Research shows academic, physical and emotional benefits of recess

Students, parents, and teachers know from personal experience that children need unstructured breaks in their day. Research also has proven the physical, emotional, academic, and social benefits of recess. For information, see any of the following articles:

The Importance and Benefits of Reinstating Recess in the Chicago Public Schools, Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI), http://www.cofionline. org/files/recessfact sheet.pdf

This fact sheet quotes research showing that students learn more quickly and better when they are given breaks. It notes that children learn to make decisions, resolve conflict, respect rules, be self-disciplined, control aggression, solve problems and develop leadership skills during recess. In addition, COFI explains how children will be healthier if given time for recess and sites research showing that in Chicago, as in other parts of the United States, African-American students are less likely to receive recess than white students.

The 3 R’s? A Fourth is Crucial, Too: Recess, New York Times, 2/23/09. http://www nytimes. com/2009/02/24/ health/24well.html?_r=2

The article quotes a study published in the journal Pediatrics that found that students who had recess showed better behavior than those who had none. In addition, the article quotes researchers who explain “attentional fatigue,” the link between physical health and academic success, and the importance of play in healthy social development.

The Value of School Recess and Outdoor Play, National Association for the Education of Young Children http://www /1998/08.asp

The authors note the reasoning given by school administrators throughout the U.S. who have eliminated recess in elementary schools: the belief that the time is better spent on academics, the potential for student injury or endangerment by strangers, and shortage of staff to supervise play. The authors list the many benefits of recess that administrators must consider, including giving children “the opportunity to expand their imagination beyond the constraints of the classroom.”

The Case for Elementary School Recess, American Association for the Child’s Right to Play recesshandbook.htm

In their presentation of the research, the authors note that recess responds to children’s social and emotional needs. “If we eliminate recess,” the authors state, “we are ignoring the fact that for many children the opportunity to play with friends is an important reason for coming to school.” The authors also note that the social and emotional benefits include lowering student anxiety and providing the opportunity for solitary play.

Recess and the Importance of Play: A Position Statement on Young Children and Recess, National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education, http:// /position/ recessplay.html

The authors call the trend of eliminating recess “alarming,” note that the policy has no serious research to back it up, and “is actually counterproductive to increasing the academic achievements of students.” They note that during recess, learning occurs in ways not possible inside the regular classroom.


October 31, 2011 at 11:06 AM

By: Denise Amato

Lack of Recess

I am meeting with my sons's elementary school Superintendent today. I have been distressed over their complete lack of recess for 6 yrs now, since my oldest started kindergarten there. They have 30 mins for lunch and if they talk too loudly the lunchroom monitors shut the lights OFF. I am almost sick about this. When I went to school, we had 3 recess periods a day. I think it is crucial for kids and this school is failing them tremendously!!! Very sad.

October 31, 2011 at 12:46 PM

By: George N. Schmidt

Recess? Raise Your Hand, CTU can help

There has been some progress regarding recess since Sharon Schmidt wrote that article nearly three years ago, after working on the recess campaign at O.A. Thorp elementary school in Chicago for two years. The "Raise Your Hand" coalition ( is doing work regularly on the recess question. Part of the Chicago Teachers Union's fight for not only a longer but a "better" school day is to include reasonable recess and other activities in the revised elementary day, rather than, as Rahm and Jean-Claude are trying to do, simply cramming in another 90 minutes of bubble sheets and alienating test prep nonsense on children who already deserve more play, more books, and less oppression through Race To The Top and the other corporate ploys to further the division of the one percent from the 99 percent.

You didn't say where your son's school was. You might also want to contact Raise You Hand, which actually worked out a civil better school day — with recess — before Rahm and Jean-Claude turned the whole thing into an illegal, teacher bashing, union busting megalomaniacal publicity stunt.

One of the most lurid ploys in Chicago the past three months has been "Rahm's Rent A Protest." Since August, when CPS and City Hall paid 200 preachers (a minority of Chicago clerics, but certainly those most open to going for the highest bid), CPS and City Hall have been loading buses with paid protesters to jump around on behalf of the "Longer School Day." Now that Substance, CTU, and others have exposed most of it (the rates are between $25 and $40 per day for a protester; a sad fact of life during a Depression, but true) and the connections with UNO, St. Sabina's pastor, and some others, it may receded. But basically, this is a warning, you won't get anything better for your child by jumping on the official "Longer School Day" bandwagon. Not only is that now illegal (see the Substance story on the decision by the Illinois Labor Relations Board), but it's also a growing embarrassment to Chicago. Rahm and the rest of the "one percenters" (remember: this is a guy who went into crony capitalism courtesy of his Clinton connections and wound up "earning" $18 million in three years as a "relationship banker") really believe they can buy anything, and anyone, anytime.

And maybe, in their world, that's true. But not in most of the real world where the rest of us live, breathe, and love our children and others every day.

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