Don’t Fence Me In: The Importance of Recess

March 22, 2016

I’ve entered a bit of an underground battle.

It happened completely by accident. The policy at school says all kids have to sit at the lunch tables before school hours. But because we have another earlier drop off, we spend about thirty minutes waiting. I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks adding half an hour of sitting to an already long school day is a bad idea for my son.

Thus began the battle.

I understand the administration has its reasons, so I’ve been finding ways to get my son some exercise and movement on the land surrounding the school. I walk the perimeter of the back parking lot with him or hike the steep hill that comes down from a higher neighborhood.

As the weeks have passed, more parents have joined me in these not-quite-on-campus morning jaunts. I think common sense tells us that movement and fresh air can only boost classroom performance. Either because it’s on my mind or because schools around the country are making similar decisions, I’ve been seeing a variety of commentaries supporting my views on the importance of outside time for kids.

The video for Kids Gone Wild> talks about a school that allows kids to run in the wild and enjoy the outside. One quote really caught my attention. “We got this crazy idea that somehow recess was a waste of time.” It’s true. Many schools have leaned toward fewer opportunities for physical activities and time away from classrooms in favor of more study time. To be fair, the video seems to contrast the wonderful out-of-doors time with horrible indoors time that shows a girl reading a book. You will never hear me say that reading a book is a waste of time!

Following that video, another parent pointed out that The Today Show reported on a school in Texas that doubled their recess time. This school offered four fifteen minutes play times to children in Kinder and First Grade. Those kids showed a huge increase in focus and a decrease in distracted behaviors like fidgeting.

All the research that tells us learners do better when given frequent breaks shouldn’t surprise us. We know this intuitively. When babies are upset and won’t be calmed, we take them outside. Jobs offer work breaks every few hours. Google is famous for having nap chairs and bikes to rent. For crying out loud, even prisoners get recreation time outside. We know this is a good idea! So why is it so hard for some schools to remember?

I’m not suggesting that we all rise up in arms and launch a movement. Maybe just wage your own underground battle around your school or take your kids out for fresh air and movement on your own. Although, if your school really is trying to cut your kids’ breaks and you feel the need to do something about it, I was very surprised and happy to find out that there actually is a campaign from Peaceful Playground, called Rescue Recess.

Whatever you do, don’t let the amount of learning your kids need to pack into their brains overwhelm what you know is best for them!

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