In one of her hugely popular books, Rujuta Diwekar, India’s most famous nutritionist & dietitian made a bold and (at the time) controversial statement: Sitting was as bad for the body as Smoking. While it sounded preposterous, there is now solid medical evidence that shows how sitting for long hours, particularly in chairs, leads to obesity, heart disease, hypertension and increased risk of stroke/heart attack – the same problems that smoking causes. (Read this article to understand the damaging effects of sitting better). Sitting is actually as harmful as smoking!
Should we be worried then, that our children spend way too much time sitting in classrooms? We would certainly never want them to smoke, so why are we encouraging another habit that is just as bad?
Movement isn’t just Necessary, it is Natural.
Think of a new born child – if the child doesn’t move about as and when it should, parents are greatly alarmed. Ironically though, once a child starts crawling, walking, running and jumping, we are constantly trying to get them to stop! Not only is this undesirable, it’s also extremely unfavourable to the child’s development and growth.
Movement requires and is also the result of intelligence. The body is the primary source of all human intelligence. Hunger, Sleep, Pain, Pleasure – all the senses that are vital to our survival come first from the body. Movement is the body’s way to acquire intelligence and also to express it. When we dissociate movement from learning, we overlook a huge chunk of what makes up human intelligence, and we also create great impediments in the learning process.
Simply put, learning needs the involvement of both – body & mind. However, for a very long time, our education has over-stressed one, while completely ignoring the other. The teaching methods of today are woefully skewed to favour only mental intelligence and faculties – with little attention given to physical intelligence. Any activities that schools might include are often too structured (for instance, the P.T. period) or too competitive (sports/games) making them unsuitable for young children. Movement just for the sake of it is almost entirely absent from classrooms.
Why Brain Breaks?
Within 20 minutes of sitting, blood pools in our seat and in our feet. However, within a 1 minute of moving, there is about 15% more blood in your brain. It is needless to say what happens when the brain is oxygenated. (Hint: More attention, more alertness, more sharpness)
Here, the concept of “Brain Breaks” offers teachers and students a unique way to bring movement, energy and excitement back in the classroom, without disrupting order or creating chaos. Brain Breaks – as the term implies – are activities that call for using more of body’s intelligence than the mind’s. More importantly, these activities are customised to suit the stimulation needs of children perfectly!
Brain Break activities are not only suitable for all age-groups physical and mental capacity but at the same time, challenging enough to require effort. The best part – there are many such brain breaks that can be done solo, making them super easy to manage and conduct!
If you are new to brain breaks and keen on introducing some simple and easily manageable ones in your class, take a look at these-
Fist your hands and stretch them out in front of you. Point using the index finger of one hand and stick out the thumb of the other hand. Now switch… and switch again. Now try it faster…. and faster!
This seems easy, but actually, requires a lot of concentration! Moreover, fisting and un-fisting the palms is a fantastic way to relieve fingers that have been clutching pencils or crayons for a long time. This activity is also a great way to introduce kids to the names of all the digits of their hand and/or the concept of left and right.
Blink and Snap
Try to blink your right eye while snapping the fingers of the left hand. Do this 15 times in a row. Now switch!
Try to blink your right eye while hopping on your left leg. Do this 15 times in a row. Now switch!
By the age of 5, most children can tell their right hand or right foot from the left. However, ask them to blink the right (or left) eye and you’ve got them floundering. It’s easy to understand sides (left and right) using hands and feet, but this activity gives them an in-depth ‘feel’ of this concept and how it applies to their whole body.
While standing up, bring your left knee up and touch it with your right hand. Now bring the right knee up and touch it with your left hand.
While standing, fold the right leg backwards. Now touch it with your left hand, behind your back. Switch hands and feet.
While doing this, kids cross their mid-line, going from the right side to the left side of their bodies, as well as crossing the right and left hemispheres of their brain. As adults, this might seem fairly uncomplicated, but in children, the corpus callosum (the band of nerves that joins the right and left hemispheres of the brain) is still developing, and this helps strengthen the synaptic connections between them. It also challenges their ability to balance and proprioception, giving them a total mental workout!
Because these brain break activities are done solo, they do not require much coordination and organization to be conducted in your class. They can be done in one place, without having your class move around much. They are also extremely simple to explain or demonstrate – making them the perfect choice if your class or you are new to brain breaks.
Have you tried out Brain Breaks previously? If yes – did your class enjoy it? If not – how keen are you about starting? Let us know in the comments!
Stay tuned for our next post on more ways to enjoy Brain Breaks with your students!