While more than 90% of elementary schools participate in regularly scheduled recess during the school day, since the mid-2000s, up to 40% of school districts nationwide have reduced or cut recess. As the nation moves to put more emphasis on the importance of standardized test scores and insisting that students need more time during the school day to focus on academics, one critical part of a child’s day is left out: recess.
Why is Recess so Critical?
Recess is an essential part of a child’s development. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it.”
Not only do children need a break during the day from academic work, but physical activity has been shown to improve academic performance. In one study, after 20 minutes of physical activity, students tested better in reading, spelling, and math, were more likely to read above their grade level. They were also less likely to misbehave during class. Students develop social skills on the playground, such as communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving. They also develop coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control. Physical activity can help to alleviate stress and anxiety and enhance self-esteem of students.
Recess Should Not Be withheld as a Form of Punishment
Recess is a necessary part of a child’s development and learning. It helps students succeed academically and get their wiggles out during the day, so they can focus better during class time. Therefore, it should follow that withholding recess as a form of punishment is counterproductive to students’ success in school. Yet, a recent Utah Action for Healthy Kids survey found that 43% of all elementary schools in Utah and 52% of Title 1 schools withhold recess as a form of punishment.
Recess is the break children need to allow them to be more attentive and more productive in the classroom. When recess is withheld, it does not make them more focused or better behaved, but rather takes away a much-needed break.
Get Healthy Utah believes that Utah kids need recess to help them reach the recommended amount of physical activity each day, to improve academic performance, and to help kids to be focused and successful learners.