The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) thinks recess will
definitely help your child become a better learner. In a time where many
schools have cut back on recess due to time constraints, safety concerns, and
financial reasons, the AAP issued a new policy statement this spring advocating
for recess to be included in every child’s day—even in high school.
The general recommendation from health experts is a break from classes that lasts for at
least 15 to 20 minutes.
The AAP strongly recommends what is called unstructured play, which means
activities that are unplanned and are not directed by adults. That is, the child gets to choose what to do. In
fact, some children may choose not to do much of anything during this free time,
and just talk with friends. But studies have demonstrated that children who are
less physically active during recess, but who are still “taking a break” from
thinking, reap the same benefits in better school performance as do the more
The AAP discourages
teachers from taking away recess as a punishment for bad behavior or
incomplete homework. Particularly in the case of an especially active
child, taking away the chance to run around and burn off some energy
during the day is likely to be counterproductive for both student and
Some schools cite safety
concerns as a reason for not having recess. Playgrounds do need to be
assessed and maintained for optimal safety.
Recess is a time when
behavior issues can frequently arise, as kids dispute whose turn it is or
who was right. That, however, is real life. Adult supervision needs to be
adequate—and interventions are sometimes necessary.
When the school year resumes, look at how your school handles recess and, if necessary,
make suggestions for changes that can get the year started off in the right
direction. After all, we’re just talking about 15 or 20 minutes here—and, yes,
parents can have a big voice.