Students Need Recess: A Clear Link Between Play and Learning

The Benefits of Recess

  • Students are less fidgety and more on task
  • Improved memory and more focused attention
  • Develop more brain connections
  • Learn negotiation skills
  • Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts
  • More physically active before and after school

The Squeeze on Recess

The ever increasing pressure to cram more instructional time into the school day in an attempt to boost test scores has put the squeeze on recess in districts around the country. The trend can be traced back to the late eighties and was accelerated under No Child Left Behind. Districts under pressure to show academic progress began to squeeze as much instruction into the day as possible. Agustin Orci, deputy superintendent of instruction in Nevada explains, “If you have a 15-minute scheduled play break, you spend five minutes getting (students) to the playground, another five getting back and then five more minutes getting them calmed down and ready to learn back in the classroom. You end up blowing 30 minutes of potential instructional time to gain the limited benefits of having recess. It’s become a luxury we can’t afford.” Nationwide, principals state that 89 percent of discipline-related problems occur at recess or lunch.

But all work and no play for kids has not set well with many parents-and teachers. Now there is some momentum to keep recess, fueled by several forces. There’s the nation’s obesity epidemic and Michelle Obama’s spotlight on childhood health. New brain research is drawing clear links between physical activity and learning.

Working Longer ≠ More Learning

Georgia State’s Professor, Olga Jarrett, states, “There is this assumption that if you keep kids working longer, they will learn more,” says Jarrett. “It’s misguided.” Indeed, no research supports the notion that test scores go up by keeping children in the classroom longer, but there is plenty of evidence that recess benefits children in cognitive, social-emotional, and physical ways. “With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games, figure out what’s fair, and learn a lot of social behavior that they don’t learn in P.E. and in the classroom,” she says.

Continuing the Conversation

  • Do you think kids need recess? Why?
  • Is it just for elementary school students, or should students in middle school — or even high school — have some form of it or unstructured time? Do you still have recess?
  • How important was recess in your schooling? What did you do during it? Was it beneficial for you?

Related Post:
Recess: Observations, Considerations, and Lessons Learned by Aaron Beighle

Related Equipment:
RecessReady™ Sport Balls: Our toughest, non-intimidating rubber sports-themed playground balls are ready for recess!
Recess Pack: Enough equipment for multiple activities with multiple classes in one pack!
Recess Pack with Cart: Everything you need to keep up to 80 kids active and organized at recess with one convenient equipment pack!

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