Recess and Kid’s Health

A playground for younger kids at Indian Trail ...

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Should recess be a mandatory part of the school day, like math or reading, or is it an activity that is can be done away with, so more focus can be put on other subjects?

All over the country, school districts are cutting back on programs like art, music, physical education, and that old standby, recess. Cut recess? That seems so self-defeating, but administrators cite everything from the need for more classroom time to fears of liability issues if kids get hurt.

According to advocacy group Playworks, “Forty percent of US schools have reduced or eliminated recess even though we know it provides a valuable mental and physical break and supports classroom learning.” Their site offers tips for parents that want to get involved in this issue.

Cutting recess has a lot of parents pretty upset, and rightly so. In Chicago, which has cut recess time in all of its elementary schools, a grassroots movement is underway to bring it back. Recess is one of those things from childhood that was always taken for granted. It was a time to let off some steam or excess energy, a chance to socialize with friends, and a chance for kids to naturally interact – from who was chosen first (or last) for dodgeball to who was the best jump-roper.

And, in this age of increasing childhood obesity, it may be the only daily exercise some kids get. The folks on the front lines– principals and teaachers–get it. They know recess is important.

In the first-of its-kind survey of almost 2,000 principals nationwide, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, and Playworks, principals are enthusiatic supporters, seeing benefits for kids in the classroom and beyond. “Recess as a crucial element of learning that sustains the whole child,” said NAESP Executive Director Gail Connelly.

Key findings from the survey include:

* Four out of five principals report that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement.
* Two-thirds of principals report that students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.
* Virtually all believe that recess has a positive impact on children’s social development (96 percent) and general well-being (97 percent).

The back-to-recess movement is supported by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who said in an interview on Good Morning America that education has to encompass more the arts, as well as recess. Recess can also help kids with behavior issues, according to a study by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicne, and reported in the New York Times.. Kids that are denied recess don’t seem to learn as effectively and are more disruptive in the classroom.

This should come as no surprise to any parent. Anyone that’s been cooped up with their child on a rainy day, or a long car ride understand that kids need time for physical activity. Children spend way too much time as it is sitting still in class, watching TV, on the computer, and playing video games. Recess is a chance for them to act like kids again in a group setting.

How can we discuss issues like childhood obesity, our low educational competitiveness around the globe, or how kids are becoming more anti-social and less communicative without also focusing on a basic rite of childhood? Even if it’s just for 20 minutes a day.

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2 comments on “Recess and Kid’s Health
  1. This is an important issue that unfortunately, many schools don’t address. The studies you cited make for compelling reasons to include physical activities during the school day. And yes, with childhood obesity on the rise, why are we depriving our children of one of the most important parts of childhood…play?

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