In 2006, less than 60 percent of school districts provided students with daily recess. Nancy Barrand, senior adviser for program development at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, states, "Recess is an essential building block for healthy school environments that help kids thrive socially, emotionally, and physically." I agree. Because I know my girls thrive on physical activity during the day, I created this list of nine ways recess boosts academic achievement. Use it to advocate for recess at your child's school!
1. Improves the Transition to Learning
Kids who constantly move from one class to the next during the day can struggle to mentally transition between classes. After recess, though, students spend 34 percent fewer minutes transitioning to the next subject, giving students and teachers more instruction time.
2. Boosts Focus
After a long day at work, you might experience a foggy brain and struggle to finish tasks, focus on your work, or think clearly. The same phenomenon happens to kids when they work for long stretches at a time. Recess breaks are essential to boost focus and help kids concentrate at school.
3. Improves Memory
When my girls are bombarded with facts all day, they tend to forget much of it quickly. I've found that they retain more information and remember it better when they have play breaks that allow their brains to reboot and better process facts.
4. Decreases Fidgeting
Kinesthetic learners and high-energy kids typically have trouble sitting still during the day, and their fidgeting can distract other students and hinder learning. Recess gives kids a chance to run, jump, and play. They return to the classroom with a renewed focus and ability to sit still.
5. Improves Behavioral Issues
Too often, teachers take away recess for kids who misbehave. However, recess is an important break that actually decreases behavioral issues. It gives kids a chance to move, escape from the classroom, and reboot mentally, which also helps them behave appropriately in the classroom.
6. Relieves Stress
Tests, homework, and structure can create stress for kids of all ages. Recess breaks provide a change of scenery, a break from academics, and the opportunity to decide what activities they will do. Students return to the classroom relaxed and less stressed because they were able to play. As family physician Dr. Wendy Kohatsu says, "I would far rather write a prescription for safe outdoor play for my pediatric patients than see them five years later with depression, anxiety, and obesity."
7. Decreases Class Interruptions
There's always one kid in the classroom who talks a lot and interrupts the class. Recess gives kids a designated time to chat with each other. Because class time interruptions are decreased, the whole class can focus and learn.
8. Improves Brain Capacity
When kids move, the physical activity increases their brain's capacity. Movement increases the amount of brain food (glucose, oxygen, and water) that's delivered to the brain and helps kids get better test scores and have a better attitude toward school.
9. Improves Lunch Choices
Most kids naturally gravitate to junk food, and foods high in sugar and fat actually decrease energy and focus. Kids are more likely to choose fruits and vegetables for lunch, though, when they have recess first because the exercise gives them focus that helps them make better choices. Those healthy food choices then help kids focus in school.
I'm a big play advocate and agree that students should have daily recess breaks. Has this list of nine ways recess boosts academic achievement shown you the importance of recess, too? If so, make sure your kids get recess at school every day!
Find more about the author: Kim Hart