In an article recently published in USA Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommended that recess should be a non-negotiable part of a child's academic day. Recess is cited as being important to a child's physical, mental, emotional and cultural needs. Of course, the best practice for recess is to have trained supervisors in place to encourage appropriate play, and reduce the chances for any type of bulling behaviors.
In the past ten years, many school districts around the nation have cut into recess in an effort to find more instructional time in the school day. This is a result of the added pressure that many state governments are putting on school districts in order to raise the scores on the annual state assessments. More time is usually mandated in reading and math, while areas like science, social studies, art, music, physical education and recess are ignored and left behind.
The statement, which was co-authored by Dr. Robert Murray, a pediatrician at Ohio State University, stated that recess has, "cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits" that the regular school day does not provide. Recess can actually improve attention span, classroom behavior, and is a good conduit for creative, unstructured play with other children that ensures healthy character development in children. The authors also cite over two decades of study that support the claim that recess is developmentally important for students and goes as far to say that, "recess plays a huge role is a child's life, and not just because it is fun."
The policy also stresses the point that losing recess should never be used as a punishment for students. The reasoning is that recess provides a crucial break that young children need in the academic day for social and cultural development and practice. The very students that usually lose their recess time are the ones that probably need it the most.
Several studies cited by the statement note that as much as 40% of U.S. school districts have reduced or eliminated recess to allow more time for core academics, such as reading and math, and that one in four elementary schools may not provide recess to all grades. Younger children usually retain recess privileges, while older grades are not provided the time for recess.
Middle school and high school students are provided with frequent breaks during the day to change classes, or to have study periods, which also provides an different sort of academic break. Adults in work situations are usually provided with breaks at well, either scheduled or as needed, because it is not part of human nature to stay focused on strenuous mental activities for long periods of time. With this in mind the co-authors state that recess, "should not be taken away for either academic or disciplinary reasons. We need to protect recess time."
Parents can serve as recess advocates at their school by asking their children if recess is a regular part of the day and also by asking if their child, or any children, ever "lose recess" for any reason. The parent should feel comfortable bringing this up with the classroom teacher or the school principal to insure that recess is not sacrificed for the wrong reasons.