Why Your Kids Need Recess

Remember those days when you could look forward to recess several times a day? Have you ever wondered why it is built into your child’s school day? It turns out that recess is an important part of learning for children, just as taking a break from a task leads to better productivity for us as adults!

Recess Rejuvenation

There are many benefits from recess, aside from getting some exercise. It allows the brain to reset and revitalize itself, so the child is actually better prepared to learn when starting his or her next classroom activity. Younger children need more frequent breaks, or recesses, than older children who are able to concentrate on tasks for longer periods of time. However, a child doesn’t necessarily need to exercise to get the benefits from recess.

Taking a Mental Break

Research has shown that although physical exercise is an important aspect of recess with benefits of its own, including developing motor skills and physical conditioning, participating in any sort of activity during recess is just as beneficial for the mind. It doesn’t really matter what a child does during recess – whether that’s playing a game or socializing with their friends. All these activities contribute to that necessary period of mental rejuvenation. The American Academy of Pediatrics has even recently issued a policy statement in support of recess for children in school and acknowledges that unstructured play is an important part of normal childhood development.

Recess Increases Productivity

Unfortunately, many schools around the country have cut back on recess for many reasons, including fears of injury on the playground to increased academic demands in the classroom. There are even some instances when a child is punished for poor classroom performance by losing their recess time – such practice is actually counterproductive since that downtime can actually improve a child’s performance over the long-run. While there are some instances where loss of recess may be an appropriate punishment, it should not be used routinely as a means of discipline.

As a pediatrician, I try to get in a little “recess” during the day whenever I can. Usually that’s over the lunch hour, which I’ve found is a nice time to get out of the office for a bit and get some fresh air – a walk through McKennan Park seems to do the trick. Such opportunities usually leave me feeling revitalized and ready to tackle a busy afternoon. Although I can’t remember specifically, I’m sure I probably felt the same way after recess when I was a little kid.

By Dr. Samuel Schimelpfenig

Pediatrician at Avera McKennan

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