As states continue to push for increased academic performance, many schools are extending class time and reducing (or even eliminating) recess. Sadly, this is even the case in many preschools and kindergartens. Unstructured free play has been replaced by regimented activities and long stretches of seat work. Is recess really even that important? I’m glad you asked! Here are 5 compelling reasons why recess is imperative.
5 Compelling Reasons Why Kids Need Recess Every Day
1. Recess Provides Opportunities for Exercise
True recess provides children the opportunity to run, jump, and play. You know a child has really PLAYED at recess when they line up sweaty and out of breath to go back inside. So many children today sit in a desk for 6-8 hours at school, then sit and watch TV or play a tablet when they get home. After sitting for dinner, they go to bed for 8-10 hours. The majority of children get ZERO exercise on any given day, because children today simply don’t go outside and ride their bike or play tag like we used to do. P.E. once or twice a week gives them a little bit of exercise, but children need unstructured, outdoor recess time daily to get necessary exercise.
2. Recess Improves Focus
I don’t know about you, but I seldom sit and work for hours on end with no break. I may get up to do a load of laundry, or run an errand, or get up to get a drink or snack. But I never SIT for hours on end without a break. Unfortunately, we’re expecting our students to do just this. AND, we’re expecting them to concentrate and perform academically. That’s a recipe for disaster! Studies show that students who have regular recess are better able to concentrate and perform in class and are less fidgety on recess days. (Dr. Olga Jarrett- Georgia State University)
3. Recess Develops Social Skills
I love to observe my students at recess and eavesdrop on their conversations. A few are debating the rules for their impromptu basketball game. Some are discussing whether it’s their time for the swing now and planning ahead for who might push them on the swing. Some are arguing and then making amends. The bottom line is they’re learning how to relate to their peers, how to compromise, and how to establish and follow rules. Recess allows students to interact in an informal setting with minimal teacher interference so children can learn how to get along with each other.
4. Recess Promotes Creativity
Watch any group of children at recess, and you’ll quickly see creativity at work. At recess, children invent rules and games. They use found objects for story props, such as the tree on our playground where children hide from the imaginary monster who is chasing them. At recess, children arrange weeds and wildflowers into stunning bouquets for their teacher. Recess is a time when children can exercise their creativity.
4. Recess Extends Science Lessons
Recess gives children the opportunity to observe bees, butterflies, and ants. Children observe the changes in leaves, the shapes of the clouds, and the temperature of the air during recess. My own students have proudly brought me ladybugs they’ve found and observed them with great wonder. At recess, students begin to draw conclusions about the world around them and formulate questions they want to explore.
5. Recess Improves Health and Well-Being
Sunlight is good for the body. So many children spend hour after hour indoors–at school, playing video games, and watching TV. On a sunny day, students at recess are exposed to Vitamin D which is important for helping the body absorb calcium for strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps with the production of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and beta-endorphins.