Classroom “Brain Break” Game Ideas for Elementary Teachers

It can be difficult for students to adjust to a structured school environment after weeks of summer freedom. Even the best-behaved classes need breaks sometimes.

Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that providing short activity breaks throughout the school day can:

  • Increase physical activity in students
  • Help improve on-task behavior
  • Improve some measures of health

In addition to getting kids moving, physical activity breaks (also called “brain breaks”) can be a way for students to work on cognitive skills such as following directions, fitness skills such as coordination, and social skills like cooperation.

The Michigan Department of Education has free resources to help teachers implement easy, creative and fun breaks throughout the day.

Here are 11 popular brain break game ideas for elementary teachers:

  1. Follow the Leader: Students follow the movements of whoever is the leader.
  2. Movement Songs: Sing a song with whole-body movements such as “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” or “Shake Your Sillies Out” (by Raffie).
  3. Beach Ball Review: The teacher begins by asking a question and then tosses the ball to a student who will answer. Continue by tossing from student to student.
  4. Jump Skip Counting: Students count by twos, fives, or tens while jumping with each count.
  5. Exercise Movement Counting: Same as jump counting, but using different types of exercises such as arm circles or knee bends.
  6. Pretend: Pretend to be various animals, transportation vehicles, or book characters.
  7. Dance Party: Put on some music and dance!
  8. Freeze Dance: Play music and have students freeze when it stops.
  9. Line Up: Have students line up using specific criteria such as age, last name (alphabetically), height, age (months of the year).
  10. Moving Monkeys: Every time students are out of their seats, they must move as a monkey would move — walking with the same posture and speed.
  11. Pattern Clap: Clap your hands in different slow and quick patterns and have students copy.

Teachers: Could your school benefit from a program designed to encourage physical activity and healthy eating throughout the school day? Applications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Step Up for School Wellness program are being accepted through Sept. 30. One option interested schools can receive is the GoNoodle Plus program for online physical activity breaks.  This easy-to-use resource incorporates movement into core subjects and increases the amount of daily physical activity for students.   

Read an overview of the program in our 2015-2016 Request for Applications (PDF) or apply online by clicking here.

This blog is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Building Healthy Communities program, an evidence-based, comprehensive, school-wide initiative that works with schools and their communities to teach kids healthy habits and address childhood obesity. The program, originally created by Blue Cross in 2009, has reached more than 100,000 students in more than 275 Michigan schools since its inception.

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

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  1. These are so cute. I so many of these in my classroom already but using my own imagination, we create moving games that go with whatever story or literary theme we are working with for the week!! Glad to know great minds think alike haha

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