What does your school year look like: in-person, remote, or some hybrid plan?
We were preparing for hybrid learning when the school district switched gears and decided to start fully remote until at least October. The schedule is INTENSE: nearly four hours online in the morning with just two five minute breaks. And then back online in the afternoon for small group work with the teacher.
I would struggle with that schedule. I can’t even imagine how it’s going to work for my son’s first grade class.
What is very clear to me is that my son is going to need lots of screen-free brain breaks to recharge between his morning and afternoon sessions and after school in the afternoon.
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Energy Busters for Screen-Free Brain Breaks
My go-to for after school is going to be activities to burn some of that energy that has been building after sitting at the computer for several hours.
Outside energy busters
We all know the benefits of getting outside to play: fresh air, exercise, creativity, and getting away from screens. Outside play encourages creativity and problem solving skills because kids invent their own games. And after sitting at a computer for nearly four hours, he’s going to need to move and burn off some pent up energy.
With outside play, I’ve learned it’s best to stay out of my kids’ way. They have no problems inventing their own games and using their outdoor toys in creative ways. But if your kids need a little inspiration, here are some outdoor games and activities to burn some energy:
- Red light, green light
- Mother may I?
- Hide and seek
- Simon says
- Jump rope
- Jump on a trampoline or pogo stick
- Roller skate
- Ride scooters
- Ride bikes
- Blow bubbles so they can run around and pop them
- Use your sidewalk chalk to make a hopscotch court or a maze for them to wander through
- Kick around a soccer ball, swat around with badminton, play catch, or use your other sports equipment
- Get out the sand toys and play in the sandbox
- Water play (at least while the weather is warm!)
Indoor energy busters
If the weather is poor and we’re not able to go outside we need indoor activities to burn energy.
I have a love-hate relationship with these indoor pogo sticks. The kids love them and they are great for burning energy, but whomever decided it was a good idea to put a squeaker in it must not have had kids! Still, on those rainy or cold days when we can’t go outside to play, they’re a good way to burn some energy and keep the crazies at bay!
Play balloon badminton by blowing up a balloon and swatting it around with your child. See how long you can keep it up in the air without it dropping back to the floor!
Here are some other indoor screen-free brain breaks for after remote learning:
- Dance party
- Set up an indoor obstacle course with crepe paper. Have your kids duck under and crawl over crepe paper that you tape to furniture or walls
- Set up a physical education course. Something like “do ten jumping jacks in the living room. Run to your bedroom and do ten push ups.” Use as many rooms and exercises as you can think of!
- Play animal movements. Tell your kids to swing through the trees like a monkey, gallop like a horse, etc.
Still stuck for indoor energy busters? Check out this massive list of 87 energy busting indoor activities from What Moms Love. I’ve gone back to this post many times in the last few years when I knew it was going to be a yucky day.
Creative Screen-Free Brain Breaks
Sometimes, kids won’t need to burn energy so much as they’ll just need a mental break. They’ll need to day dream, imagine, and have an opportunity to be creative.
Art is a perfect activity for a screen-free brain break for after remote learning. Instead of finding a cute but complicated craft on Pinterest, let your kids free draw or free paint. Pull out whatever art supplies or craft kits you have and let your kids go to town. With remote learning, even with engaging teachers, it’s hard not to feel like you’re being talked at after awhile. Don’t give your kids a craft with complicated directions. Just let them do art in their own way. Besides, it will give you more of an opportunity to do your work too!
Another good option, and one that my older son particularly enjoys, is legos. We started him off with the Lego City kits, but lately he’s really been enjoying doing free play with legos and building his own creations.
One of the best screen-free brain breaks is pretend play. I talked a lot about pretend play in my post on the best toys to keep kids busy so you can work, so definitely check that out if you need some ideas on how to add some diversity to your kids’ imaginative play. Whether they like to play restaurant or veterinarian, police officer or doctor, once they log off their screens encourage them to use their imaginations.
And of course, don’t forget reading! Whether your child can read independently or if you read to your child, escape from the stress of remote learning with a great story!
Sensory brain breaks
I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the point of sensory play for quite some time. And I probably still don’t understand all the benefits of sensory play, but here’s what I do know: when my kids are getting frustrated or cranky or whiny, or when they’re tired or have been on screens for too long, sensory brings them back, calms them down, and refocuses them.
In these situations I break out the play-doh or kinetic sand. I know I’ve mentioned these toys several times before but they are a staple in our household. I pull them out when I see my kids starting to get cranky, frustrated, or bored. Or when they need a break from one another. Kinetic sand and play-doh seems to calm them down and redirect their energy to something creative.
Another fun sensory experience is making a squish bag. You can google some recipes online, but my favorite has been clear hair gel (get it from the dollar store!) in a ziploc bag. You can add beads, buttons, glitter, or food coloring to it if you want to make it even more interesting. But even plain, it’s just fun to play with. It comes in handy when I need my kids to wait for something, since it distracts them long enough so I can get what I need done.
Water is a wonderful sensory experience. Let your kids play in the sink, wash their toys, or set up a pouring station for them with various plastic or metal bowls, cups, ladles, and spoons. Or even let them take a bath and relax in the warm water.
Other sensory play to try:
Screen-Free Brain Breaks for After Remote Learning
After just a few days of remote learning, my kid is wiped afterwards. All he really wants to do is lay on the couch and watch his favorite TV shows. I get it. After a tough day of work, that’s about all I want to do too. But I know he needs to get outside and play, burn energy, and have fun.
What seems to be working for us so far is for him to watch some TV while he’s eating lunch. After that, it’s screens off and time to play. It’s a work in progress and every day we’re refining our schedule and routine. I think we all know by this point that patience and flexibility is required to get through remote learning.
I hope this list of screen-free brain breaks for after remote learning has given you a few ideas of what to do with your child after they’re done with online learning. Hoping your year is off to a good start and it only gets better. Good luck!
Looking for more family fun activities or screen-free toy suggestions? Check out:
- The Best Toys to Keep Kids Busy (So You Can Work!)
- Best STEM Toys for Preschoolers (also good for early elementary!)
- 40+ Fun, Free Family Activities to do During a No Spend Challenge