Saturday, January 05, 2013


REPORT: The Crucial Role of Recess in School

By Debbie Nicholson, |

Kids at recess

Washington : DC : USA | Jan 02, 2013 at 11:49 AM PST   ::  Over forty percent of school districts in the nation have either reduced, eliminated or are considering eliminating recess in order to give children more time in the classroom. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new policy statement is alerting school districts they strongly disagree and recess gives children cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits that they do not receive sitting behind a school desk.

The policy authors write in their abstract “The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.” The statement published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The statement points out “several studies demonstrated that recess, whether performed indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and more productive in the classroom.”

Dr. Robert Murray, MD, Director of Columbus Children’s Hospital’s Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine and chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on School Health related to Reuters, "Kids have to have that time scheduled. They're not given the opportunity to just get up and walk around for a few minutes.”

In a nationwide survey last year of 1,800 elementary schools had found around one-third of schools were not offering recess to third graders.

The authors note that in other countries such as Japan children have a ten to fifteen minute break every hour and that is believed to reflect the fact that attention spans begin to decrease after forty to fifty minutes of intense instruction.

The stament also notes that recess provides children with learning valuable communication skills that include sharing, problem solving and coping skills and that these skills become fundamental, lifelong personal tools.

The CDC policy recommends that schools should require daily physical activities for students in kindergarten through grade 12 at 150 minutes a week for elementary and 225 minutes a week for secondary schools.

The authors note that “even minor movement during recess counterbalances sedentary time at school and at home and helps the child achieve the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, which can help lower risk of obesity.”

The AAP also noted there are a number of steps schools can take to protect children while still providing a play period these suggestions included; maintenance of developmentally appropriate equipment with regular inspections and establishing of a school-wide clear policy to prevent bullying or aggressive behavior.

The statement also says that schools should not substitute physical education classes for recess.

In the conclusion the authors write; “On the basis of an abundance of scientific studies, withholding recess for punitive or academic reasons would seem to be counterproductive to the intended out comes and may have unintended consequences in relation to a child’s acquisition of important life skills.”

The online version of the AAP policy statements may viewed at Pediatrics AAP.

In 2010 the Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning, Health Promotion and Education, University of Cincinnati, conducted a comprehensive review of recess-specific literature.

In their conclusion researchers write; “Recess is a complement to, not a replacement for, physical education. Both promote activity and a healthy lifestyle; however, recess--particularly unstructured recess and free play--provides a unique contribution to a child's creative, social, and emotional development. From the perspective of children's health and well-being, recess time should be considered a child's personal time and should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”

It appears most experts agree recess is a vital part of a child’s life and should be offered in addition to physical education and academic classes.

Rights To Recess Campaign can be viewed online at Peaceful Playgrounds.

Slideshow: Reasons for Recess

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