Student Well-Being

Why Recess Matters

By Katie Ash — February 26, 2008 1 min read
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In a recent commentary piece on, Vicky Shippers argues that recess is an important piece of a student’s school day. It is the only unstructured time children have at school, and yet many recess activities--like kickball and tag--have been banned from the playground because of safety concerns, and in many schools, recess itself has been squeezed out because of time constraints. Shippers explains why this is a worrisome trend:

Recess ... is about freedom. ... During recess, children are in a peer setting where they can watch how other kids act, decide whom they like and don’t like, and figure out why. With this knowledge, they are armed with some important clues about how to go forth into the larger world."

Even though recess may cause physical or emotional injuries to some students, it provides an essential unstructured arena for children to learn social skills, Shippers argues, and I tend to agree with her. Recess gives students a chance to self-organize teams for baseball or basketball, and it gives kids a chance to deepen their relationships with other students. Also as recent studies have shown, giving kids an hour to run around and be physically active helps them focus in class later on.

What do you think? Is recess an important part of school? Or is it a good place to start cutting in order to make time for more academic classes? Have the safety constraints that bar traditional recess activities from the playground done more harm than good? Or are they appropriately protecting students from injuries?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.