The Ultimate Block Party's Blog

It’s Time for Recess!

Posted on: January 12, 2011

Do you remember the pretend adventures, the sense of freedom, the eternal battles between the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’and the FUN that you had in the middle of your busy school day?  It turns out that this ‘fun time’ was not just a sanity break for you and your teachers but was an important way for you to learn about the world and the people in it.

What exactly IS recess?  How does it benefit your child’s development?  A recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010) defined recess as “a time during the school day that provides children with the opportunity for active, unstructured or structured, free play” (p. 10).  This report looked at a number of different studies to determine the negative and positive impact of recess.  It turns out, there were NO negative impacts of recess!  In fact, the majority of studies found a positive association between recess and children’s cognitive, social, or emotional development (so your pretend adventures helped you to learn important skills like collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and confidence).

Another recent article published by the Journal of School Health (Ramstetter, Murray, & Garner, 2010) also supports the idea that recess is a positive activity for a child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and creative development.  Particularly, the authors found that recess that was supervised by trained adults was particularly beneficial, but cautioned that the children should not be forced to participate in structured activities (that sense of freedom is vital for kids to practice making decisions and dealing with others).

What happens when recess isn’t included as part of the day.  You likely remember how different your classroom felt (i.e., more students acting out) if you had to miss recess due to weather or misbehavior.  The research supports this and shows that teachers rate the classroom behavior of students that are exposed to recess more positively than those children that don’t have recess (Barros, Silver, & Stein, 2009).   And recess helps give children the mental ‘break’ that they need to pay attention and learn more effectively in the classroom (Pelligrini, 2005)  Recess is a win-win!

The December 2010 edition of the National Education Association’s magazine (with a circulation of 2.7 million!), shows that this teacher’s organization is well aware of the benefits of play and recess and suggests that play is not only crucial for learning social skills, but also necessary for kids to learn about things like fairness and democracy (Meier, Engel & Taylor, 2010).  It turns out that those battles between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ on the playground helped you to make sense of morality and the difference between right and wrong – no easy feat!  Check out the article here:

So at your next Parent/Teacher conference or PTA meeting, ask what YOUR child’s school thinks about recess and how you may be able to help keep this important tool in your child’s life (or, bring it back if your school doesn’t have recess).  Play on!

Interested in Learning More?

Barros, R. M., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. K. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123(2), 431-436.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010).  The association between school based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Meier, D., Engel, B. & Taylor, B. (2011, January/February).  Play ethic. NEA Today Magazine, 28-33.

Pellegrini, A. (2005). Recess: Its role in education and development. Mahwah, NJ: Psychology Press.

Ramstetter, C. L., Murray, R., & Garner, A. S. (2010). The crucial role of recess in schools. Journal of School Health, 80(11), 517-526.

This blog was written by Dr. Jennifer Zosh, Assistant Professor at Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine.


2 Responses to "It’s Time for Recess!"

Absolutely! Recess is an invaluable part of the school day. I love that, as you point out, “there were NO negative impacts of recess.” I find it awfully sad to hear about schools that have reduced or eliminated recess. We know the positive affects of having a mental and physical break in the day, but recess is still some how being squeezed out of the school day.

[…] “fun and games” started taking on an electronic, screen-based focus and child’s play shifted from the ramp-n-rev of the recess bell to brain-based […]

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