Some schools in Texas, and across the nation, have eliminated recess from their daily schedule. School districts have become keenly focused on the pressure they receive to increase a student’s time spent in the classroom which has led many districts to cut back on, and in some cases eliminate, other areas of the school day such as recess and different extracurricular activities. In fact, since 2001, the average amount of school recess time has declined by almost one full hour per week. Kids now get an average of just 20 minutes of recess per day. According to the World Health Organization, children need 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and a daily recess can play an integral part in meeting that goal. Unfortunately, for students who are not given daily recess, achieving this goal can be much more difficult.

Many parents and teachers question this decision. With a third of all Texas children being considered overweight or obese combined with the increasing prevalence of ADHD in the last decade, many parents and teachers want children to be able to get out and move around. Even as an adult, it is nice to have a “brain break” to get up and walk away from the computer, so it is unfortunate that we are not allowing our children this same opportunity; especially as a child’s attention span is not that long. According to an article from Children Health Network the normal attention span for a child is 3-5 minutes per year of his or her age. So for a child entering kindergarten this time could be as little as 12-15 minutes for a particular task.  This shows that it can be difficult for a student to pay attention for long periods of time and that it benefits them to be able to take a break during the day in addition to lunch. Looking at the other side of the discussion though, there are parents and teachers that believe the best place for playtime is at home, and consider recess a luxury and not a fundamental necessity.

With childhood obesity being very prevalent in our state, it seems like recess would be a huge benefit for Texas children. There has been a good amount of research around school recess and the studies show there are many benefits of having recess.  It supports every aspect of a child’s development. It is easy to focus on the physical activity that children receive from recess, but it’s beneficial to the social, emotional, and intellectual development of a student as well.  School recess allows students to take a break during the school day, to go outside and have unstructured play with their peers. Although, they may be a little rowdy when coming back into the classroom that break time has allowed them to free their minds of the work they were doing, and focus more on the next assigned task. Since young children don’t process information as effectively as older children, they stand to benefit the most from this break in their school day.

Recess is a time to interact with your peers, have fun, use your imagination, and just truly be a kid. By participating in school recess, children cultivate social skills that they will carry with them throughout life. This is a great opportunity for a student to develop and experience socialization and peer-to-peer communication, which will be used later on down the road.  An article from the American Academy of Pediatrics stated that through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving. Children don’t necessarily have the opportunity to engage in neighborhood play as much as past generations did during their childhood. This is due to many reasons, such as safety or the fact that children have different options for after-school activities, for example, watching TV, working on the computer, or playing video games. School recess really provides a great opportunity, which children might not otherwise have, to develop these skills.

In order to ensure kids are offered time for recess, schools need to develop a plan of action to implement recess on a daily basis. Schools could do a test run with a daily recess, analyze the results to see if kids are performing better and develop a more permanent plan from there.  There are many ways that school districts have implemented a daily recess, and it boils down to whether or not administrators feel that school recess is a necessity for their students.

Looking for more?

Read our latest report, The Status of School Recess in Texas School Districts, to learn more about the best practices, potential obstacles, and recommended policies to ensure students in Texas have access to recess.