When you were in grade school, having a set aside time for play and being active during the school day was a given in your childhood. But, as the pressure to produce higher test scores has increased, the value placed on school sanctioned exercise seems to have decreased in today's world. As a parent, of course you want what's best for your child and their education is understandably a top priority, but at what expense? This might have you wondering, what are some of things that happen in kids' bodies when recess gets cut?
It may not be something you've even given much thought to, since the educational system had always allowed for ample recess time in years past. Yet, if you're in the same boat as I am, there's little free time between your daily schedule and your child's time at school to make up for the physical activity your kiddo would (or should) have gotten during recess. So just how important is it for schools to strictly observe breaking for recess during the day and encouraging students to play and stay physically active? As it turns out, experts had quite a few things to say on the topic of what happens to your child's physical health when recess gets cut, and much of it has to do with their mental state.
1. Focus Falters
For children with any kind of attention issues, it turns out that having the outlet of recess actually goes a long way in helping them maintain their focus during school. "Kids with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) need to move so that then can then come back to their classrooms and focus," Dr. Scott Carroll, a physician and psychiatrist, tells Romper. "Medication only partially treat their hyperactivity, and recess helps limit how much medication you need to use." So even if your child is currently taking the necessary medicine for their situation, that's only one part of the equation. A sufficient amount of physical activity is a must. "Also, children with ADHD that isn't quite severe enough for medication need recess to continue to cope with school without medication," Carroll further explained.
2. Lethargy Becomes The Norm
"All bodies need a physical outlet, especially during the developmental stages of childhood," Julia Colangelo, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), tells Romper. "Their bodies go into a shock of disappointment and then slowly become accustomed to the lack of movement." It's one thing to make a conscious decision against being active as an adult, but when it's denied to a child, their body is forced to adapt to a lifestyle that significantly leaves out movement and that doesn't sound good for anybody.
3. Social Skills Suffer
Besides being an opportunity for kids to burn off some of their excess energy, it's also a time for them to hone their interpersonal skills. "Recess is an important social time," Carroll says. "Children get to organize their own games and activities and learn social skills instead of having teachers organize all the activities, like during class time." When you take away free play, you're also taking away a time and space for creativity to flourish.
4. Flexibility Declines
It's good to remember that all kids have their own preferences and while some kids might prefer to spend their recess time indoors, it's important that they at least have the option to go outside, says Colangelo. "Learning this adaptability and flexibility is critical for their development as well." So even if your kiddo would choose video games over being outdoors, recess inadvertently teaches them how to handle change in a responsible and healthy way.
5. Ability To Absorb Information Lessens
Adults and kids really aren't all that different when it comes to needing a moment to press pause. "Recess provides a mental break which allows you to focus and learn with renewed interest and intensity," Carroll tells Romper. "Just like working too much overtime, there is a diminishing return on class time where learning is less and less efficient when kids don't take breaks."
6. Physical Health Is Compromised
In a study involving students from kindergarten to fifth grade, findings suggested that there is a connect between PE and recess programs and child obesity. These opportunities to move are an important part in addressing and combatting child obesity, said David Frisvold, Ph.D., assistant professor of economics at Emory University and one of the study's main researchers, and it's not hard to see why. No matter what age, we should all be moving regularly throughout the day to keep our bodies healthy physically, and taking mental breaks from working and studying to rest our minds.
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