Brain Breaks vs. Sensory Safe Classrooms

With Sensory Processing Skills and their impact on children’s learning abilities being such a hot topic in Early Childhood Education, you may have wondered which is better for your classroom- Brain breaks or Sensory Safe Strategies?

As a pediatric occupational therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with children in various educational settings. Over the years, I have come across two common strategies that aim to support children’s sensory needs and promote optimal learning experiences: brain breaks and sensory-safe classrooms. In this blog post, we will explore the benefits and considerations of both approaches.

Introduction to Brain Breaks and Sensory Safe Classrooms

Sensory breaks, also known as brain breaks, are short periods of time specifically designed to fulfill children’s sensory needs and release pent-up energy.

These short breaks allow children to engage in movement and activities that help them reset and refocus their attention.

On the other hand, sensory-safe classrooms involve creating an environment that supports children’s sensory systems, enhancing their learning experience.

Why Brain Breaks Are Important

Sensory breaks have gained popularity in recent years, as educators and professionals have become increasingly aware of the importance of sensory processing in supporting children.

Many children with sensory processing difficulties may experience increased behaviors, meltdowns, and difficulty concentrating when their sensory needs are not met. Sensory breaks provide a structured way to address these needs and ensure that children are ready to learn.

There are many different types of brain breaks. Sensory breaks may be part of a sensory diet, a guided youtube movement sequence for a group of children, or even a decal jumping path in a school hallway.

Benefits of Sensory Breaks

Fulfilling Sensory Needs: Sensory breaks allow children to engage in movement and activities that release pent-up overstimulation and sensory pressure. For example, jumping or banging feet can help children regulate their sensory systems and reduce excess energy.

Customization: Sensory breaks can be easily incorporated into the day and can be tailored to each child’s specific needs. Some children may require more intense sensory input, while others may need gentle movement. By customizing sensory breaks, educators can ensure that each child’s sensory preferences are addressed.

Increased Focus and Attention: Regular sensory breaks throughout the day can help children reset their sensory systems and improve their ability to concentrate. By addressing their sensory needs, children are better equipped to engage in learning activities.

Considerations for Brain Breaks

Individual Suitability: Sensory breaks may not be suitable for all children. It is important for educators to consult with professionals and parents to determine if sensory breaks are appropriate for a particular child. Some children may have sensory sensitivities or other conditions that require a different approach.

Educator Guidance: Sensory breaks require guidance from educators who are familiar with sensory processing and can effectively implement these breaks within the classroom setting. Proper training and support are crucial to ensure that sensory breaks are utilized in a safe and effective manner.

Creating Sensory Safe Classrooms

While sensory breaks can be highly beneficial, the concept of sensory-safe classrooms takes a holistic approach to supporting children’s sensory needs. A sensory-safe classroom involves creating an environment that addresses various sensory components, including sound, seating, movement, and lighting.
Benefits of Sensory Safe Classrooms

Optimal Learning Environment: By considering the sensory needs of all children in the classroom, sensory-safe classrooms create an optimal learning environment for everyone. When children’s bodies are not distracted by physical discomfort or excessive energy, they can focus on their learning tasks.

Inclusive Education: Sensory-safe classrooms promote inclusive education by recognizing and accommodating the diverse sensory needs of all students. This approach ensures that children with sensory processing issues are not singled out, but rather supported within the broader classroom community.

Enhanced Learning Experience: Research suggests that children in sensory-adapted classrooms are more engaged in learning and experience decreased sensory overstimulation. By providing a sensory-friendly environment, educators can enhance children’s ability to learn and thrive.

Considerations for Sensory Safe Classrooms

System-Wide Adoption: Creating sensory-safe classrooms is most effective when adopted at the school or system level, rather than relying on individual teachers to implement the necessary changes. This ensures consistency in creating sensory-supportive environments across all classrooms.

Time and Investment: Implementing sensory-safe classrooms may require additional time and financial investment compared to sensory breaks alone. It involves adapting the physical environment, providing appropriate resources and materials, and training educators to create and maintain sensory-safe spaces.

The Goldilocks Effect: Finding the Right Balance
In creating sensory-safe classrooms, it is important to achieve the “Goldilocks effect” – an environment that is just right for children’s sensory needs. This means addressing physical discomfort and excess energy while still providing an environment that promotes learning and concentration.

The Role of Movement in Learning

Movement is a fundamental aspect of learning. Incorporating movement into learning activities helps reset and stimulate the brain, improving concentration and learning abilities. Sensory breaks and sensory-safe classrooms provide opportunities for children to engage in purposeful movement that supports their sensory system.


Both brain breaks and sensory-safe classrooms offer valuable strategies to support children’s sensory needs and promote optimal learning experiences. While sensory breaks provide structured opportunities for movement and sensory input, sensory-safe classrooms take a holistic approach by creating sensory-friendly environments. By leveraging the benefits of both approaches, educators can create inclusive and supportive learning environments that benefit all children.

Remember, just as adults benefit from brain breaks and stretches to rejuvenate their minds and bodies, children also require regular movement breaks to reset and refocus. By prioritizing sensory needs and creating sensory safe classrooms, we can create an environment where children can thrive and reach their full potential.

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