For many adults, recess is a fond memory of playing outdoors with friends—from the sandbox to dodgeball games, recess was an integral part of socializing. Today, kids are lucky if they get 15 minutes of outdoor playtime during the school day. And people wonder why childhood obesity is on the rise.
Although recess programs began to be cutting the late 1980’s, it wasn’t until 2001 when the No Child Left Behind Act came into play, that urban schools in particular began to lose their recess time entirely. Recess became a safety issue and was thought to bring down test scores.
So, administrators, believing their school’s test scores would improve if children spent more time on schoolwork, began to cut recess. But, while there is no research that suggest test scores improve by keeping children in the classroom all day, there is a lot of research proving that recess improves both cognitive, social andemotional traits within children.
Cognitive Benefits of Recess
• Children with recess fidget less and complete tasks more efficiently—even children with disorders like ADHD benefit
• Recess provides break for the brain to recharge, improving the recollection of information
• There is a relationship between physical activity and the development of brain connections
• A school system that devoted a third of the day to nonacademic activities (art, music, physical activity) improved attitudes and fitness and slightly increased test scores, despite spending less time on academics
Social Benefits of Recess
• During recess, children exercise leadership, teach games to one another, take turns, and learn to compromise
• Intervention programs during recess can successfully improve social skills.
Physical Benefits of Recess
• Recess before lunch leads to healthier eating
• Children who are active during the day are more active after school, whereas children who are sedentary during the day tend to remain sedentary after school
Emotional Benefits of Recess
• Teachers rated children’s behaviors better in classes where children had at least 15 minutes of recess
• Teachers get to know the children better when supervising them on the playground.
• Time on the playground is a change of pace for the teacher as well as for the children.
With all of the benefits of recess, its hard to believe recess is still being cut—there must be something that can be done. The International Play Association (IPA) has a lot of resources regarding the positive effects of research. If parents and/or teachers band together and meet with principals, superintendents, legislators and elected officials, recess can hopefully be saved for children to enjoy and benefit from for generations to come.