The Importance of Recess

Amid all of the current pressures to get students to achieve on standardized tests, school administrators in some districts around the United States have created extra academic time for their students by getting rid of something that they feel no longer is useful: recess.

“There’s too much to do,” says Rosemary Agneessens, principal of Creighton Elementary School in Phoenix, where morning and afternoon recesses for even the littlest kids were eliminated two years ago.

The same sentiment was put even more bluntly by Benjamin O. Canada, superintendent of schools in Atlanta, when he told The New York Times, “We are intent on improving academic performance. You don’t do that by having kids hanging on the monkey bars.”

Or do you? 

Stewart Trost, assistant professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University, asserts, “Kids who have recess display an improved ability to stay on task, are less fidgety in the classroom and are better behaved…movement is essential to the physical and social development of all children.”

Echoing those sentiments is Olga Jarrett, a child development specialist from Georgia State University: “An experimental study found that fourth-graders were more on-task, less fidgety and less disruptive in the classroom on days when they had recess, with hyperactive children among those who benefited the most. Breaks are helpful, both for attention and for classroom management and discipline.”

Ask any teacher after a rainy day where the students had to stay inside, and I guarantee you’ll get the same response: recess matters.  In a country where nearly 20% of our children are obese, 4.4 million children are diagnosed with ADD or ADHD, and after-school time for children is frequently hyper-structured, does anyone who’s worked with kids really think that banning recess is a good idea?

Get the children outside.  And while they’re there, maybe we adults should try it as well.  Maybe it would clear our minds so we would quit trying to implement such horrible ideas on our children.

34 thoughts on “The Importance of Recess

  1. Recess matters. It rained all week last week. Recess matters a lot! As a parent, recess matters. As a teacher, recess matters. As a human being who cares about the state of obesity in our nation’s children . . . obesity matters a TON. Rather than cutting recess, how about getting teachers out there to organize games and encourage ALL the kids to play . . . not just the ones who want to play.

  2. I hated recess as a kid, so I asked the teacher sitting next to me what she thought of this.

    “Should recess be obliterated from elementary schools?”

    She was indecisive.

    “Hell no.

    “At that age, your attention span sucks and you need a break. I loved recess as a kid, and obesity is a huge issue in this country, anyway.

    “Let them use their imaginations and their physical abilities.”

    1. You said you hated it and you liked it as a kid.
      If kids can go outside they can make more friends and give teachers somemore time to work on something

    2. You said you hated it and you liked it as a kid.
      If kids can go outside they can make more friends and give teachers somemore time to work on something

  3. This is why I no longer take away recess as a punishment for anything. Students who are misbehaving NEED recess. I feel awful for my fifth graders as they head to middle school next year where they won’t have recess. They’re still kids and need that unstructured time for play.

  4. Recess is an important part of a school day and children need the break in the school day to run, have fun, make friends, and feel the joy of movement!

    Taking away recess at a time when we are facing a childhood obesity crisis is put simply short sighted.

    The National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Education Young Children, and the National PTA are just a few of the many professional organizations that have taken a stand on the importance of recess.

    For more information on recess research and what schools are doing to insure successful recess experiences for children check out:

  5. Recess is important because it is another place for children to learn social skills. Here is a time that a teacher can make it into a teachable moment. I can’t imagine being cooped up in a class with students who had no down time.

  6. We don’t have recess in middle school, but I try to get my kids outside for a lesson as often as I can simply because they tend to behave better when they can blow off steam. Fortunately as a science teacher I can find a way to make a lesson out of being outside (looking at the grass, hey, that’s photosynthesis…check out the clouds for a unit on weather, blah, blah, blah). Unfortunately, we’ve had wet and cold, cold, cold weather for weeks now so we’ve all been tucked away inside.

    And I think we still need recess in middle school…

  7. I wish our school had recess. We have talent and seated lunch, but if we had recess, our school would be 20x easier to manage. Unfortunately, our school is more prone to gang activity, thus the fear that our school will turn into a meeting for that cabal. Nonetheless, after lunch, our kids are very fidgety and have all this extra energy because they’re not allowed to run around and expend it.

    And if there isn’t evidence enough, when they come back from gym, they’re so quiet, you can hear a pin drop. Why? Because they can’t wait to calm down. The loss of recess is another side effect of draconian testing. Hmmm …

  8. i am writing a persuasive letter to the school district to act on this problem
    Poor_Statue has a point also
    last year when i was in fifth grade we were crazy inside when it rained
    it was terrible
    i mean yes our related arts in middle school is somtimes PE or gym or fitness
    but that is not enough

  9. I think the middle schools should have recess because test have proven that kids are less hyper end figety and are better behaved.

  10. I believe we should continue to have recess as this will also help the young children to develop their Sensori and Psychomotor abilities.

  11. I feel it is very important for students to participate in recess. I have been in the schools for quite a few years and can see a huge difference between students going outside for recess or having to stay inside. Not only is recess a way for students to burn energy but it is also great exercise. In my local schools, when students have inside recess they stay in their classrooms. I feel this does not give the teacher a much needed break but also the students should not be in the classroom all day long. Students need to do different things and be in different places. Simply always being in the classroom is dull. If our schools in upstate New York did not participate in having recess, I could not imagine as an educator what the school day would be like nor would I like to find out.

  12. Middleschools definitely NEED recess! I’m so hypre and I can never stay on task. I never do my homework cuz im lazy and i always zone out

  13. Recess matters and I think that we should all be active to stay healthy. My teacher would take away recess and I think that kids like that need recess.

  14. I think it’s funny how so many of those who commented have not yet learned to spell correctly…maybe they were at recess during spelling lessons?

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