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How Much Recess Kids Need

April 08, 2019

In order to promote a holistic learning environment, there are plenty of components that are involved with children. This comes in the form of an organized curriculum of topics to teach and an environment that promotes learning. However, a portion of a child's day at school which is imperative is recess. There is much debate as to how much recess is sufficient for a child and what significance it holds. Research is suggesting that recess is vital for a child, and should be incorporated into their day of learning.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), it is recommended that child engage in 60 minutes of "moderate to vigorous activity per day", and recess needs to be a part of that activity. In a policy statement that was written by AAP back in 2013, recess needs to be considered a child's personal time and not withheld under any circumstances, even if they are academic. 

There are many education and health experts that argue recess is absolutely vital for a child's development. This is especially in the case to promote a healthy lifestyle, as becoming sedentary in a classroom all day can increase their risk for a litany of conditions later in life. Because of this rationale, experts are making the argument that recess or physical education needs to be a mandated part of a child's daily routine in school. 

In 2001, it was recommended by the Council on Physical Education for Children and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education that physical education classes should not be a replacement for recess that is not structured. Here, somewhat of a conflict arose as to whether or not physical education and "recess" are the same. In physical education, there is more of a structure and a plan for what specific activities a child will undergo in a day. Whereas recess allows for more freedom as to what activities the child wants to engage in.

While physical education and recess both allow for children to be active, physical education do not offer the same benefits as recess. Just like core subjects of Mathematics and English, physical education takes place in a controlled environment. Sometimes, the activities that are planned for physical education that day are not of interest to the student. This can cause them to be heavily disengaged with what takes place and the opportunity to become active is missed. An unstructured environment where kids are allowed creativity and freedom can teach them much more in a holistic manner. 

When recess is eliminated altogether, the most common reason found is that schools want to allocate more time to cover topics that are on standardized tests as a means of improving academic achievement. However, this idea conflicts with a 2010 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which found that physical activity can help improve academic achievement. 

There are many arguments for and against recess, but physical activity has proven to help students fully engage in their classwork while maintaining a level of fitness that can be carried with them as they progress in age and maturity. Not only does it help children in a physical aspect, but children gain the opportunity to practice their social skills, stress management, cooperation and even problem-solving. 

The significance of recess has been established, but the question of how much recess children should be entitled to is a different argument altogether. The amount of recess or physical activity that children engage in can vary by any individual school district, but it is generally recommended that the time children get recess should be sufficient enough for their minds to reset and have an adequate break from classwork. A consenus on what that specific number should be has not been reached, but most school districts tend to allocate between 20 and 30 minutes.

Boys and girls can often be bombarded with a variety of topics that are introduced to them in a single day. This can greatly increase stress, especially since equal amounts of time is the typical route for how the subjects taught to them in one day are allocated. Therefore, giving children adequate time to get active can enhance the learning experience and improve their performance.

According to the CDC, adolescents and children are recommended to have at least 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis. There are many who will make the case that 1 hour is too long to devote merely to recess. This argument has encouraged schools to incorporate time for recess right after lunch. This allows 30 minutes to eat and another 30 minutes to be active. 

Half an hour of recess can be beneficial for children, especially if physical education is a part of their day as well. This means that not only will they have an organized way of being physically active, but they will also be allowed time to do what they want for more time. Making time for recess official, however, is often left to legislators on the state level.

In New Jersey, a state legislature unanimously passed a bill in 2016 that mandated 20 minutes of recess a day for elementary school students up to the 5th grade. Unfortunately, Governor Chris Christie vetoed the bill, and it died through further inaction. A measure was also taken up by the Florida House, where it was voted 112 to 2, but the Senate refused to take up the bill for a vote. 

In the end, recess has proven itself to be an essential part of a child's learning because of the physical, social and cognitive skills that are associated with this necessary break. In lieu of the child obesity problem that has plagued the United States for quite some time, recess has proven itself to be more important than ever before. Parents and school administrators across the country are slowly starting to understand the significance, and are fighting against a trend where schools seem to slash recess time. Some schools have even dispensed with recess entirely. 

Many movements that lobby state lawmakers to make recess a requirement have taken place. For the sake of the future and the holistic health of children, recess is needed, and a sufficient time must be given to this necessary activity.

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