Recess is a critical part of every student’s day! As an occupational therapist who has treated children with sensory processing and other special needs in outpatient clinics, schools and as a mom of children whose favorite part of the school day is recess, I will always advocate for every minute of every recess for every student! I’ve shared my professional opinion of the importance of recess for all children with many parents, teachers and administrators. Recess that includes physical activity, unstructured play and socialization with peers improves student behavior, attention and academic performance, as well as the more commonly known physical benefits.
Several years ago, the local schools in my community began cutting recess time to give more time to academics. Although my children did not attend these schools, I felt passionate about raising concern about this trend. At this same time, I was treating many children with sensory processing or sensory integration disorders who had high needs for vestibular (movement) and proprioceptive (muscle and joint) input who were also losing recess time through school policies to give more classroom instruction time or as a result of poor behavior or academic performance in the classroom. These children struggled even more in every aspect of their day when their recess time was cut. If only the school staff understood that increased movement and physical activity would improve their behavior, attention and learning while in the classroom! And also understand that student behavior, attention and learning suffers when recess time is cut for any reason!
I want to share some good resources to help advocate for every minute of every recess for every student. Share this with other parents, teachers, administrators and policy makers so best practices for our children’s recesses are put into practice at every school in every classroom for every student!
A new document, Strategies for Recess in Schools, from the CDC and SHAPE America, was recently released in January 2017 with evidence-based recommendations given from experts about recess! The document references 41 other research studies and documents on the importance and benefits of recess. The website also includes links for a Recess Toolkit with ideas and resources for parents and schools to advocate and plan for successful recesses at their school and in their communities.
BENEFITS OF RECESS (pg 4)
- Increased physical activity
- Improved memory, attention and concentration
- Improved on-task behavior in the classroom
- Reduced disruptive behavior in the classroom
- Improved social and emotional development
RECOMMENDED GUIDELINES FOR RECESS (pg. 5)
- Recess time and physical education time should be separate and should not be used to replace each other.
- Schools and students should be provided with adequate spaces, facilities, equipment, and supplies for recess.
- Spaces and facilities for recess should meet or exceed recommended safety standards.
- Recess time should not be taken away for disciplinary reasons or academic performance in the classroom.
- Required physical activity during recess should not be used as punishment.
- Recess time should be scheduled before lunch.
- Staff members who lead or supervise recess should be provided with ongoing professional development.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” (pg. 1)
“Ironically, minimizing or eliminating recess may be counterproductive to academic achievement, as a growing body of evidence suggests that recess promotes not only physical health and social development but also cognitive performance.” (pg. 4)
- Recess is a necessary break in the day and should be considered a child’s personal time. It should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.
- Cognitive processing and academic performance depend on regular breaks from concentrated classroom work. The frequency and duration of breaks should be sufficient to allow the student to mentally decompress.
- Recess is a complement to, but not a replacement for physical education.
- Recess serves as a counterbalance to sedentary time and contributes to the AAP’s recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day.
- Recess should be safe and well supervised.
- Peer interactions during recess are a unique complement to the classroom and build skills for a foundation for healthy development.
Any questions? Now go and play!