Recess is Still Important!

girl at playground

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement on Monday citing the importance of recess for elementary school-aged children.

Dr. Robert Murray, who coauthored the statement, said, “We consider it essentially the child's personal time and don't feel it should be taken away for academic or punitive reasons.”

According to the statement, which was published in the group’s publication “Pediatrics,” cites recess as an important time to teach children social and communication skills like sharing, conflict-resolution, and cooperation.

Recess is also important to help children absorb the information they’ve heard while in class. Murray says that just like adults, children need some free time to process what they’re learning. Adults at work can take a few minutes to get up from their desks, walk around, and stretch, but children in school aren’t allowed that same freedom. Scheduled recesses resolve this problem.

Research in the past has shown that children who go to recess are able to focus more and perform better in class. Children who get more exercise, whether from playing on sports teams or through outdoor free play, do better in school, according to a review of studies last January.

However, a study in 2011 found that less than one-third of the schools surveyed offered their third-grade students recess time. Some schools in Japan offer not only one recess, but 10 minutes of free time for every 50 minutes of class time, says Murray.

While there is debate over how much recess is sufficient for a child’s needs, both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Agriculture agree that recess is most beneficial when it occurs before lunch.

The AAP also says that P.E. should not be considered a replacement for recess, and that recess should be closer to free play than games structured by adults.

I wholeheartedly agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics. When I was in elementary school, recess gave me just enough time to let off some steam before going back to learning. I remember being outraged when teachers would threaten to take away recess as punishment for some of the class misbehaving; my mother was almost more upset than I when she found out. Multiple studies have found that taking breaks in the middle of work or learning helps improve retention of information and efficiency.

What do you think? Is recess a thing of the past, or should schools focus on ensuring recess for our children?

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Recess is Still Important!

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1 comment

  1. I agree with the post’s assertion that physical activity is important for student learning. I want to stress that recess should not be substituted for Physical Education. Physical Education, taught by a certified PE teacher, provides students with the knowledge needed to be physically active for life. Brief bouts of physical activity in the classroom can benefit students in a myriad of ways (better retention of information learned, improved behavior, etc) but should not be considered physical education. To be sure that students have guaranteed opportunities for physical activity teachers and parents should work with administration on getting recess policies put in place. Additionally, if your state doesn’t have minimum PE requirements for students, encourage administration to put one in place for students in your district. The more active we can help our kids to be the better off we all are!

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