We’ve all heard a child’s work is their play. There are dozens of studies concerning the importance of play for our early childhood years, but what happens when our children enter school, and recess/gym class periods are dwindled down to a mere hour or even thirty minutes? Is there a greater purpose for playtime?
During lunch breaks at school, children have a built in meal time and they don’t always have a set time for recess. As test scores go down and expectations of children go up, recess is often one of the first things sacrificed to give more “educational” instruction time. Is this really a good thing though?
Imagine being in a classroom for eight hours a day in a chair behind a desk (sounds a lot like an office). You can go to lunch for twenty to thirty minutes each day with a few five to ten minute bathroom breaks, but that’s it. Is this healthy? Every parent reading this is shaking their head “no” because they realize it’s not developmentally appropriate to expect children, especially younger children, to sit in a chair for that many hours a day. Even as adults in an office for eight hours of the day feel the need to get up, stretch and be active over a period of time.
There’s an old saying, “Energy and youth are wasted on the young,” which is often used to describe the endless energy children have.
If children don’t have an outlet for this energy, how can they really focus on learning several subjects all in a day’s time?
Many experts say a resounding “NO!” Studies conducted from several universities in the past few years seem to back them up in their beliefs.
In addition, children who have at least thirty minutes of recess per day paid more attention in class, retained more facts, and did better on tests. So why is there even a question as to whether recess is a necessity?
In school systems where test scores and performances are low and not up to state standards, recess has become more of a “luxury” than a “necessity;” with the notion that recess is taking up precious time needed for teaching. Perhaps many superintendents and school boards also believe what an infamous Atlanta superintendent said: “We’re intent on improving academic performance. You don’t do that by having kids hanging out on the monkey bars.” Hmm…is that so?
A recent study from the National Board of health reports that one in every three adults in the world is obese. One in five children under the age of twelve is considered obese. These numbers are frightening and staggering. Obesity can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even cancer; not to mention stress on joints, bones, muscles, and a lifetime of health problems.
Are shorter recess times adding to the world epidemic? Here in the United States, where obesity is the highest of any nation, shouldn’t we adults be doing everything we can to ensure our children don’t add to the obesity numbers and become part of the statistics?
Recess is movement, exercise, a chance to breathe fresh air, and help developing bodies and muscles strengthen and grow. Plus, recess gives an invaluable social element which can’t be taught. One of the best lessons in life that a child can learn is how to get along with others. After all, unless a person becomes a total hermit living in a cave far from civilization, he or she will always be in contact with other people. Recess allows friendships to build and that is one of the most important parts of growing up.
As a final thought, powerhouse children’s book publisher Scholastic just released its study of classrooms and schools where recess times were compared. Their study found children with recess tested smarter, had less behavioral problems, less obesity rates, and appeared to have more motivation than children with less or even no recess periods.
Perhaps the answer to helping our children do better in school is to have more time on the playgrounds and less in the classrooms.