Recently there has been controversy over the announcement of 23 elementary schools in Orange County, Florida cutting back on recess time and even cutting it out altogether. While some parents agree with the decision because more time is being allotted to instructional hours, a majority of parents believe this will harm children more than help them. Recess offers children time to be active and engage in creative play of their choosing. Recess should provide free, unstructured play, physical activity and “personal” time for each student. Most children have very little time for free play. After they spend most of the day in the classroom, children’s afternoons are often filled with structured activities. Here is why recess is such an important part of children’s schooling.
Free play is what children do when they follow their own ideas and interests, in their own way, and for their own reasons. Free play is essential to children’s development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, and social well being of children. Playful behavior has a positive effect on the brain and on a child’s ability to learn. Recess allows time for children to engage in free play and physical activity, which is why schools need to reconsider cutting recess out of the school day.
Social and Cognitive Development:
- Play improves memory and stimulates the growth of the cerebral cortex. Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells.
- Children pay more attention to academic tasks when they are given frequent brief opportunities for free play. Researchers found that recesses of 10 or 20 minutes enhanced classroom attention.
- Research shows that the way kids play contributes to their ability to solve divergent problems (problems with multiple solutions). Children showed more creativity in their attempts to solve problems as well.
- Researchers have noted similarities between pretend play and counterfactual reasoning, the ability to make inferences about events that have not actually occurred. Children will be asked more and more inferential type questions in all academic subjects as they progress in school.
- During recess, play is child-driven. This gives children an opportunity to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills.
- These skills are important for developing executive functioning skills, the skills that allow us to plan, focus attention, remember instruction and juggle multiple tasks.
- When play is controlled by adults – such as in organized sports – children have to follow the rules established by the adult and the adult enforces the rules, not the children.
- In contrast, during free play, children make the rules and enforce them, giving them the opportunity for developing self-regulation skills as well as leadership and group skills and creativity. Children with more frequent pretend play opportunities have stronger self-regulation skills. Practicing these skills is important to the development of executive functioning skills.
- Research has shown that most of the brain is activated during physical activity—much more so than while sedentary. After physical activity, children’s bodies and brains are ready to be engaged again in the structured learning process.
- Movement increases the capacity of blood vessels in the brain, which in turn, enhances learning.
- Numerous studies have shown that students who are physically active improve their academic performance, achieve higher test scores and demonstrate a better attitude toward school.
- Everyone needs a break. This is especially true for young children. They do not process information as effectively as older children and adults (due to the immaturity of their nervous systems). Adults take breaks during their workdays for many of the same reasons young children need recess.
Guest Blog by Karri Bowen-Poole, Founder of Smart Playrooms
Smart Playrooms designs, builds and organizes play areas for children. They combine sound educational philosophy with unique beautiful design. Smart Playrooms will bring the most effective classroom organization techniques and learning strategies into your home or business.
Stressing that less is more, they help moms focus on the toys that will add to the experience. Karri and Chris really like the idea of using their educational backgrounds and expertise to create custom designed playrooms. Plus, this gives them a niche in the market. Former teachers designing and organizing your playroom – what could be better!
For more information, please visit smartplayrooms.com.
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