It’s a real shame that many schools no longer see the value of recess. To expect young children or even teens to sit quietly for eight hours a day is unrealistic. I challenge even the most focused adults to do the same and remain productive without some sort of break. It’s been shown that a child’s brain retains information better when the lesson is coupled with some sort of movement (hence the common recommendation by most experts to limit screen viewing and encourage children to participate in their learning and play).  However it’s increasingly common for schools to favor desk time over arts and recreation.

A NY Times article “The 3 R’s?  A Fourth is Crucial Too: Recess” discusses the importance of recess in a child’s education.  According to the article:

"New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child’s academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades."

In a study reported by the journal Pediatrics, children with as little as 15 minutes of recess a day behaved better in class than their “no-play” counterparts. I remember from my elementary school years of having at least 30 minutes of outdoor play, in addition to gym class, every single day. Now kids are lucky to have enough time to move from one class to the other.  Even more disturbing to me — some teachers use the loss of recess privileges as punishment for those who misbehave in class.  Ever think their misbehavior is due to their inability to move from behind their desk for eight hours? I’d be cranky too!

And it’s important to note that recess involving nature is shown to be most effective in giving the brain a break, and this can be especially true for children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:

“A small study of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder last year found that walks outdoors appeared to improve scores on tests of attention and concentration. Notably, children who took walks in natural settings did better than those who walked in urban areas, according to the report, published online in August in The Journal of Attention Disorders. The researchers found that a dose of nature worked as well as a dose of medication to improve concentration, or even better.”

The positive impact of nature play on behavior holds true for all children and is something for parents to keep in mind at home. If your child is misbehaving, consider taking going for a nature walk or a bike ride. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your little one will rebound from a bad mood. Hopefully schools will begin to realize the importance of play on academic performance and give our kids a well-deserved (and effective) break.

How much recess does your child receive during a typical school day?  Please respond with the child’s age/grade and recess time. And, of course, your opinion on the topic is always welcome.

This story was written by Tela Kayne and originally appeared on
It is reprinted here with permission.

Related school stories on MNN:

Recess helps students do better in school
Studies show that taking time for recess cuts down on misbehavior and can improve concentration, even for students with ADHD.