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Friday, February 27, 2015

Play to Learn, Learn to Play: 10 Benefits of Recess

Photo by AAA State of Play (Two-Top-Khamun)

"Today's young children are controlled by the expectations, schedules, whims, and rules of adults. Play in the only time they can take control of their world." ~ Sheila G. Flaxman

Clap your hands if you have fond memories of recess! My friends and I would burst outside into the sunshine, clamber up trees, conjure up outlandish games to play, and just have fun. Do our children have the same opportunities to create these sunny, smiling memories? Do they have access to the emotional, cognitive, and physical rewards of ample playtime?

The unfortunate reality is that due to strict testing standards and other factors, recess is being pushed aside. This creates a troubling conundrum; kids are expected to pack more into their brains without any opportunity for reprieve. As adults, we know how strenuous it can be to work through our lunches, rack up long hours, and care for our family. We all need time and space to breathe. The sames goes for children! That is why recess is so essential.

Here are 10 great ways that children can benefit from recess.

  1. Ease Tension: Play is an active release. As kids run around and interact, they are refreshing their minds and prepping the canvas for learning. Instead of the pent-up energy building up and bursting in destructive ways, recess invites them to apply their curiosity and energy towards hands-on growth.
  2. Build Character: When you watch a recess in session, you'll see plenty of kids laughing, communicating, and playing games. The playground is a thriving hub for social development. They learn to take turns, guide each other, and express themselves.
  3. Fruit and Veggie Friendly: Your children will be more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables if they enjoy recess prior to having lunch. There's proof!
  4. Brain Food: It might sound simple, but the brain is activated by play. Being able to run, climb, explore, and swing frees excess energy that would otherwise distract them from absorbing learning material. Plus, play relieves stress, which can be toxic to brain function.
  5. Get Moving: With child obesity on the rise, physical activity is crucial. If children have access to active recess as they grow up, they will develop a natural affinity for movement. A moving child is a learning child, and an active body makes for a happy brain!
  6. Build Confidence: Recess provides a dynamic landscape for kids to express themselves within. Play includes key ingredients that nurture self-esteem, such as learning, action, and freedom. As the move and explore, they will gain trust in their own footing both physically and mentally.
  7. Kindness and Respect: Recess gathers many children and encourages them to grow together. This fun, natural source of interaction nourishes their empathy and builds their communication skills. They can practice the lessons of diversity and compassion they learn in school on the playground. While they need our guidance at times, it is essential for them to have an opportunity to socialize.
  8. Better Behavior: Almost every teacher I know is a firm believer in the power of play, stating that students behave better after recess. Let's face it; everybody feels better after a refreshing break. Kids need to move. They aren't built to be confined for too long. Rather than punishing the symptoms of recess deprivation, why not strive to make recess a reality for every kid?
  9. All Together Now: Recess brings kids with a dazzling rainbow of personalities together. Often, they will unite naturally and strive towards a common goal. If clashes occur, we can help them learn how to work it out and compromise.
  10. Growth Magic: I often say that play is growth magic for kids (and adults)! While it's not truly fairy dust, the proof is in the science. Every aspect of life is enlivened by play. Imagination? Check. Learning? Check. Physical health? Check. Interpersonal skills? Check. As jazz maestro Louis Armstrong said, "What we play is life."

What other benefits of recess can you think of? There are so many! Please Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments section below.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

1 comment:

  1. My daughter started school early because of recess and social interactions. I think kids get the opportunity to play with other kids that are not in or near their home and it teaches them to problem solve and build friendships. I love outdoors and powering down the gadgets to go get fresh air. Being constantly plugged in is normal but as a mom I want to be a good example by playing outside even if it is in 15 minute increments.