In today’s Bluejack Kids blog post, we’ll explain how research points towards the immense benefit water and brain breaks have on your students’ performance and attention in class.
Our bodies are composed mostly of water so it’s no surprise that hydration is essential. What many parents and educators aren’t aware of is how important hydration is for children’s overall functioning in class.
Why Teachers Should Focus on Hydration
The general scientific consensus is that hydration facilitates many cognitive processes. Among those are attention and performance in academic settings.
On average, children have a higher daily water requirement than adults due to differences in relative body mass. Unfortunately, in the United States, over half of children in an NHANES study (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey), had highly concentrated urine, indicative of insufficient hydration.
Another study by Khan et al. in 2019 showed that increasing water intake to 2.5L/day significantly improved cognitive flexibility compared to low water intake (0.5L/day) in children.
Therefore, as the research suggests, hydration is an important but often neglected part of a school day. That’s where a teacher’s role comes in, especially since children depend on adults for regular access to water. With most children only getting 14% of their daily water intake while at school, there’s a lot of room for improvement when it comes to hydration during class.
How to Ensure Your Students Hydrate Enough
First, make sure students get plenty of water breaks throughout your class. A good idea is to have kids keep their reusable water bottles on their desks and encourage them to drink regularly throughout the day.
Second, a water break can have a compound positive effect on children’s performance. You can consider water breaks as a type of brain break as well; another phenomenon shown to boost overall cognitive function during prolonged periods of mental effort.
When you feel your students are having a difficult time paying attention (typically 20 or 25 minutes into a class), modify your class schedule to provide a two-minute water and brain break. Being attentive to students’ needs does wonders when it comes to their academic performance.
Incorporate Brain Breaks
Brain breaks help children take a break from the cognitive demands placed on them during the school day to help ease tension, stress, anxiety and frustration. An effective brain break could include deep breathing exercises, relaxation strategies, physical activity such as dancing, stretching or exercise. Incorporating scheduled brain breaks (2-3 minutes) during transitions from one activity to another or when you notice your class having a difficult time paying attention has many benefits. Research has shown that activating a different part of the brain during a brain break gives the pathways in the brain responsible for focus and attention enough time to recuperate and function better for the rest of the class.
Students love a quick choreographed dance by GoNoodle or MovetoLearnMS. Patterned, repetitive movements give children the break they need to regulate their bodies and their emotions, as well as improve their overall engagement and focus.
Another essential and often overlooked role in optimizing a students’ academic performance is the importance of recess. Physical movement is a necessary component of the school day, therefore recess should never be taken away as a form of disciplinary action or to complete academic tasks. Physical movement during recess is vital in improving body and brain regulation which then supports optimal learning.
In short, hydration breaks and brain breaks have shown positive effects in learning outcomes. Decisions as simple as making sure each student has a water bottle on their desk, or a quick choreographed dance and song during class, can significantly boost your students’ overall wellbeing, engagement and performance academically, socially and emotionally.
Take time to get attuned to your students’ needs and make sure you cater your lesson plan and school day to those needs. Think of hydration and brain breaks as boosters when you feel energy and attention spans are waning.
Find out more about how to cultivate your students’ social and emotional learning through our animated digital content library here.