November 23, 2016

Yes, Kids Do Need Recess

Over the course of the past two decades, the way educators think about recess has fundamentally changed. Recess has transformed from a fun, natural activity that all kids should enjoy to an activity that is increasingly viewed as an unnecessary distraction from educating, testing and assessing the status of those same kids.


Yet, studies continue to show that recess offers important cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits. Despite this evidence, many schools are cutting down on recess or cutting back entirely. To replace recess, they are attempting to squeeze in more lessons and more tests. But that comes with some potential drawbacks – especially when teachers perceive the ability to limit or take away recess as a potential discipline tool.


There are so many reasons why kids need recess. First and most importantly, recess helps kids to focus better on their studies. In short, recess is not a distraction – it is a way for kids to “reset” their brains and become more open to the educational process once they return from the playground. Moreover, several studies have showed that kids actually fidget less when they have a regular recess period. So, not only are kids more mentally focused on their studies, they also have greater physical control over their bodies within the classroom.


Another important reason in favor of recess is that it helps to develop important social skills. Parents looking at a playground full of shouting, smiling and noisy kids might assume that recess is a form of organized chaos. But educators know better – they see how kids learn important social skills. Kids learn how to become leaders, they learn how to follow the rules of games, and they learn how to wait in line for their turn.


And, given the physical nature of the activity during recess, it’s also a way for children to burn off extra calories at the same time as they are burning off their excess energy. That’s important because many industrialized Western nations – and especially the Untied States – are suffering from a childhood obesity epidemic. Kids are not eating the right foods, and they are not getting enough exercise. That’s leading to children who are already overweight or obese before they even enter secondary school. Even 15 minutes of recess a day can go a long way to helping keep kids healthy.


Finally, recess encourages the act of play, which is perhaps the best type of learning there is. It’s the reason why adults are now embracing “play” in the workplace (in the form of bean bags, foosball tables and fun break rooms). In short, the act of play helps to wire the brain for creativity, innovation and free thinking.


And it’s precisely those skills that are in greatest demand in the global economy, not the ability to take tests and complete hours of homework every night. In the search for creating a more effective educational process and introduce more accountability into schools, educators may have gone too far. By squeezing out everything that made school fun and attractive for children, they may be making the job of educating them harder, not easier, for school administrators.

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