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The Importance of Recess and What Happened to It?

Why Recess is Important

I went to my elementary school’s curriculum night last week and my youngest has the most incredible first grade teacher. I know because my middle child had her for two years.  We were lucky enough to loop with her for first and second grade. You can tell how organized my son’s teacher is: she passed out a packet of handouts including a detailed schedule laid out in half hour blocks for each day of the week of what her kids do all week. I had to raise my hand and ask about recess because … ummm…. it wasn’t on the schedule.

It’s folded into Snack Time and Lunch (12:30 -1 every day). Here’s my first grader’s snack schedule:

10:15 to 10:35 Monday (15 minutes)

10:30-10:45 Tuesday (15 minutes)

10:20-10:40 Wednesday (10 minutes)

10:20-10:40 Thursday (10 minutes)

10:50-11:10 Friday (20 minutes)

My son’s incredible teacher heaved a deep sigh and said that the powers that be decreed that there should be only one hour for recess/snack/lunch which she completely understands is not enough. She believes deeply in recess.

She also knows that it takes 10 minutes alone to get 22 kids out of their chairs, to the bathrooms  with their hands washed, and back to their desks. Additional time is needed to actually let them eat their snack.

I raised my hand again and asked, “Who are the powers that be?” She didn’t know exactly but said that it wasn’t our principal. It’s a decree that comes mysteriously down from above, 10 Commandment style.

There is much written about the importance of free play (a.k.a. recess). Recess Essential to Kindergarten Development.  The Surprising Benefits of Play by parenting guru Dr. Michele Borba. But it seems that there is no time for recess in the Race to Nowhere or in hitting the mark for the Common Core Standards. Recess is also under scrutiny as an under supervised time in which bullying can take place.

Some think that having a Recess Coach is necessary because kids don’t actually know how to play during recess. As ridiculous as that sounds, hear me out. I used to spend my elementary school recesses reading in the library (I was admittedly a geek), digging in the sandbox to get to the “wet sand,” playing hopscotch, 3 person jump rope (but not the double dutch variety — too hard for us!), and a basketball shooting game around the key called H.O.R.S.E. Unless it was marbles season! Then the entire school went into a marbles tournament frenzy.

But back then– 3 decades ago– I got an entire hour for lunch. Plus fifteen minutes for recess mid-morning in elementary school. And a second afternoon 10 minute recess in K-3.

What happened to recess? It’s when kids learn interpersonal skills of how to play together which translates later into life skills in the workplace. Just 30 minutes of recess also increases a child’s ability to focus and pay attention. And physical skills developed through recess translates direction into eye-hand coordination and writing skills needed for literacy.

Recess seems to be slipping away in our elementary schools. My son’s first grade teacher is determined not let that happen. She’s extending snack time when she can to let her kiddos get the benefits of free play. But please don’t tell the recess police. Yeah, we don’t know who they are either! It must the “powers that be!”

In the past twenty years, children have lost an average of 8 hours of recess a week. Danimals Rally for Recessis a national initiative designed to create healthy competition, pitting school against school. Go to Danimals Rally for Recess for a chance to win $20,000 for your Elementary school playground. Plus each day Danimals is giving recess-related prizes to keep kids healthy and active. Share your Recess memories below and go to Rally for Recess for more information on how your school can win!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Danimals. The opinions and text are all mine. Contest Rules.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom

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