can be what their brain needs.

"If all they want to do is have a snack and sit and pet the dog or read a book, that should be OK too," Hafeez tells Romper. "We should guide them, but be cautious as to not turn their breaks into another planned activity with specific requirements."

4. Take A Walk

While Hafeez notes that the type of brain break a child takes will really depend on what kind of activities will most help them as an individual, as well as what resources are available to them, taking a walk is one idea to try. "Walks can be great because it gets them out of the house and into the sun," Hafeez explains.

Even if you're short on time or supervision and all your kids can get in is just a quick lap or two around the backyard, some time outside and a few minutes of moving their body is better than none.

5. Dance It Out

During times when their class just couldn't settle down last year, my son's kindergarten teacher would turn on YouTube videos from GoNoodle to give the kids a short break in their day. They would dance and get all of their wiggles out for a few minutes, following along with the video and doing fun moves where they jump like kangaroos or dance like a monkey. This is such an easy and fun way to help your child regain focus during the school day.

"Our children have been through so much anxiety and rapid changes since the coronavirus took grip over the world, so taking a break to stretch or walk around the block, play with a pet, color, or, yes, even dance is important to break the monotony of everything including school being at home," Hafeez says.

6. Build LEGOs

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In 2018, The LEGO Foundation released a report chronicling research into the benefits of playing with LEGOs, which detailed how manipulating these tiny bricks can help improve a child's motor skills, develop problem-solving and reasoning skills, and encourage creativity. Additionally, they reported that playing with LEGOs with others can help enhance a child's social skills.

"Activities like these will allow a child to have a break in their learning and educational routine while allowing the child to use a different part of the brain," Pate explains. "A break that requires a different kind of focus is a healthy option for a break from the school routine that can allow children to return to learning in a more productive manner."

7. Play With Play-Doh Or Slime

If your child is one who needs to be moving their body at all times, sometimes you need a low-energy activity for their school break times that gets them moving, but is still on the relaxing side.

"Children need more breaks depending on their age and stage of development. Elementary school children can focus for 15-30 minutes depending on a number of factors, and then a brain break helps them relax and refocus," Healy says. "The more relaxed a student is, the better they feel and, ultimately, perform."

Smashing some Play-Doh or slime between their fingers for a few minutes is an easy way to let them take a relaxing break.

8. Meditate

"Meditation can help kids center themselves and replenish energy and interest in their next lesson or assignment," Hafeez tells Romper.

Even if your kids aren't seasoned in the skill, you can try using a meditation app or guided video to help your kids recharge.

Healy calls calming activities like meditation "essential" for healthy students. "Calming or moving activities each have their place in helping a child relax, let go of distractions, and refocus their mind. The body needs to relax as well as the mind," she says.

9. Connect With A Pet Or Loved One

"In a remote learning setting, brain breaks can help students feel less strained and offer an opportunity for them to take a timed break outside or play with a pet, or even interact with a loved one like grandma or grandpa via video chat," Hafeez explains.

Your kid might actually feel better during the course of their school day if they can snuggle up on the couch with the dog or FaceTime grandma for a few minutes during their break. The ability to spend school break time connecting with a pet or a loved one is a definite benefit of learning from home.

10. Get Creative

Hafeez notes that "painting, coloring, ice-breaker games, or other activities are great stimulants." Plus, painting, coloring, and similar art projects are things a child can pick up for a few minutes and put back down again to pick up later on.

Let your kids go crazy with some paints, pick out a special coloring book that is only for school break time, or even take an art break with your kids to help you both give your minds a reset.

"Having breaks throughout the day with a defined start and stop time that offer children the opportunity to engage in a variety of structured and unstructured activities will support kids and improve their emotional regulation and enhance their ability to pay attention and retain information when they return to school work," Pate explains.

Experts:

Dr. Sanam Hafeez, PsyD., a neuropsychologist in New York City, faculty member at Columbia University

Maureen Healy, Ph.D, child psychologist, author of The Emotionally Healthy Child, and parenting coach at Growinghappykids.com

Dr. Drew A. Pate, M.D., Chief of Psychiatry, LifeBridge Health in Maryland