Sensory Break Ideas
My son recently gave me his Garmin Vivofit. He no longer uses it and I was interested in one. I’ve been wearing it for about a week. I work from home, and yeah, a lot of it is desk work. Every few hours, my Vivofit lights up says MOVE.
Even the folks at Garmin recognize that everyone needs sensory breaks. Or a brain break. The terms are used interchangeably.
Our kids need sensory breaks. All kids. But, for a child with a sensory, focus, or processing issue, they may need more frequent breaks from seat work in order to function at their best. Kids will take sensory breaks–whether or not they are in the IEP. I find it’s best to just put them in there.
Sensory Breaks in an IEP
If your child needs a sensory break, make sure it’s in the IEP. Also, make sure that they don’t have to earn them. I’ve seen that in IEPs–sensory breaks given as rewards. The day that a child needs a sensory break the most, is the day he/she is least likely to earn one.
That being said, I’ve found that a lot of teachers kinda look like a deer in headlights when it comes to giving sensory breaks. Like, ok, the kid needs to get up, move around…but what am I supposed to do? Just let him go in the hallway? Let her leave?
So let’s do this–let’s provide our teams with ideas and make it easier for them. It’s easier on our kids too. There’s even a printable list of sensory breaks at the end of this post.
Signaling a Sensory Break
A lot of kids don’t want to be called out for their differences. If their endurance for sitting isn’t as long as their classmates, they may not want to be known for that. But, they still need one. There are lots of secret signals that a child and teacher can do to indicate it’s time for a break.
Many teachers can recognize fidgeting, tapping, restlessness and other stuff going on and make the call. But, in the event the child wants to ask for one, secretly, here are some ideas.
- Specific item (pen, sticky note, etc.) placed on corner of desk
- Hand signal besides raising hand, such as holding 1 or 2 fingers up by chin, more discreetly
- Positioning text book or work in a certain manner
The student should always be involved in this to the maximum extent possible. So ask them for ideas of what might work if they don’t want to raise their hand.
Sensory Break Ideas-Classroom
Of course, depending on what has transpired that day, it might be appropriate to have the entire class do a sensory break. Why not? Here are some ideas to engage a class. Yes, I acknowledge that some have the potential to get a little nuts, and it may be hard to get everyone back on track. Work with the team to determine the classroom climate and what will work.
- Dancing to a 3-4 minute song (cue it up on your phone)
- Game of Simon Says
- Series of stretching exercises
- Walking tour around the building
- Walk outside around outside of building
- Balloon volleyball for a few minutes
- 10-10-10 of something-10 jumping jacks, 10 seconds running in place, 10 seconds of arm circles
Sensory Break Song Ideas
If you want to do the dancing thing, here are a few songs to get it cued up on your phone.
- Crocodile Rock by Elton John
- YMCA by the Village People
- Happy by Pharrell Williams
- Shake It Off by Taylor Swift
- Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake
- Footloose by Kenny Loggins
- ABC by the Jackson 5
- I Like to Move It Move It by Will.I.Am
- The Macarena by Los Del Rio
- Baby Shark
- Everything is Awesome from the LEGO Movie
- Twist and Shout by James Brown
- The Cha Cha Slide by Mr. C the Slide Man
- Dynamite by BTS
That list has a little something for everyone…so warm up those iTunes. And here are few more “Happy Songs” on iTunes.
Sensory Break Ideas for Older Kids
Ok, but not everyone wants to dance. I have a feeling my son would be mortified if I asked him to dance with his class. I remember when I was in Junior High, one of my teachers–Mrs. Furler, she had us stand up, close our eyes, and dance to Crocodile Rock. Hey–that was the early 80s and even she knew what brain breaks were then!
I don’t remember if we all closed our eyes or not. But who knew she was a trendsetter–Asking us to ‘dance like no one is watching.’ Just a thought.
But if you think that won’t work either, here are some ideas for older kids. Or younger kids who are doing individual sensory breaks.
- go to the restroom
- ask them to take/retrieve something from front office, nurse’s office, etc.
- have them assist in setting up classroom for next activity (moving a computer, TV, pulling down screen, preparing whiteboard, etc.)
- Ask them “Can you go check and see if…” and send them on an errand in the building.
- Carrying pile of books from one spot to another.
If you want to do any of these at home, you can modify. Send your child to the mailbox, garage, attic or basement. Ask them to help you move or lift something. Walk the dog. The possibilities are endless!
Teachers and parents can be really creative….if you have any ideas to add to this post, send us an email.
By request, here it is in printable format to take to an IEP meeting or to download the songs