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3 Bunny Brain Breaks To Increase Emotional Regulation And Academic Learning

Sit still, be quiet, and listen. This is what we ask our children to do so that they can focus at school, eat dinner at the table, or make it through a grocery store visit riding passenger in the cart.

But what if the secret to learning was actually in movement?

In the field of neuroscience, leading thinkers discovered that movement stimulates the brain’s lifelong growth and plasticity and has been linked to improved concentration and focus, memory, academics, language acquisition, physical coordination, emotional and behavioral regulation, and more. 

When we combine neurological milestones - aka those movements that occurred the firsts few years of life - with multi-sensory movements specific to eye-teaming, hand-eye coordination, and whole-body awareness, the architecture of the brain changes, bringing swift cognitive and social-emotional development to children of all ages. 

Learning And Stress

Oftentimes, stress is placed on the pace at which academic markers are reached, which often complicates a child’s educational experience. For learning to occur, experts say, children must feel a sense of safety and connection. Humans are natural learners, and children learn best through play. When children can look, listen and move without stress, they remain curious about their senses and interact with the world around them. 

Dr. Paul Dennison, creator of Educational Kinesiology studied students early in his career and found that when students were strained or inactive throughout the day, their learning ability “switched off”. By applying movement to children’s daily experiences, it awakens their brains for higher learning and/or calms their nervous system for focused activity. This happens with three primary movement patterns: 

  • Sensorimotor and midline movements, which are the two-sidedness fundamental to reading, writing, listening, speaking, creativity, and problem-solving.
  • Stability and centering movements, which merges one’s center of mass and center of balance to self-calm, focus, follow directions and perform executive functions.
  • Locomotion and lengthening exercises, which allow us to move from place to place with optimal muscle length for focus and ease, and are associated with less anxiety, tantrums, and stress.

3 Bunny Brain Breaks To Increase Emotional Regulation And Academic Learning 

Because brain and body breaks are beneficial to children and adults of all neurotypes, we thought it would be fun to share spring-inspired “bunny brain breaks” that kids can do before a focused task, to take a break, or to activate their learning brains. 

1. Bunny Breath 

Sniff, Sniff, Sniff (inhales), followed by a slow exhale. Now you’ve done a bunny breath! This invigorating breathing technique wakes up the brain and allows for energy and focus, getting your child ready for learning. 
You can make this activity more tangible by cutting out the Bunny Breath printable with your child, attaching it to a spatula or other kitchen utensil, and letting your child’s bunny “hop” along with their breaths. 

2. Bunny Body

Besides being fun, larger, gross motor body exercises can target the vestibular and proprioceptive sensory systems. 

Wiggle your tail like a bunny 

Shake your hips from side to side as if shaking your bunny tail.  

Bunny windmills 

Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and arms in a “T” position (this is called star pose). Keep your arms and legs straight as you bend down to touch one hand to your opposite foot. Bring your body back to star pose and then do the other hand and foot.

Hop like a bunny 

Stand tall and hop in place, starting slow and then picking up speed. Advance to hopping in a forward movement, like jumping down a bunny trail. 

3. Bunny Ears

Together with your child, use the printable to cut out and create your bunny ears and wear them for these two activities: 

Whole-body listening

We describe listening as the awareness of ourselves and others. Some children listen with body movement such as flapping to regulate their system and some listen with stillness such as sitting with their feet on the ground, making eye contact and squaring their shoulders to the person they are listening to. As they wear their listening bunny ears, invite your kiddo to find their listening body and notice what it feels like to listen and to be heard. 

Playful enrollment

Are there tasks your child dreads? One that often leads to meltdowns and tantrums? What better way to transform a moment than speaking your child’s language - aka play. For example, instead of commanding and demanding that your child picks up their toys, encourage them to put on their bunny ears to become bunnies who hop during clean-up. When children are motivated from within to do something, they are more invested in the outcome and more likely to participate. 

Movement can alter the brain and lead to learning readiness. And when you can insert a little fun into it, well, you have a big ol’ win for both you and your child. Learning doesn’t have to be stressful, in fact, it can be a “hoppy” experience.  


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