Benefits of Recess for Elementary School Children

Instructor: Donna Ricketts

Donna Ricketts is a health educator with 15 years of professional experience designing health and wellness programs for adults and children.

In this lesson, you will learn about elementary school recess and what that means. You will also learn about the health benefits associated with regular recess.

What is Recess?

Ask any kindergartner what their favorite part of the school day is and you would inevitably hear the word 'recess.' When you think about it, recess is a vital part of any young child's day. It is a time for talking, running around, and playing with friends with limited restrictions.

Kids Playing Tetherball
Kids Playing Tetherball

The term recess refers to a planned, adult supervised break during the school day to allow children time for active, free play. It is a great way to incorporate more physical activity into a child's day by supplementing physical education as a means to reach the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day. While schools vary in the length of time and number of recess periods children are allowed each day, it is suggested that kids participate in a minimum of 20 minutes of recess a day. Typically, recess occurs outdoors and in a designated play area like the schoolyard, but during harsh weather, schools may move it indoors to the gymnasium or classroom.

Although recess has traditionally been a regular practice in primary school settings, it is now being reduced or eliminated in an effort to provide more instructional time despite the many health benefits it provides for kids. Recess contributes significantly to the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive (intellectual) development of young children.

Let's take a more detailed look at the benefits of recess in each of the specific developmental areas.

Physical Fitness

Children can engage in a variety of activities at recess time. Activities such as four square, basketball and tag build strength, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness, as well as help to reduce childhood obesity and its related health complications. Furthermore, activity results in more activity. When children are more physically active at school, they are more likely to be physically active at home, with the hope that physical activity will continue into adulthood.

Social and Emotional Skills

Regular participation in recess helps develop social and emotional skills. It may be the only time during the day when children have an opportunity to experience socialization and real communication. Through active, free play and interactions with schoolmates, children can develop a respect for rules and an appreciation for other people's cultures and beliefs. They learn skills such as conflict resolution, self-discipline, determination, compromise, and teamwork, as well as sharing during recess.

School Playground
School Playground

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