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All School, No Play: Student Learning Suffers With The Demise Of Recess

All School, No Play: Student Learning Suffers With The Demise Of Recess

 

Remember school recess? That block of time reserved for nothing but play: jumping rope, shooting hoops, mastering the jungle gym and hanging out with your friends on the blacktop?

Add recess to the list of activities today’s parents enjoyed when they were kids but today’s children are, in many cases, denied. Forty percent of elementary schools nationwide have either eliminated or cut back recess time, according to the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play. They attribute this largely to the No Child Left Behind act, which emphasizes testing scores.

Union Rules Ensure Breaks For Workers, But Children Are Losing Out

Ironically, while union rules for many adult workers across the country require a minimum 15 minutes of break time for every four hours of work, and a half-hour for lunch in an eight-hour day, children, it seems, are losing the right to their own breaks.

Children’s free playtime has dropped over the years, replaced by structured activities and screen time, including television and computer use , studies suggest. A 2010 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7 hours.

Unstructured Playtime Is Vanishing

At the same time, unstructured childhood time is vanishing. A pair of University of Maryland studies of children’s time use found that in 1981, kids ages 6 to 12 had about 57 hours of free time per week. By 2003, kids had only 48 hours in which to choose their own activities. Time spent outdoors was especially hard-hit.

From msnbc.com:

An overall decrease in playtime in even young children is resulting in kids who don’t have a “culture of play,” said Jill Vialet, the founder of Playworks, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the climate of play in schools, teaching kids the kinds of games they would have once learned from older peers.

The result, experts say, is children who come into school without good play skills. Used to regimented activities, these kids may struggle with the give-and-take of playground games, said Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a psychologist at Temple University. That’s not a natural state, she told LiveScience.

“If kids were left to have some time on their own, they would in fact develop play ,” Hirsh-Pasek said. “Now what we do is, we endanger the species by taking play opportunities away from them.”

Even A 15-Minute Break Is Good

The reality is that children need that oxygen in their brains to get thinking! And there’s a growing body of research that finds that even a 15-minute break enhances a child’s ability to learn.

Ironically, while the push for less recess is often driven by the need to drill kids for standardized tests, the truth is that those students will do better on their tests if they are allowed to take a break, and run around a little. As I document in my book, Get Out! 150 Easy Ways for Kids and Grown-Ups to Get Into Nature and Build a Greener Future, a number of recent studies show that playing outside, and being exposed to nature, can improve memory, concentration and school grades. And of course there are many other good reasons for children to enjoy playing outside.

Let the children play!

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210 comments

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7:19AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

9:54PM PST on Jan 3, 2013

getting some fresh air outside will do good for brain function.

9:57AM PDT on May 2, 2012

Kids are getting fatter (no longer just a little baby fat or pudgy) at an earlier age. Parents are responsible for child's food choices since they teach a child what and how much to eat. Schools are also responsible since many cut physical ed in an effort to cut school costs. For many kids this is the only good thing about school as a motivator to get better grades. If they want to be on a team they must maintain good grades. It is also important just for increasing activity since many go home and sit in front of TV or computer games. It seems to me that society has been getting fatter ever since computer games were invented and gotten worse with the downsizing of portable games.

9:56AM PDT on May 2, 2012

Kids are getting fatter (no longer just a little baby fat or pudgy) at an earlier age. Parents are responsible for child's food choices since they teach a child what and how much to eat. Schools are also responsible since many cut physical ed in an effort to cut school costs. For many kids this is the only good thing about school as a motivator to get better grades. If they want to be on a team they must maintain good grades. It is also important just for increasing activity since many go home and sit in front of TV or computer games. It seems to me that society has been getting fatter ever since computer games were invented and gotten worse with the downsizing of portable games.

3:38PM PDT on Oct 8, 2011

Didn't we really know this all along?

6:01AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

Even adults need to play!

12:57PM PDT on Aug 27, 2011

Cutting out recess is another reason for childhood obesity in this country.

6:53AM PDT on Aug 27, 2011

this country hates kids.

9:44AM PDT on Aug 25, 2011

As an inevitable victim of being born in the day where electronics are really beginning to take hold of daily life and it's many processes. I've definitely witnessed firsthand in myself and my peers how affected by electronics we are. We all spend most of our free time glued to our computers and seldom go out to exercise on a unscheduled basis. Tis sad..

9:37AM PDT on Aug 25, 2011

I am sixty seven going on sixty eight. I remember just standing staring at the teacher during recess. I got more exercise when it rained and the teacher led a game of Simon Says to try to get the fidgets out of the class.

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