RECESS AND THE IMPORTANCE OF PLAY
Position Statement on Young Children and Recess
National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education
The National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education takes the position that recess is an essential component of education and that preschool and elementary school children must have the opportunity to participate in regular periods of active, free play with peers.
The term recess refers to a break during the day set aside to allow children the time for active, free play. Schools vary in the number of recess periods given children each day, the length of the periods, and the environments available. Typically, recess occurs outdoors and in a designated play area. During inclement weather, schools may have recess periods in a game room, gymnasium, or inside the classroom.
“Recess is the right of every child. Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights states that every child has the right to leisure time. Taking away recess, whether as a disciplinary measure or abolishing it in the name of work, infringes on that right.” [Skrupskelis, in Clements (2000), 126]
Benefits to children
During the period of time commonly referred to as recess, learning occurs in ways not possible inside the regular classroom. An increasing body of research continues to indicate the benefits of unstructured play and specifically outdoor play for young children.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) describes unstructured physical play as a developmentally appropriate outlet for reducing stress in children (Appendix 2). This period of time allows children the opportunity to make choices, plan, and expand their creativity.
In allowing a mental change and release of energy, recess may facilitate subsequent attention to more academic tasks and minimize disruptive behavior once students return to the classroom; recess, therefore, becomes an important element of classroom management and behavior guidance (Bogden & Vega-Matos, 2000).
Recess contributes significantly to the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive (intellectual) development of the young child (Clements, 2001). Recess is one of the few places and times during the day when all these developmental domains are utilized in a context that children view as meaningful. Children must function in all the developmental domains if they are to successfully adapt to school and societal norms. The domains are empirically related and should be considered intertwined. For example, social interaction and physical activity facilitate cognition; recess (indoor and outside) offers the opportunity for this development. On the playground, children can be observed actively practicing the learning and cognitive skills acquired in the classroom.
The benefits of recess in each of the specific developmental domains, as identified by current research, are outlined below. The division of the benefits into domains is only for evaluative purposes. All domains are interrelated as children develop.
An important educational and socialization experience is lost when children are not allowed to participate in free play with peers on a regular basis.
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Through Age 8.
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RECESS IN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS
Council on Physical Education for Children
A Position Paper from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education
National Association for Sport and Physical Education, an association of the
Recess, An Essential Component
Recess, while separate and distinct from physical education, is an essential component of the total educational experience for elementary aged children. Recess provides children with discretionary time and opportunities to engage in physical activity that help to develop healthy bodies and enjoyment of movement. It also allows elementary children to practice life skills such as conflict resolution, cooperation, respect for rules, taking turns, sharing, using language to communicate, and problem solving in situations that are real. Furthermore, it may facilitate improved attention and focus on learning in the academic program.
Various organizations including the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play support recess as an important component of a child’s physical and social development. Children need a variety of movement experiences to develop a healthy mind and body that is capable of learning. Inactivity is considered a major risk factor for heart disease, and patterns of inactivity may begin at early ages. As a result of parents working outside the home, neighborhood safety issues, and a lack of community support, a growing number of children have limited time to participate in unstructured play in their neighborhoods. They spend more time watching TV, playing computer games or other sedentary activities. The result of this inactivity, coupled with poor nutritional habits, is that more children are overweight and obese, showing early signs of heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems. The involvement of young children in daily physical activity during school hours therefore is critical for their current and future health.
Recess may also provide the opportunity for students to develop and improve social skills. During recess periods, students learn to resolve conflicts, solve problems, negotiate, and work with others without adult intervention. Cognitive abilities may also be enhanced by recess. Studies have found that students who do not participate in recess may have difficulty concentrating on specific tasks in the classroom, are restless and may be easily distracted. In addition, recess serves as a developmentally appropriate strategy for reducing stress. Contemporary society introduces significant pressure and stress for many students because of academic demands, family issues and peer pressures.
Based on this information, COPEC recommends the following:
Quality physical education along with daily recess are necessary components of the school curriculum that enable students to develop physical competence, health-related fitness, self responsibility, and enjoyment of physical activity so that they can be physically active for a lifetime.
Council on Physical Education
for Children (COPEC). (1998). Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of
Jarrett, O.S. (1998). “Effect of recess on classroom behavior: Group effects and individual differences,” Journal of Education Research, 92(2): 121–126.
National Association of State
Boards of Education. (2000). Fit, Healthy and Ready to Learn.
Pellegrini, A.D. and Smith, P.K. (1993). “School recess: Implications for education and development,” Review of Educational Research, 63(1): 51–67.
Pellegrini, A.D. and Davis, P.D. (1993). “Relations between children’s playground and classroom behaviour,” British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63: 88–95.
*Additional information on recess may be obtained through the International Play Association.
early years are learning years
The value of school recess and outdoor play
National Association for the Education of Young Children
The delights of the outdoors are among the deepest, most passionate joys of childhood; however, increasing demands on parents working outside of the home have resulted in growing numbers of children with less time to play under adult supervision in their neighborhoods or in their yards. Instead, they are spending more time behind locked doors watching television, playing video and computer games, and as recent studies have shown, growing obese. Other children often have afternoon schedules full of structured activities, including music, dance instruction, drama classes, and tennis lessons.
Compounding the dilemma is a
trend among many public school districts throughout the
While these concerns are valid, school recess is often the only time during the work week that children are able to be carefree--a time when their bodies and voices are not under tight control.
It is a widely held view that unstructured physical play is a developmentally appropriate outlet for reducing stress in children’s lives, and research shows that physical activity improves children’s attentiveness and decreases restlessness. Following are a few reasons why school administrators should carefully consider the benefits of outdoor play before eliminating recess from their curriculum.
Our society has become increasingly complex, but there remains a need for every child to feel the sun and wind on his cheek and engage in self-paced play. Children’s attempts to make their way across monkey bars, negotiate the hopscotch course, play jacks, or toss a football require intricate behaviors of planning, balance, and strength--traits we want to encourage in children. Ignoring the developmental functions of unstructured outdoor play denies children the opportunity to expand their imaginations beyond the constraints of the classroom.
Rivkin, M.S. (1995). The
Great Outdoors: Restoring Children’s Right to Play Outside.