Brain Exercises for Kids

Instructor: Melinda Santos
Brain exercises can be used as a fun way to transition between subjects or to fill in gaps of time. Check out some of the simple yet entertaining brain teasers below, along with some corresponding resources.

Why Students Need Brain Breaks

Brain exercises provide students with an opportunity to reset both their emotional and cognitive focus. These 'breaks' also create a change in pace and routine, thus encouraging out-of-the-box thinking and refreshed enthusiasm. Brain exercises can be done spontaneously when you sense students need a quick breather from the work they're doing, or they can be included in your lesson plans as transitional periods between complex topics. Try some of the ideas below or use them as a jumping off point to create your own.

Bag of Inventions

Keep a drawer or bag full of miscellaneous items in your classroom. These items can include shoelaces, chopsticks, a fork and other items that can be multipurpose. When you need a quick brain teaser, pull out the bag and take one item out. Ask students to think of two ways that object can be repurposed for something other than its original use. They can brainstorm their ideas as drawings or in writing. Give each person or student group an opportunity to share their ideas.

Object Alphabet

Have students sing the alphabet song, but instead of naming the letters of the alphabet, have each person name objects that begin with each letter.

Memory Game

Especially helpful for younger children but also applicable to older students, this activity begins with you lining up various objects as students observe. Have students close their eyes as you remove one item and then ask them what item is missing. For older students, you can modify this activity by removing all the objects and asking them to name each object in order. For more memory practice, you can also recite a short sequence of numbers and ask students to repeat them in order.

Brain/Body Coordination

Synchronizing the brain and body through movement can reenergize and refocus students' attention. For a quick refresher, have students stand up and perform some or all of the movements below. You could also keep a jar full of movement flash cards to draw from when needed.

  • Touch your right elbow to your left knee, then your left elbow to your right knee. Repeat several time.
  • Blink your right eye as you snap the fingers on your left hand 15 times. Repeat on the opposite side.
  • Pair students up facing each other. Have each person tap their left foot one time, right foot two times and left foot three times. Repeat with increasing speed and then take turns with only person tapping their foot at a time.
  • Instruct students to do a 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 sequence of movements (e.g. spin around five times, do four jumping jacks, walk around the room three times, hop on one foot two times, clap your hands once).
  • Toss a beach ball or two into the air and have students keep them from hitting the ground.

A Story of Opposites

Change things up by having students write and illustrate a story using their non-dominant hand. After everyone finishes, post all the stories on a wall or whiteboard so everyone can read each other's stories.

Additional Resources offers a wide variety of teaching resources, including lesson plans and ideas for projects and activities. Find more brain teasers and other lessons that will help you improve students' cognitive development in this Cognitive Perspective in Psychology chapter.

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