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Do Kids Really Need Recess?

The benefits of recess for kids and how you can support it in schools.

Periods of rest and rejuvenation contribute to the health and well-being of all people, especially when it comes to the ability for kids to learn and grow. Study after study shows that unstructured play time is crucial for childhood development, which is why The American Academy of Pediatrics wrote a policy entitled, “The Crucial Role of Recess in School.”

If you and your co-parent are unsure of the benefits recess provides to your kids, here are some of the policy’s key findings:

  • “Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize.”
  • “Recess helps young children to develop social skills that are not otherwise acquired in the more structured classroom environment.”  
  • “Recess, whether performed indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and more productive in the classroom, even if the students spent much of their recess time socializing.”  
  • “Through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control.”  
  • “Although not all children play vigorously at recess, it does provide the opportunity for children to be active in the mode of their choosing and practice movement and motor skills. Even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and home.” 

The Authorities All Agree 

After reviewing research from across the country, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote a similar paper called “The Association Between School-Based Physical Activity, including Physical Education, and Academic Performance.”

In the paper, the CDC concluded that “school boards, superintendents, principals, and teachers can feel confident that providing a recess to students regularly may benefit academic behaviors, while also facilitating social development and contributing to overall physical activity and its associated health benefits.” 

In 2017, in partnership with a group called SHAPE America (Society of Health and Physical Educators), the CDC came out with national guidelines for recess, recommending at least 20 minutes of recess a day for all students K-12. 

Are your children currently getting a regular recess period during school? 

According to Edutopia, there are only five states that have a recess law on the books: Missouri, Florida, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Arizona. Seven other states require between 20-30 minutes of daily physical activity for elementary schoolers, but the schools can choose to allocate that time to PE or recess. 

If you and your co-parent want to help promote recess in schools, the CDC has created free resources to help you do so. For a guide on how to support recess in your child’s school, click here
Happy playing! 

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