Alternative Breaktimes: A Lifeline for Children Struggling with Social Anxieties and Skills
For many children, school breaktimes can be a source of immense joy and freedom. But for those struggling with social anxieties and difficulties with friendships and social skills, they can be a minefield of stress and discomfort. The pressure to socialise, engage in large groups, and navigate unstructured play can trigger significant anxiety and leave them feeling overwhelmed and isolated.
Thankfully, there’s a solution: alternative breaktime activities. These activities offer a safe haven and a multitude of benefits for children facing social challenges, creating a more inclusive and supportive school environment for all.
Easing the Burden of Social Anxieties
Escape from the Crowds: Alternative activities provide a refuge from the overwhelming noise and social demands of large groups. This escape can significantly reduce anxiety levels, allowing children to relax and recharge during breaks.
Predictability and Comfort: Having designated spaces for specific activities creates familiarity and predictability, which can be calming for children with anxiety. Knowing what to expect and having control over their breaktime experience can ease their worries.
Focused Engagement: Engaging in individual or small group activities allows children to focus on the task at hand, taking their mind off social anxieties and worries. This shift in focus can lessen self-consciousness and promote a sense of accomplishment.
Building Bridges to Friendship and Social Skills
Gradual Interaction: Some alternative activities offer opportunities for gentle social interaction in a less pressured setting. Working alongside a trusted friend on a puzzle or participating in a small reading group can ease into social engagement without the overwhelming feeling of a large playground.
Building Confidence: Mastering new skills or activities can boost children’s self-esteem and confidence. This, in turn, can translate into improved social interactions in other contexts.
Shared Interests: Alternative activities can connect children with similar interests, creating natural opportunities for friendship and bonding. Sharing a passion for drawing or building robots can provide a common ground for communication and social interaction.
Beyond the Breaktime: Overall Well-being
- Physical Activity: Many alternative activities, like playing board games or engaging in creative projects involve some level of movement. This can help children release pent-up energy, improve mood, and enhance overall well-being.
- Mental Stimulation: Activities that spark creativity, problem-solving, and imagination can be highly beneficial for children’s cognitive development and overall well-being.
- Positive Breaktime Experiences: By replacing negative breaktime experiences with positive ones, children with social anxieties can develop a more positive association with school and breaktimes. This can improve their overall morale and engagement in school life.
Calm and Quiet Activities
- Reading in a designated quiet space.
- Mindfulness exercises and deep breathing.
- Colouring or doodling in a colouring book.
- Listening to calming music with headphones.
- Building with Legos or other quiet construction toys.
Small Group Activities
- Co-operative board games with 2-3 players.
- Puzzles or jigsaw puzzles in small groups.
- Card games like Uno or Go Fish.
- Lego-based Therapy Session
- Art as Therapy Sessions
- Building or crafting projects with shared materials.
- Yoga or gentle stretching exercises.
- Playing catch or throwing a ball outside.
- Walking or jogging with a supportive adult.
- Dancing to music in a private space.
- Simple indoor exercises like jumping jacks or squats.
Communication and Collaboration
- Role-playing games with pre-defined scenarios.
- Improvisational storytelling games in small groups.
- Debate or discussion prompts on safe topics.
- Building a collaborative diorama or art project.
- Playing charades or Pictionary with simple clues.
Shared Interests and Creativity
- Art projects like drawing, painting, or clay sculpting.
- Building with blocks or robots with specific challenges.
- Learning a new skill together, like origami or coding.
- Playing musical instruments in a small ensemble.
- Creative writing exercises or collaborative stories.
By embracing alternative breaktimes, schools can create a more inclusive and supportive environment where all children, regardless of their social challenges, can thrive. Let’s break down the barriers and build bridges to a more joyful and fulfilling school experience for everyone.