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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

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