Should Schools Reconsider the Benefits of Recess and Play?

Olga Jarrett, an associate professor of early childhood education at Georgia State University, asserts that recess is a crucial part of the day for children. It serves as a time for kids to have fun and stay active, but more importantly recess can improve students' behavior, help them develop social skills and allow them to reenter the classroom refreshed and ready to learn, reports Molly Walsh from the Burlington Free Press.

"Part of a child's well-being is to be able to concentrate, and kids that get no breaks in the day seem to be less able to concentrate and then do the work they are supposed to do in class," Jarrett said in a telephone interview.

The National Center for Education Statistics found in a 2005 study that 90% of schools schedule daily recess in grades 1-5, and 87% schedule it for 6th grade. However, many of these school only offer short periods, and teachers commonly take away recess from students as a punishment for not following rules or other misconduct.

Jarrett suggests that students require at least two recess periods a day for a minimum of 20 minutes each. In her research she found that 4th students who had recess were more attentive and less fidgety after returning to class from recess.

Recess has proven to be particularly helpful to children who suffer from ADD and ADHD. Jarett and others say it's a shame these students can sometimes have this much-needed time taken away from them if they are disruptive in class since they are the students who can benefit most from it.

"If teachers find other consequences that are more meaningful and less damaging to kids, it would be much better," Jarrett said.

Recess can be beneficial to students in middle school as well, even though it becomes increasingly less common after 5th in most schools.

Most middle schools transition students by offering physical education and after school sports. However, this does not hold all of the same benefits since it is a structured environment where students are sometimes not as active as they would be during recess since there is time set aside for instruction.

Part of the beauty of recess is that it allows children to work things out for themselves, Jarrett said. They learn "how to organize a game and how to decide who is it, how to allow the kids who are maybe younger or less skilled or have disabilities to enter the game so it's fair. Those are really important skills, and I think children tend to learn those through play, but many kids are not getting much chance to play and apparently are not learning those skills."

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