(CREDIT: Photo by wsilver (Flickr))
Recess has become a topic of debate as schools are finding ways to cram more academics, typically test preparation, into the school day. Many researchers, educators, doctors, and parents - including me - believe recess is crucial for the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development of the child. Reasons abound as to the benefits of unstructured play, and I have highlighted a few below. As the mother of two active daughters, I encourage other parents to examine the important role recess plays in their child's development and to protect and defend unstructured play in their school districts.
Improved cognitive performance
Children need a break between classes. Dr. Robert Murray, pediatrician and professor at Ohio State University, states that children are less likely to process information without a break between tasks. Everyone benefits from a break to keep their mind sharp, even adults.
Fostering social skills
Children need to learn how to act in the unstructured environment that recess provides, especially because the rest of their school day is highly structured. Unstructured play equips children with necessary real life skills such as problem-solving, cooperation, sharing, and conflict resolution. Recess is also an ideal time for teachers to observe student behavior outside the classroom, allowing them to intervene when witnessing situations involving aggression or social isolation before these issues escalate into larger problems.
Better classroom behavior
Children who have had time to blow off steam are less likely to use the classroom as an outlet for relieving stress. Banning recess as a punitive measure for unruly behavior is especially harmful because these students are likely to benefit from unstructured physical activity the most.
Improved focused in class
When students are deprived of a respite from the classroom, they will appear fidgety and will have difficulty concentrating. Children are more alert and productive when vigorous academic activity is interrupted with a break. Physical development decreases restlessness that can also contribute to diminished academic performance.
Lower risk of childhood obesity
As many are already aware, childhood obesity is a problem in American schools. Studies show that spikes in childhood obesity rates have correlated with diminished recess time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children have 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.
Room to explore
Unstructured play time allows children to explore non-academic interests that they may not otherwise have exposure to in their communities. This holds especially true for kids in disadvantaged communities. Kids learn which physical activities they enjoy and those they particularly excel at, leading to healthier and happier children.
Better academic performance
Despite efforts to diminish or remove recess in order to squeeze in more test prep time, these measures have proven to be counterproductive. Physical and emotional health is paramount to academic achievement, and these can be developed during recess.
Find more about the author: Kim Hart