Recess: Is It Really Necessary?

Tina | January 28, 2013 | 28 Comments

When I was a kid, we had recess before school, at some point in the mid-morning, and again after lunch. Do you remember those days of playing four-square and kickball on the blacktop? I sure do! Many elementary schools across the nation are cutting out recess, however. In my town, the goal is to let the kids play outside twice per week after lunch, for 15 minutes each time. On the other days, they go from lunch directly back in for math, science or reading work.

People from pediatricians, nutritionists and child development experts, to teachers, lunch ladies and parents, however, disagree with the movement. Recess has many benefits that go beyond an extra half hour or math worksheets or phonics practice. Here are a few of them:

  • Recess gets kids in the habit of being physically active. With the obesity rates what they are, encouraging a healthy lifestyle, which includes daily exercise, is vital. Kids need to be running around for at least an hour per day, says the CDC. If they’re spending seven hours in school, then at least part of that should come during the school day, particularly this time of year, when it’s getting dark so early in many areas.
  • Recess helps kids concentrate during the times that they are in their seats. It can reduce the amount of time that they spend fidgeting and moving around restlessly. Think about it: Even adults need to get up and stretch their legs during the course of a work day. Kids need this even more than we do!
  • A change of scenery can help kids regroup. After a difficult morning of lessons, some kick-back time playing with friends might be just what they need in order to get refreshed for learning in the afternoon.
  • Recess gives kids time to socialize. When they’re in the classroom, the kids might interact with one another, but it’s usually in a very controlled environment, and conversation topics are supposed to be limited to the lesson or theme. Recess allows kids to be kids and to talk to their friends about whatever is on their minds. It’s also a time when there is less adult interference (although of course the children are supervised), so they are able to begin to work through problems on their own.

If your school has eliminated or reduced recess, or if kids lose recess based on their behavior (a practice that many disagree with; the kids who are acting out in class are probably the ones for whom a break to run around would be most effective!), what can you do? Try signing them up for physical after school activities, such as dance, martial arts or sports. You can also impose a mandatory “recess” of your own after school: Let them have a snack, then send them out to play. Go for a family walk after dinner, or give your kids the job of walking the dog. You can also try to integrate more physical activities into your weekends to make up the difference.

Does your child have recess at school? If not, how do you compensate for the loss of physical activity?

Comments (28)

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  1. bella says:

    I never looked at recess the same as you did.Thank you

  2. Maddie K. says:

    I think that recess is an important part of a growing childs school day. I think it breaks up the day and gives the kids to blow off some steam and energy. I also think that kids who have a recess are more likely to pay attention in the afternoon classes. It isn’t like recess costs the school any money. Why they cut it down or out is beyond me. There was a proposition on our school board to cut out recess for the kids and though I had not ever attended any of the school board meetings I did for this one. I was actually quite surprised at the numbers of parents who also were not in agreement to this proposition. In the end the school board backed down and the kids still have 30 minutes in the afternoon to go run around outside. Don’t let schools cut this out. It’s not a good thing.

  3. Jo-Ann Brightman says:

    I believe recess is an important part of the school day. Although if the choice is between cutting out gym and recess I’ll choose recess. Kids need to be physically active.

  4. lisa says:

    Sure, recess for a child is like our lunch or coffee break. Everyone needs some time to relax.

  5. denise smith says:

    every young child needs to have recess it gives them time to be outside to breathe fresh air and helps them focus better in school

  6. Heather says:

    We had morning and afternoon recess when I was a kid for thirty minutes at a time. I can’t imagine only having recess twice a week.

  7. Christina Kelbel says:

    Yes of course especially for smaller children.

  8. Rama says:

    I believe recess is very important for kids!!! helps kids with general fitness, healthy social interaction, creating innovative games, express themselves and rejuvenate themselves before heading back to class!!! 😉

  9. MD Kennedy says:

    I agree that recess is so important: so many kids today don’t get any other outdoor activity, even if it is just running around playing tag!

  10. Tiffany says:

    Recess is as important for kids as anything else they do in school!

  11. Kids need a chance to refresh their brains, have some fun, and to burn off some energy…they need recess.

  12. Heather E says:

    WOW! I can not believe they are only allowed recess two days a week! I would be fighting that. I am a firm believer in recess and giving their brain a little time to relax. It keeps them active (which helps in weight loss) and it is also a social thing for them. I can not believe schools would reduce it to so few hours. My son is also in sports (he is only in kindergarten) but he is a squirmy child and needs recess for a release.

  13. Nikki says:

    My son is in 2nd grade. At his school, they get 15 minutes a day. That includes the time it takes to get everyone outside. They seem to lose minutes off it for every minor infarction too. Some of the teachers do try to sneak extra recess in, but the school as a whole feels 15 minutes a day is enough. It makes me angry. Even the CDC says that kids should get at least 60 minutes of exercise a day, and a good chunk of that should be during the school hours.

  14. Cujo says:

    Recess is VERY important. No one should have to sit still all day. I use a walking desk so that I don’t sit still all day. I stay focused all day now.

  15. Lori says:

    Our elementary schools have recess 3 days a week, for 20 minutes. They also do a P.E. class 2 days a week where they get also get active. Our middle and high schools have 45 minute P.E. classes every day, out of which 30 minutes of that class is physical activity such as track, dodgeball, soccer, basketball, etc. Every single schhol should have some form of physical activity for the students every single day.

  16. Gabby says:

    recess is a great way to tire out the kiddos 🙂

  17. Karen Hand says:

    As children are so much more active than adults, I think they should keep the recesses. It is healthy for them, both physically and mentally. They help relive any stress that they child might be carrying around, and keeps their mind active where straight classes tend to wear a child down.

  18. Raul James Bugahod says:

    Nice haircut styles you have here

  19. Raul James Bugahod says:

    children need to run off all their extra energy – i can’t imagine them not being able to go outside – what would the teachers do?

  20. Nicole Minney says:

    I could not imagine not having recess in school.

  21. megan says:

    We need recess. It’s a time for running around, and socializing. We have enough structured play activities. Give a kid a ball, and let them run, play and figure it out.

  22. Carla Bonesteel says:

    Of course it’s necessary! People need to stop trying to pound our kids into the ground…stop trying to make them stop playing and having fun…Let them be kids!

  23. Amy Green says:

    Recess is absolutely necessary, as is P.E. Kids need to be able to get physical activity in a fun and safe environment.

  24. Ivan says:

    I think it is necessary because the kids need breaks after a long session in class 🙂

  25. Wendy T says:

    As a parent and a school employee, I can not disagree more with cutting out recess. Do that and watch how many start taking about ADD, when it’ll be more likely that it’s kids needing to be kids.

  26. almanyc says:

    I do not agree with cutting out recess. I’ve read that some schools now don’t allow real play during recess because of possible injuries and liability issues, so kids just stand around. Children need the physical exercise.

  27. Sheila says:

    That’s good, feed them then send them right in to work..yep that won’t make them want to nap. I needed my recess to work off that food and to have a short break from the hum drum of boring class work, or so we thought at that age.

  28. Recess is essential to every child,if tea-break is considered important for adults.

    What most people seem not to understand is that our children are just as human as we are.Forget about age whatever you consider important to you as a human being (although an adult)is also important to your child too.

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