Kids are often bundles of energy. Recess during school offers them a way to run around and burn up some of this energy, so they are able to sit and focus on their lessons.
When I was growing up, recess was offered twice a day. I remember it being for a long period, so I am thinking that it was half an hour. But I admit that kids don’t have the best recollection of time so it might have been 15 to 20 minutes long. All I can say is that we did have both a morning and an afternoon recess. As with many kids, I found this to be the best part of the day.
At our elementary schools here in San Antonio, our kids only get one 15-minute recess each afternoon. However, many schools around the United States don’t even offer that.
The fact is that kids need to exercise. With PE classes which were once being offered daily being cut down to just three times a week, recess sometimes is the only exercise kids get.
Experts suggest kids should have at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. On days when my kids have both recess and PE, they are meeting that goal. But not so on days when they only have recess. Yes, they do some playing at home, but it is often more sedentary. It is hot here in Texas so playing outside after school is not always an option.
But recess does more than just help kids have a healthy body. As part of a class project, Jase wrote the principal asking for a longer recess for second grade. His main argument was that it would help them pay attention in class. And studies support his argument. Kids need some downtime just as their parents do. Think of recess as you would a coffee break for adults. It is a time to recharge.
Besides helping their studies, recess also allows kids to learn skills of collaboration as they play with other kids. A lot of social skills are learned on the playground. Kids learn to share, take turns, and follow rules. Studies have shown that recess improves children’s conflict resolution skills.
And unfortunately for many kids, teachers use the loss of recess as a punishment. These are the kids whom most often need recess to burn off some energy and mischievousness. Jase’s teacher uses recess for extra time to finish class projects if kids need it, but parents had to sign an agreement for that. She does it very rarely as she really does give them ample time to finish their work in class. I figure it is a good way to teach your child time management. If you goof off in class, you miss the fun of recess.
In Lexie’s kinder class, they recently tried to add in a second shorter recess in the morning but found that it was too disruptive to their schedule. It isn’t just the recess time but the travel to and from the playground and the necessary stop at the bathroom on the way back to class. In the end, they decided to just give them an extra five minutes to their afternoon recess. And yes, this is her favorite part of the day.
I am just happy that my kids’ school still believes in the importance of recess, and that it is not going away any time soon.