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Monday, March 18, 2019

Why Taking Away Recess for Bad Behavior Can Backfire

Photo by unionland (Flickr)

When children misbehave at school, they may lose their recess privileges. I know my girls have both lost recess in the past because they didn't complete classwork or homework on time, fidgeted a lot, or talked during class. While this punishment is easy to administer and can motivate good behavior, let's consider how taking away recess actually backfires in several ways for our children and their teachers.

Recess Releases Pent-Up Energy

Children are naturally energetic. They're going to fidget, get out of their seats, or be unable to sit still during class. Send them outside or to the gym to play, where they release their excess energy, and they return to the classroom more relaxed, focused, and ready to learn.

Recess Cultivates Attentiveness

A 5-year-old child has less than a six-minute attention span for assigned tasks, yet we often require young children to sit still and listen to long lectures or complete worksheets. It's no wonder children misbehave. We need to give our kids recess breaks throughout the day because when they return to class, they'll be alert, focused, and attentive.

Recess Develops School Skills

When our kids play on the jungle gym, swings, and teeter-totter, they do more than have fun. These playground activities also develop the essential skills kids need in the classroom. For example, holding onto jungle gym bars improves the fine motor skills kids use to write, and swinging boosts coordination that leads to reading fluency. We actually equip our kids to succeed in school when we provide recess and encourage play.

Recess Boosts Test Scores

Playing by itself won't help our kids pass tests, but the physical activity is connected to better test scores. Time away from the classroom reboots our kids' brains and promotes creative thinking, two factors that may boost regular and standardized test scores.

Recess Improves Social Skills

One year, my younger daughter lost several recesses because she talked too much during class, and her best friend lost recesses because she spoke rudely to peers. In both cases, play time would have taught and reinforced appropriate social skills. Unstructured play time teaches our kids how to interact with their peers and invites them to solve problems, manage conflict, and take turns. These essential social skills help our kids succeed in and out of the classroom.

Recess Promotes Physical Exercise

Our kids spend at least six hours a day at school, have homework in the evenings, and may turn to video games to unwind. The CDC recommends that our kids get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, though. By providing recess, we give our kids time to run, jump, move, and meet their daily physical exercise quota, so let's promote this fun and beneficial activity.

Recess Combats Obesity

Childhood obesity may lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other health complications later in life. I know kids spend a lot of time sitting down during the school day, but we can also provide recess. It can motivate our kids to move more when they're at home, may reduce obesity, and helps our kids maintain an overall healthier lifestyle.

Alternatives to Taking Away Recess

Taking away recess is an easy punishment, but we can do better. Let's discover why our kids act out during class and take steps to address those challenges in a productive and beneficial way. What we call misbehavior could actually be a skill deficit or a learning disability.

We can also add frequent breaks into the school day and try creative punishments that supplement rather than replace recess. To manage behaviors and equip our kids to learn and succeed in school, we can:

  • Send fidgety kids on an errand to the supply closet or the school office.
  • Jump in place or through tires while practicing spelling words and math problems.
  • Dance to music between classes.
  • Practice yoga before school, after lunch, or at the end of the day.
  • Assign chores like picking up all the playground toys after recess, organizing bookshelves, or sweeping the classroom floor.

Recess is a necessary part of the school day for our kids. They need time to play, move, and unwind. Instead of taking away recess for bad behavior, we must support our children and provide plenty of recess time at school. In what other ways does recess benefit your children?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, March 15, 2019

7 Benefits of Flexible Classrooms That Encourage Movement and Play

Photo by Tom Woodward (Flickr)

My younger daughter came home from school today with exciting news about her classroom. The teacher decided to implement a flexible classroom setting that will include standing tables, sofas, reading rugs, and exercise balls. The students are looking forward to the open and welcoming atmosphere, and I like the idea, too. Flexible classrooms promote movement and play during the day, and these educational environments can offer important benefits to our children.

Empower Students

We want to raise our kids to become independent thinkers and problem-solvers who take ownership of their education. Let's cultivate these important skills in a flexible classroom where our kids can choose where to sit based on their needs. Students experience fewer distractions, more productivity, and more empowerment when they take responsibility for their educational success.

Boost Academic Performance

As a parent, I focus more on learning than grades, but grades are important. I've noticed that a variety of factors, including the classroom environment, subject matter, and educational stimulation, can boost our kids' academic achievement. Flexible classrooms nurture these factors and support our kids' motivation to learn.

Enhance Collaboration

In the real world, our kids must work well with others. We teach them how to collaborate, share, and build a community when we provide flexible classroom environments. Instead of feeling possessive about a desk and their personal space, kids learn to work together as they negotiate seating arrangements and interact with classmates from their standing desks, soft chairs, and floor mats.

Encourage Physical Exercise

Traditional classroom settings include hours of sitting, which can hinder our kids' academic performance and overall health and wellness. We improve alertness, focus, and behavior when we encourage our kids to exercise and move often during the day. Flexible classrooms encourage our kids to rock, bounce, lean, stand, and wiggle. These movements boost mental sharpness and help our kids perform better in school.

Improve Comfort

Uncomfortable classrooms distract students and hinder their ability to listen to the teacher, understand concepts, and retain information. Alternatively, we create a comfortable, calm, and engaging learning environment when we implement flexible seating. Our kids are more likely to listen and learn and less likely to feel anxious or stressed when they feel comfortable in their classroom.

Promote Fun

I know school is a serious endeavor for our kids, and I want my girls to work hard when they're in school. But most of the parents and teachers I know want children to be happy at school, too. Happy and excited kids become enthusiastic learners who engage with the material and retain information more easily. We encourage fun and engagement when we implement flexible classroom environments with exciting, new, and unique seating arrangements and learning opportunities.

Customize Configurations

My teacher friends tell me that the dynamics of every class change based on the students and the subject. Flexible classrooms allow teachers and students to maximize their classroom space and daily lessons based on the students' needs and preferences. This flexibility helps kids succeed.

The flexible classroom my daughter will soon enjoy at school can improve her educational experience. I welcome this change because it promotes movement and play in addition to these seven benefits. How else would your children benefit from flexible classrooms?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Saturday, March 2, 2019

10 Excellent Educational YouTube Channels for Children

Photo by Tony Alter (Flickr)

Watching YouTube is a popular pastime at my house. My girls use it to research interesting topics, like how to dribble a soccer ball faster or how to create funky hairstyles. They also watch videos related to what they learn about in school, such as how the government works or what their body's nervous system does. While I understand the value of YouTube, I also know how important it is to monitor the content our kids watch and make sure they stick to safe, trustworthy sources. That's why I've put together this list of ten excellent educational channels that are appropriate for children.

Baby Einstein

To cultivate curiosity in toddlers, turn on the Baby Einstein channel. Videos of varying length use catchy music, entertaining puppets, and playful imagery to introduce colors, shapes, and language. I even find myself excited to learn when I watch this channel.


Preschoolers will sing and dance along with the interactive videos they view on HooplaKidz. The characters introduce kids to nursery rhymes, good conduct, and vocabulary, and all of the content is child-friendly.

PBS Kids

I always feel safe letting my girls watch the positive and non-violent PBS Kids YouTube channel. While introducing kids to different cultures and positive role models, this channel's videos also encourage our kids to think critically, be kind, and exercise their imaginations. Toddlers, preschoolers, and even elementary-aged kids can learn and grow thanks to this educational content.

Nat Geo Wild

While washing dishes last night, my girls and I watched a few birds checking out our backyard bird feeder. My girls then spent an hour learning about birds with this National Geographic YouTube channel. Perfect for animal-lovers, this channel also educates kids about animal behavior and habitats around the world.

What Do We Do All Day?

Our kids discover STEAM activities, including arts, crafts, experiments, and puzzles, on the What Do We Do All Day? channel. The short, creative videos inspire my girls to exercise their creativity and have fun as they learn.

Rock 'N Learn

Several of my teacher friends use the Rock 'N Learn channel in their classrooms because it offers entertaining and educational content. Kids through fifth grade can learn songs in different languages, discover science facts, and review reading and math concepts while having fun.

The Backyard Scientist

Kids can discover really cool science experiments that involve unusual materials like molten aluminum and flaming arrows when they watch The Backyard Scientist. Each short video is truly fascinating to watch.


My girls like hip-hop music, and that's why Flocabulary is one of their favorite YouTube channels. It uses music and animation to teach kids about academic topics and social skills, including anxiety management. We often watch these videos together and continue singing the information long after the video ends.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is a resource my girls use often to boost their understanding of math, science, grammar, history, economics, arts, and humanities. As you can see, this channel includes tons of content! With a mission to provide everyone with free education, Khan Academy videos are accessed each month by 15 million people around the world.


Sometimes, my girls and I watch a TED-Ed video before dinner and discuss the content as we eat. The majority of the TED-Ed videos introduce quirky ideas or riddles that spark thoughtful conversation and stretch our kids' thinking.

If your kids are into YouTube like mine are, introduce them to these ten excellent educational channels. Entertaining and suitable for kids, each channel helps our children learn and expands their knowledge and worldview. What are your kids' favorite educational YouTube channels?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart