Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Giving Recess Its Due

Finally, recess might get the respect it deserves. The journal Pediatrics this month cited regular recess as an important component of the classroom. Students were better behaved if they took even a short break every day.

It seems that getting away from your desk and relaxing for a few minutes makes it easier to concentrate and get the job done, so to speak. Sound familiar?

An earlier report by the American Academy of Pediatrics published in 2006 stated that free play time helps children think for themselves, gives them a sense of self and helps them interact better with others.

And these are the very people from whom we steal recess. Oh, we steal art and music, too, which both have intrinsic value in a child's life — but really, can there be anything more basic to childhood memory and joy than 15 minutes of playing outside in the middle of the morning?

I remember running around the playground, chasing the cute boy in the class (and catching him, which annoyed my fellow female classmates, who actually understood the game and stayed a couple of steps behind poor Peter). I remember climbing on jungle gyms, swatting the tether ball, playing horse or four-square or hopscotch. There was squealing and kicking, jumping and screaming, posturing and snarking. It was a jungle, but it was our jungle.

Nowadays, recess is seen as an interruption. Children have too much to learn and have no time to waste. Teachers send home study guides for parents to continue teaching; apparently, time needs to be spent even on weekends, much like their parents working overtime to try to get it all done.

Don't let them take away the fun. As pediatricians remind us, play "offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children." (Substitute "friend," "co-worker" or "other family member" and it still applies.) Taking a break during the day affords a chance to re-energize.

So do what the doctor orders: play.
- Chris

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