What Else Kids Lose When We Take Away Recess
Once a cornerstone of elementary school, recess is now getting cut from schools more and more often to make way for extra time studying other subjects, such as math, reading, science, and history.
While the push for additional indoor study time stems from the desire to improve the education system, forcing kids to remain sedentary in the confines of a classroom has detriments to students’ ability to learn, pay attention and integrate information.
Detriments of No Recess
By eliminating recess, we are stunting children’s opportunities for creative, experiential learning. Outdoor recess provides a space for students to learn in a safe, yet unstructured, natural environment. The playground serves as a place for learning social skills, as well as the acquisition of the fundamental skills that lend themselves to success in the STEM field, which often involves invention from raw materials, the re-creation of current devices and collaboration with other people and creative forces.
Without recess, we are asking kids to outperform their natural attention spans. This puts undue stress on children to achieve, creating patterns that lead to fear of failure, perfectionism, decreased motivation to learn, and flawed understandings of success.
We know that breaks from focus and concentration are critical for adults to produce accurate, thoughtful work, but they are even more crucial for children. Time away from the classroom prevents burnout by relieving students of the extrinsic pressure to succeed and giving them space to instead cultivate an intrinsic desire to learn, explore, and challenge themselves both in and out of the classroom.
The removal of recess also leads to a chronic disconnect from nature. With current concerns about climate change and our relationship to the environment, it is critical that we foster a sense of reverence for the outdoors, and recess offers a built-in opportunity to do so during the school day.
On a more basic level, children without recess are more likely to live unhealthy lifestyles and suffer physically. Children’s bodies need movement and exercise to properly develop, especially as growth spurts stress their bodies’ musculature, bones, and connective tissues. By creating a daily routine of physical activity and time in the fresh air, we can instill habits that prevent childhood obesity and other related ailments and illnesses.
Likewise, recess is a great way to introduce children to sports, especially if they don’t have access to extracurricular activities in their lives outside of school. Among several positive benefits, children who play sports learn about teamwork, hand-eye coordination, goal-setting, and resilience.
A Place for Play
With a surge in play-based education, even beyond recess, it doesn’t make sense to eliminate this hallmark of early education. In fact, some research suggests that adding more time to recess may be the solution to higher rates of academic success.
Recess, unlike traditional classroom learning, involves all of the senses, as well as reasoning, physical activity, social learning, empathy generation, and exploration. Pair these with the ability to mitigate many of the stress-induced mental health issues that students face today and the fight to keep recess in schools is a no-brainer.
How much time do you allow your students to play and be outside? If your district is one that’s considering eliminating recess – or has already eliminated it – how can you share this information with administrators and keep our children’s playtime sacred? We’d love to hear more in the comments below.