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The Benefits of Recess for Child Growth & Development


Whether you’re raising a child today or remember being one yourself not too long ago, there’s a warm glow associated with the word recess. These short periods allow children to have fun and play during elementary school and are designed to give them a break from the rigors of the classroom. Yet, many schools are eliminating recess altogether to focus on academics and standardized testing.

Outdoor play and recess are just as important as time spent focusing on schoolwork. In fact, no research shows academic gains by doing away with recess. Almost every study conducted over the past 30 years shows that the opposite is true — children need recess.

There are more than just physical benefits at work during these periods spent outside. Recess helps children become well-rounded individuals benefitting every aspect of their growth and development — social, cognitive, physical and behavioral. In this post, we will explore the many benefits kids receive when they’re allowed time to enjoy recess during school.

The Benefits Of Recess

The Social Benefits of Recess

Socialization is a skill children learn while young that helps them understand how to live and work with others once they reach adulthood. The only way to learn social skills is by giving kids opportunities to interact with other people. When and how will they learn socialization if not during recess?

Children are discouraged from talking or interacting during classroom time. Even at lunch, kids must maintain muted conversations. This means the unstructured play of recess makes an ideal environment for children to learn socialization and real communication.

Through play, children’s brains begin to make connections that adults cannot teach. Some of the valuable communication and social skills learned during recess include:

  • Leadership
  • Cooperation
  • Compromise
  • Sharing
  • Conflict resolution
  • Problem-solving
  • Coping skills
  • Negotiation
  • Perseverance
  • Self-control

The Cognitive Benefits of Recess

As adults in the workplace, we know how important frequent breaks can be. In fact, studies have shown that these periods of rest help adults better retain information, improve productivity and allow us to learn new concepts faster. Children enjoy the same benefits from unstructured breaks in their school day. Recess breaks up an otherwise monotonous experience, helping children remain engaged in their studies.

Recess assists in the learning process in many other ways, such as:

  • Allowing kids to burn off energy so they are less fidgety and can better focus
  • Giving them a break from a heavily structured school schedule
  • Distributing their daily workload so kids learn better and faster

The Behavioral Benefits of Recess

Behavior during school time is something teachers attempt to manage the moment a child walks into their classroom. Our energetic young ones are expected to sit still and study as much as six to eight hours per day. Without a break, the pressure of all these expectations can lead to behavioral problems.

Difficulties with students’ behavior can often be avoided if they’re allowed unstructured play time. Those with ADD or ADHD especially benefit, as their inability to concentrate for long stretches can cause them to act out in class. Just a half an hour outside enables these and all students to have more successful academic careers.

Recess can also reduce a child’s stress level. While outside, they’re allowed to be loud, messy and boisterous with no expectations they must meet. This break is a rare moment where they can take control of their world. As long as children are properly supervised to ensure they aren’t bullying or treating others disrespectfully, recess play helps their all-around behavior.

The Physical Benefits of Recess

Childhood obesity is at an all-time high, impacting 18.5% of children in the United States alone. Many children remain sedentary even when home, choosing video games over outdoor play. The CDC recommends that children get at least 60 minutes of exercise three times a week. Recess is the perfect opportunity to get children outside and active.

When children are allowed to enjoy recess, they’ll experience benefits both now and well into their adult years, such as:

  • Improved brain activity due to increased blood flow to the brain
  • Increased Vitamin D
  • Lower overall body fat
  • Stronger bones and muscles
  • Reduced risk of depression, heart disease and type 2 diabetes

Promote the Power of Play With Playworld

At Playworld, we understand how a beautifully designed and masterfully constructed playground can help school-aged children in their growth and development. For more than 45 years, we’ve been building playground equipment with a child’s best interest in mind. We understand our role in inspiring and encouraging children to explore their world and learn fundamental life lessons in the process.

We hope that your school understands the essential importance of recess and outdoor play. Whether you’re in need of a new structure or wish to totally redesign your playground equipment, we can help. Contact us today so we can explore the possibilities with you.