Organizations across the country are recognizing the benefits of daily recess for elementary school students. With increased academic pressure and focus on standardize tests seeming to become more and more prominent, some schools are pushing back and doubling the dose of daily recess. They realize that that their students actually perform better with more unstructured playtime.
The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, stating:
"Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment."
Of course, changing the mindset of some educators (and parents!) can be challenging. It requires not only the logistics of updating schedules to squeeze in extra recess, but it also cuts the teachers' already scarce teaching hours even more.
Below we outline some of the benefits of recess in elementary schools to help demonstrate just how important recess can be to the academics and behavior of elementary school kids.
Why Recess is Not Just For Fun:
1. It Increases Focus. An overwhelming amount of teachers at schools where recess was mandated report a significant increase in their students' ability to focus.
2. It Lowers Disciplinary Problems. These teachers also report fewer disciplinary problems among the student body when kids are able to get out and play!
3. It Increases Engagement. Kids are more engaged in the learning process after physical activity.
4. It Makes Kids Like School More. Not only do kids begin to look forward to school more often but, as their academic and classroom performances increase, their attitude improves as well.
5. It Improves Social Skills. Additional recess provides more opportunity to build those all-important social skills that students will use for a lifetime.
6. It Gets Kids Exercising. There's no question about the physical benefits of regular exercise, especially in today's increasingly tech-focused world.
7. It Promotes Independent Learning. Teachers also report that students are more likely to attempt to learn and problem-solve independently.
8. It Increases Confidence. Improved academic and social skills — as well as less "getting in trouble" — can drastically increase a child's confidence. This is especially important for at-risk kids.
9. It Improves Chances of Direction-Following. Attention and following direction can be challenging for some elementary students, but teachers report a noticeable difference when children are given ample recess.
10. It Provides a Dose of Vitamin D. Obviously, kids shouldn't be exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time without sunscreen or protection, but some Vitamin D is necessary for good health. Recess provides exposure to natural sunlight that can increase mood and overall health.
11. It Improves Academics. Across the board, increasing the amount of recess at elementary school results in greater academic performance, including those all-important test scores. Physical activity optimizes brain performance by expediting delivery of oxygen to the brain.
Because of the many benefits that recess offers, experts recommend NOT taking away a child’s recess as a punishment. Instead of helping, it can ultimately have the opposite of the intended effect.
Another thing to consider is the quality of recess. Some studies show that the quality of recess plays a huge factor in the overall benefits as well. For example, involving kids in soccer games or encouraging them to participate in activities can contribute to a “better overall school climate.” An interesting study from Stanford discusses the importance of well-organized recess and the benefits of meaningful play.
At May Recreation, we pride ourselves on creating unique and customized playgrounds where children can use their imaginations, increase physical activity and prepare themselves to learn.
If you have questions on playgrounds in general, or if you would like to speak to a May Recreation representative about installing or updating a playground at your school, contact us today.