This past year we came face to face with Sensory Processing Disorder or SPD in our family. For those who do not know, SPD is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. SPD can involve a wide range of symptoms from auditory sensitivity (being overly sensitive to loud noises) to modulation sensitivity (being unable to transition calmly and quickly from one activity to another). Basically, if it involves the senses and the automatic response is inappropriate, it could plausibly be labeled as SPD.
One of the things that helps with SPD and trains a child with SPD to adapt is what Occupational Therapists call a Sensory Diet or the incorporation of a lot of physical movement activities into the child’s day. Jumping on a trampoline, rough-housing, and even chewing 3 pieces of gum at once can often help meet a need found in a child with SPD. Thus, this year we have chosen to add a new facet to our homeschool–brain breaks!
What is a Brain Break?
Brain Breaks are quick physical exercises meant to rejuvenate a child’s mental, emotional, and physical state while learning. They are usually short in duration (usually 1 to 5 minutes) and of a high intensity (think jumping jacks or pushups). They allow the child an opportunity to rest his/her brain from intense mental activity and let out any frustration that may have been building up in the form of a physical release.
Even for a child who doesn’t have SPD, many physical breaks throughout a school day is often recommended. For instance, Charlotte Mason suggests short intense lessons as opposed to long drawn out lessons to both keep the interest of the child and prevent burn-out. For lower elementary, 15-20 minutes is considered the ideal learning time, while 25-30 minutes for older elementary students, and 30-45 for middle school students and beyond. Thus, this year we have added a timer to our classroom and pause for a brain break every 20 minutes or so.
How do we do this?
With Take a Break! Cards. When the timer goes off, we take turns grabbing a card from the Take a Break! can and together we ALL do whatever the card says. If it says to “do 20 jumping jacks” we all (yes, even this mom) do 20 jumping jacks together. If it says “make 10 snow angels” we drop to the floor and pretend to make 10 snow angels on our hardwood floor.
The girls love it! They can hardly wait for the timer to go off, not because they don’t like school, but because they want to complete another Take a Break! card.
Using the “Take a Break! Cards
There are 70 Take a Break! cards included into today’s printable. They can be used for brain breaks, sensory diet input, or even physical exercise (if you combine enough of them to get in an hour of activity). That means that there are lots of options to choose from to personalize your own Take a Break! set. For instance, if you don’t have a trampoline, toss out the cards mentioning the use of one, or if you don’t have a scooter, leave that one out and use the walk around the block card instead. Whatever goes as long as you Take a Break.
Added tip: If you use a timer on your phone, let your child(ren) choose the sound for the timer each time or each day. They will love this added sense of control, and it makes the sound of a timer much more enjoyable. Right now my girls are into Night Owl, Twinkle, and Uplift. You may have some other sounds that your kids find even better.
Oh, and if you are looking for stand alone timer, I recommend this timer because kids can always SEE exactly how many minutes are left even if they can’t read minutes yet.
Not Sure What Some of the Activities Mean?
Here’s a video the girls and I put together to show you a few exercises that you may not be as familiar with. Hope this helps.
Grab These “Take a Break!” Cards FREE
Recommendation: Print the cards on cardstock, cut out, and laminate for long use. Don’t have an laminator? I can’t say enough about this one. It’s cheap and has already lasted us years.