Fun and Easy Ideas for Brain Breaks

With so many young people still having school online, some Boys & Girls Clubs and Youth Centers are transformed into Learning Support Centers during the school day. But even for those who are still doing more traditional programming or for when COVID is OVER (speak it into existence!), having some ideas quick at hand for short group energy getter-outers or for youth who may finish their tasks early is always a good idea.

ClubX Blog superstar Lesa and I huddled and came up with some ideas to pair with some from your colleagues across the Movement that were shared in the BGCA Youth Development Facebook group! Its the perfect place to go to get your questions answered, especially when it comes to programming or other youth-facing activities or events. If you aren’t a part already, join now, and be sure to answer the two questions so that I will admit you. 🙂

For when the whole group needs a break

GoNoodle is always an easy go-to for when younger youth need to get up and move, and is endorsed by Debra at Boys & Girls Clubs of Springfield. On their website you can create a free account and favorite videos, plus they have a new bilingual/cultural Spanish channel! You can also find many of their videos on YouTube, like this one.

Another video-based idea comes from our family at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Virginia, who have created a Yoga and Mindfulness playlist on YouTube. Check out this one designed specifically for tweens and teens.

This list has a bunch of non-video, no equipment needed ways to get moving, like writing in the air, dancing the cha-cha slide, and sudden 1-minute dance party.

This list isn’t socially distant, but could work if you have contained groups. I especially love the Places and Spaces and Snowball Toss activities.

If you have useable outdoor space, go for a quick walk! Just getting some fresh air can make a huge difference. If you think your group needs the focus, Jamie from the Boys & Girls Club of Transylvania County suggests that you could make a simple scavenger hunt for things they could find or see around your site.

Hiking GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

If you need to stay inside and have a little longer of a break time, Rei at Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metropolitan Area suggested chess and checkers, particularly with older-elementary and middle grade youth. You can find kits like this that have chess and checkers pieces at Amazon, Walmart, and Target.

For when individual youth need a quiet activity

Choice Boards are a common traditional classroom feature for youth who finish their work early. Here are two examples, but you’ll notice they tend to lean to the academic, which makes sense for a classroom, but at the Club we can branch out a little. You can post choice boards on an actual bulletin board for youth to see, as a printable at their desk so it can change up weekly or monthly, or even have ideas written on popsicle sticks that youth draw from. I’m going to call them choice boards from here on out, but know that they can take many forms.

All of these specific choices may not work for you, but I LOVE how this teacher organized her choice boards. Youth get a new one weekly and have to choose activities from specific rows and columns. This is a way to keep it fresh and cycle a handful of ideas in and out.

These are for distance learning but you could totally use them in person, and the templates are free! and editable!!

One thing you HAVE to add to your choice boards is MyFuture, which recently underwent a MAJOR upgrade! You’ll notice the improved look and feel immediately when you visit the site, but there are tons of new features to dive into. There are currently almost FOUR HUNDRED activities with more added all the time, including some just for teens. and there is always a contest going where youth and Clubs can win grants or prizes! Learn more about how to integrate MyFuture into your Club’s programming today.

Samantha from Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Anaheim-Cypress had a couple of great suggestions: “We really like using geoboards and tangram sets. There are tons of logic puzzles that they can do with them. Individualized STEM challenge task cards have also been great, as well as assigning some more complex art projects that they can work on as time allows. We also give each member a playdough set and that’s a huge hit with our younger members.”

Playdough is echoed in our Practical Guide to Learning Support Centers, along with playing cards, Rubik’s Cubes, LEGOS, and activity books. I try not to link to paid items BUT this educator has some incredible STEM challenge card sets, and they look like they come to $5 a set which is reasonable. You can also find some free one-off alternatives on Pinterest, but this gives a bunch.

If youth have access to a computer or tablet, a site Lesa recommends for youth in grades 3-7 is Math Snacks. Youth can play the games on their own, or watch the videos to help increase understanding of what they are learning. Your local school district may also have youth use other similar sites, like Study Island or Stride Academy.

Reading is always a good choice. If your Club library isn’t extensive, consider asking your local public or school libraries if they’d let you have a rotating selection in the Club, or an Amazon wish list of books would be a great way for the community to give to your organization this holiday season. For youth who may not yet be confident readers, or who just like to listen to books read aloud, Storyline Online is another great website. Just make sure they’ve got headphones. They’ve even got apps if your youth are using tablets. It’s done by the SAF-AFTRA Foundation, so you’ll see entertainers you recognize, like Kristen Bell, Oprah, Chris Pine (the best Chris), and more!

Also consider including various fidgets for youth to keep at their seat. In this ClubX Blog post, Monika from Boys & Girls Club includes some of her favorites, but also playdough or pipe cleaners are other good choices.

As always, keep checking back to the ClubX Blog for other ideas for your Club, including posts like this on Learning Support Centers. Subscribe with your email at the bottom of the page so you never miss us!

What are your favorite brain breaks? Do you have any other suggestions for Learning Support Centers? We want to hear! Contact us by commenting below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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