“A group of American pediatricians is telling school districts that children need recess and free time during the school day, and it should not even be taken away as punishment.

‘We consider it essentially the child’s personal time and don’t feel it should be taken away for academic or punitive reasons,’ said Dr. Robert Murray, who co-authored the new policy statement for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The statement, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, says recess is a ‘crucial and necessary component of a child’s development.’

Recess helps students develop communication skills, such as cooperation and sharing, and helps counteract the time they spend sitting in class, according to the statement.”

*Excerpt from the December 31st, 2012 article “Pediatricians Say Kids Need Recess During School”

When I read this article this past Monday, the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah played in my head. No lie. I’ve always argued that recess has an important place in the school day…something that has been a bit of a controversy in recent years. I’d even go so far as to say recess is as important as academic subjects. Some, however, seem to think recess’s only value is in the physical activity side of things: Kids need to move. To that I say, “Of course they do…but they need more than that!”

Recess is practice for how to function in society: how to be a person, how to handle conflict rationally without an adult looking over your shoulder, and how to interact with your peers spontaneously. And it’s dying off far too soon in our schools. According to the article linked above, one third of schools don’t offer recess to third graders.

I’ve often heard the argument for more physical education classes and less recess. Arguing that bullying often occurs on the playground, more phys. ed. seems to some to be the magic formula: kids get more movement, more structure, and more supervision…but this misses the mark.

If we don’t allow kids the chance to interact on the playground, how do we expect them to practice social skills? Some parts of learning are messy. Kids argue, they have disagreements, and they need to know how to handle these hard parts of living in society. I remember playground arguments as being common when I was an elementary school student. Often, teachers would intervene and help us problem solve, and we’d all walk away a bit wiser and with better tools for next time. I think it’s worth noticing that the intensity of bullying in schools seems to be increasing in recent years as the amount of recess time has been decreasing. I think the two are related. The solution is not to simply eliminate this time to prevent bullying, but I would instead argue, to increase it!

If you have school age children, do they have recess? If so, for how often and how long? What do you think about the new statement on recess by the American Academy of Pediatrics?

Important things happen on the playground!

Important things happen on the playground!


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