As educators and parents, we often focus on academics and structured learning when it comes to our elementary school students. However, amidst the busy schedules and curriculum demands, we must not overlook the crucial role that recess plays in a child’s development. In fact, recess is not merely a break from lessons; it is arguably the most important part of the school day for young learners.

Opportunity for Movement and Energy Release

First and foremost, recess offers children the opportunity to release pent-up energy and engage in physical activity. For young students, who may struggle to sit still during class, recess provides a much-needed outlet for movement and play. This physical activity is not just about burning off excess energy; it is essential for promoting healthy growth and development, including the development of motor skills and coordination.

Recess Provides Opportunities for Practicing Social Skills

Moreover, recess fosters social and emotional development in ways that the classroom cannot replicate. During recess, children interact with their peers in unstructured, playful environments. They learn crucial social skills such as cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution. These interactions contribute to the development of empathy and communication skills, which are vital for forming healthy relationships both inside and outside the classroom.

Recess Provides a “Brain Break” for Improved Attention

Additionally, recess has been shown to enhance academic performance. Contrary to the belief that more classroom time equals better learning outcomes, research suggests that regular breaks, like recess, actually improve concentration and focus. When students return to the classroom after a break, they are more attentive and ready to learn. Recess acts as a reset button for young minds, allowing them to process information more effectively.

Improved Mental and Emotional Health Benefits of Recess

Beyond the physical and academic benefits, recess also supports children’s mental well-being. The unstructured nature of recess gives students the freedom to choose activities based on their interests. This autonomy contributes to a sense of self-confidence and intrinsic motivation. Moreover, outdoor play has been linked to reduced stress levels and improved overall mood, which are crucial for a child’s emotional health.

Furthermore, recess encourages creativity and imagination. When children engage in unstructured play, they are forced to use their imagination to invent games, solve problems, and explore their surroundings. This kind of imaginative play not only stimulates cognitive development but also nurtures a child’s innate curiosity and desire to learn.

Advocate for a Purposeful Recess

As educators and parents, we must advocate for sufficient recess time in schools. Unfortunately, recess has been reduced or eliminated in some educational settings due to concerns about academics or discipline. However, these actions may be counterproductive. By prioritizing recess, we are investing in our children’s holistic development and well-being.

But recess can be made more “productive” if given the attention and importance that it deserves. Today’s kids spend way too much time on technology, which reduces their opportunities for play. For some kids, recess may be the only time of day that they are not sitting, interacting socially, and getting mental breaks from the rigors of structured learning in the classroom.

Set Students and Staff up for Success at Recess!

By teaching students about the different games that they can play at recess, rules of social play, sportsmanship, and other outside-play social skills, children can better benefit from their time at recess. In addition, training staff on providing structured types of games and play, having rules to games reviewed with students and posted near equipment, and regularly providing social skills lessons about play skills, can better enhance children’s ability to play appropriately at recess, resolve conflicts, make friends, and return to the classroom without emotional difficulties related to conflicts at recess.

In conclusion, recess is far more than just a break from classroom activities; it is a fundamental component of a child’s educational experience. Through physical activity, social interaction, and imaginative play, recess contributes to a child’s overall development and academic success. As educators and parents, we should recognize and prioritize the importance of recess in the school day, ensuring that our children have ample time for play, exploration, and growth. By doing so, we are nurturing well-rounded individuals who are not only academically proficient but also socially adept, emotionally resilient, and physically healthy.

Are you in need of a curriculum to help support students learn social skills and games to play at Recess? If so, then check out the curriculum, Recess Matters!, by Counseling Fanny Pack of Fun. This is a 3-week curriculum, that have 45-60 minute lessons that includes videos, social stories, and print-out of game rules that teaches a variety of topics and skills related to playing at recess.