You Never Really Grow Out Of Needing Recess

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With school around the corner (or already begun) for many kids, it's time to consider an often overlooked part of the day: recess.


Sandymaple of Strollerderby writes that a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation has found "spending time outdoors improves classroom behavior, increases motivation and enthusiasm and results in better performance in math, science, reading and social studies." But not all schools make time for recess, either because of supervision issues or because they're trying to squeeze a little more instruction time out of the day. This is a shame, both because a little break can help kids learn, and because for some kids, recess may be a rare opportunity for outdoor play. Not all kids have access to safe, supervised play spaces in their neighborhoods, and recess could be the only time they get to run around outside. For their physical and mental health, as well as school performance, it's probably a good idea to turn them loose for a bit every day.

And maybe adults have something to learn from the NWF report too. True story: I went outside today. I know a lot of you probably leave the house as part of your daily commute, but since I work from home, venturing outdoors before 5 PM is kind of a luxury. I didn't really notice it at the time — I was pretty focused on replenishing my stock of green tea, which I have to drink throughout the day to keep up the pretense that I'm not addicted to caffeine. But around 2 PM, I started to wonder why I was so alert. Why did I not have the compulsion to crawl into bed between posts, or the idea of making more tea while I was currently drinking tea? Oh: because I'd been outside. So while it's not necessarily possible every day, or in every job, I'd like to make the following recommendation for the 2010-11 school year: more recess for all.

Why Kids Need Recess [Strollerderby]

Image via Margot Petrowski/


Phyllis Nefler

I'm kind of annoyed by the end of the article on Strollerderby:

The list of benefits of outdoor play go on and on and have been documented in study after study. So, why aren’t educators getting the message?

It's not that we don't get the message. We do. We want recess just as badly as the kids do. Trust me. To imply that educators don't get it is insulting. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to take their kids outside for recess. In many schools (often the low performing/low income schools) recess is flat out banned by the administration. I have never met an educator who thought that keeping kids in a desk and teaching to the test was a good thing. However, with the demand placed on students and teachers to make Adequate Yearly Progress as defined by No Child Left Behind many schools have been given no choice but to cut recess and all other non-academic (read: testable) areas or face funding cuts and teacher layoffs. It's a broken system and an issue of class and privilege. With the talk of merit based pay linked to test scores this isn't something that's going to go away.

This is a systemic problem and it's not going to be fixed over night.