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Kids and Recess


As the old saying goes, all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy. Well, now science can officially back that up. 

A new Gallup poll shows that recess is good for kids' minds. This is not new, but rather reinforcement.  Behavior experts have long known the value of play, but now school principals are chiming in.

The nationwide survey of principals revealed that children who get at least 30 minutes of recess do better in school.  Their test scores are actually higher than when they don't get recess. Furthermore, principals have noted that immediately after recess the kids are more focused in class and pay attention better.

But here's the problem: recess is being squeezed-out of the school day.  eachers can decide to cancel recess if they want, and unbeknownst to parents, they often do, the increasingly do. Teachers are under enormous pressure to get their students to pass standardized tests. 

So the they often cancel recess and use that extra time to give the kids extra instruction.  Teachers also often cancel outdoor recess because they, the teachers, feel it is too cold. The problem with cancelling recess because of the cold is that usually kids are just fine in it, unless it's well below freezing. 

On the other hand, teachers are quite uncomfortable in the cold, especially since the recess monitors are usually standing still.  While I certainly sympathize with those recess monitors (I am a MAJOR cold-weather weenie), they must suck it up, layer-up, put the needs of the kids first, and go outside. 

Outdoor recess allows the kids to run around and blow off steam and return to the classroom refreshed and ready to learn. Outdoor recess also fosters imagination because it lends itself to unstructured play.  You know, the kind of play when you're not being told what to do, what to think or how to act.  You allow your mind to expand and be creative. 

We see this kind of play when kids hide behind a rock and pretend it's a castle they have to guard, etc.  On the surface, this type of play may sound relatively meaningless. Far from it. Self-created play turns kids into innovators, people who, as adults, come up with new ideas, such as in medicine or government policy, or new inventions. 

Kids who are constantly being told how to do things, even good things, like school work or sports teams, turn out to be passive in their professional life, such as factory workers.

Unfortunately, kids don't have as much time for unstructured play as they used to.  Parents no longer think it's safe to just cut their kids loose after school and let them roam free until dark (like when I was a kid) which is a heavy dose of unstructured, self-created play when kids' creative juices are flowing. 

Of course, today's parents are wise to keep their kids where they can see them at all times.  But that means kids are spending their afternoons playing video games, watching t.v., at some sort of lesson, like karate or violin to name a couple, or sports practice, all of which do not foster self-created, unstructured play.

Parents need to find out how often their kids are going to recess outside and for how long, and if it's not enough, demand it.

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Friday, February 26, 2010 10:39 AM



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