In case you wondered just how important recess is, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement recently, and to sum it up in just a word: crucial.

We already knew this, yes?

Recess is a time-honored tradition, because it’s that essential. Put the pieces together: free play + outdoors + growing children’s bodies and minds = a formula no one needs to tinker with all that much.

The AAP came down very emphatically about recess because: “The fundamental goal of school is to provide academic and cognitive development, and recess is part of that.” The committee advocated that recess not lose minutes to formal instruction or be taken away as punishment and that it not replace formal physical education, but complement it.

Interestingly, the committee investigated recess with the issue of childhood obesity prevention in mind. The committee’s thinking shifted—and broadened—to see the benefits of recess for academic gains and children’s whole development. Amongst other things, the statement acknowledges the role of physical play for children’s overall health and the need to take frequent breaks from formal instruction in order to achieve greater academic gains. In Japan, for example, there is a ten-minute break after every 50 minutes’ of instruction, the study reported.

As others have pointed out, playground games do bring academic skills into your body, such as math and physics, even the observation skills of nature correlates to academics.

For those of us with kids in elementary school, this is a good reminder to be a recess booster; for those of us looking at elementary schools, this is an issue to ask about when taking tours or attending information sessions. For all of us, it’s affirmation that free physical play really is fundamental for our children’s wellbeing.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser is a freelance writer and blogger whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Brain Child Magazine and Salon the Huffington Post, Babble and Ceramics Monthly. Her essays have appeared in various anthologies including The Maternal is Political and Wait a Minute, I Have to Take Off My Bra. A writer for Preview Massachusetts Magazine, she keeps a personal blog, Standing in the Shadows at the publication’s news site, the Valley Advocate and a tumblr Refractions. She is a sometime contributor to Momfilter. Follow her on twitter–@standshadows or Pinterest.


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