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The Magic Of Unplugged Play & Movement Breaks In The Classroom

The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.
The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.

There is no question that technology has many benefits inside and outside the classroom. Digital and blended learning experiences provide options to mix into traditional classroom activities. That said, devices are everywhere and too much screen time causes problems for kids. That’s where unplugged play comes in. 

First, let’s look at why screen-free time is so important. Too much screen time can cause problems like:

  • Tunnel vision or lack of observation
  • Limited or poor quality sleep
  • Limiting creativity and problem solving
  • Isolation

There are amazing ways to use technology in your classroom, and we don’t want to discourage that, but providing a counterpoint to that will help students be healthier, more creative, and more balanced. 

The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.

3 benefits of screen-free time

When screen time is limited — or even when there is dedicated screen-free time built into the day, students get the benefits of screen-free play and movement. 

Connecting with others. While technology can connect us to people far away, it often isolates us. Too much time on screens takes away in-person time with family, classmates, and friends. When more screen-free time is built in, there is more time to engage with each other. This works best when everyone has the same screen-free time. 

Better health and learning. Screen time, especially late in the day, can have a negative effect on sleep. We all need rest to stay healthy to be our best the next day. Plus sleep is when our brains sort and consolidate things we learned during the day. And time off devices leaves more time for movement. 

Being more in the moment. Kids who spend too much time on phones or tablets often don’t look up enough to notice the world. If they get notifications, they may be distracted from what is happening around them. Time without devices or their distractions helps students notice and engage with their environment. 

Dedicated time for unplugged play and movement breaks in the classroom can help students reap these benefits — and could even encourage more screen-free time outside of school. 

The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.

How to build unplugged play into your day

If you are thinking, I don’t have time for one more thing in my school day, hold on. Start by thinking through all the activities you do that are unplugged in the course of the day. I bet you have many things that are unplugged. 

But what about play? Play gets squeezed out of our day, so it’s important to remember that play has a place in learning … not just for fun. 

We can use play for practice and review of academic subjects. Play also helps students learn other skills like communication, taking turns, understanding and following rules, and problem solving. It can boost creativity. 

We can use movement breaks in the classroom to get rid of excess energy, to energize a sluggish class or give a brain break, or simply as a fun transition. 

Instead of thinking of unplugged play as something else to fit in, think about new ways of doing things you may already do. 

Here are a few ways to bring movement breaks to the classroom while practicing literacy and math.

  • Word wall relay race—Divide the class into teams. Place word wall words at one end of the room and definitions at the other. Students take turns racing to match words with their definitions and bring them back to their teams.
  • Do a story walk. Place a different page of a book at a different place in the classroom, school, or playground. Have students use different motions—walk, jog, lunge, skip, etc.—between pages. 
  • Practice letter shapes with movement. Write letters on the ground with chalk and have students dribble a ball along the letters. 
  • Skip counting. Have students use skip counting as they skip rope, dribble, or volley a tennis ball. 
  • Mental math. Give a short mental math problem, and move forward their response. For example, if you say 5 x 2, students will take 10 steps. 

Unplugged play can also include games to help practice phonics or math, brain breaks, and even an observational walking field trip. 

The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.

Print and play packs make games and puzzles easy to add to your unplugged play classroom options. Check out these spelling games, these skip counting puzzles, or these phonics play dough mats.

Cootie catchers are another great unplugged play option. My students always love them. 

Get a free cootie catcher print and play sample: 

My new Etsy store is a great resource for engaging, imaginative activities for your students. You’ll find even more cootie catchers plus color by number packs. And there’s so much more coming, including Jeopardy-style games, bingo games, scavenger hunts, mini-books, escape rooms, and board games! 

Unplugged play doesn’t have to take away time from the other things you need to do in the classroom — and it doesn’t have to take a lot of your prep time either. Print and play packs help you bring more unplugged play to your class with ease.

The importance of unplugged play & movement breaks in the classroom. Discover benefits, tips, & engaging activities to enhance learning.

 

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