The Value of Recess

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Ahh recess . . . that wonderful time when, as children, we had a chance to run around the playground, exploring nature, tasting dirt and maybe getting to use the great big playground structure in the yard.  I remember some of the adventures that my friends and I went on as kids – we were the Hardy Boys, the Scooby Gang and sometimes ourselves, off to solve some kind of great mystery.

Recess is a great way for schools to encourage unstructured free time – that time when kids learn on their own without the help of adults.  Research has shown that this sort of time is critical to the full development of a child and allows them to learn practically anything, given the right environment.

Recess is special as well, because it encourages child based physical activity.  That’s one reason why the American Association of Pediatrics just released a statement saying that all work and no play is bad for kids. Kids who learn how to play will play without an adult organizing them.  They don’t need a soccer coach to line them up and tell them the rules, they will make them up as they go along and, when the rules stop making sense, they will change them.  In the span of a few minutes they will roll down hills, they will taste grass and they will have authentic childhood experiences in an active way.  We might say that this is them getting exercise, and it certainly is, but it’s the most important type of exercise – the kind that they get without even realizing it.  That goes on to set lifelong trends – going for a walk in the evening or skating in the park.

So, when I see stories about recess being cancelled, I get really annoyed.  This is something that is needed for the whole development of a child and should always be a part of a child’s education.

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