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We Must Stop Taking Away Recess


I hear it SO often.

 “He didn’t finish his work, so he had to stay in at recess”

“She couldn’t keep her hands to herself, so she lost recess”

“He kept talking during the lesson, so he sat inside during recess”

I must ask WHY are we still taking away recess when we have countless studies that show how important it is? Why is it used as a punishment at all? Recess is not a privilege; it is the foundation of learning.

Recess is not “free time” it is vital to the development of the brain and social skills.


We have so many studies that have shown how recess is connected to increased academic scores, improved social skills, and improved self-regulation. Parents and educators everywhere understand how vital these three skills are for school success. So WHY are we still making this same mistake in classrooms across the country?

 Movement of the body is the foundation for neurological development.

This development supports and helps to build better brain connections. The more a child moves, the more he or she is able to learn and engage with others. If a child is struggling with behavior, organization, or social skills they need MORE recess, not less. The brain receives sensory and motor information through movement, and these brain connections are vital to the development of children. This is essentially the same as taking away lunch. Would a child be more successful if they were hungry-absolutely not! The same goes for the brain. The more a body moves the more the brain becomes engaged.

 So, what can we do instead?

We need to begin by adding MORE movement into the school day. This will help to encourage active and engaged learning. Also, we need to be looking at the underlying cause of the behavior. When we set our sights on understanding the neurological needs of the developing child, we can support teachers, schools, and classrooms with tools that are brain-based.  


For example, to the child that shuts down and doesn’t complete an assignment we should be asking:

 Are they anxious?  Do they understand the work? Do they need help?


To the child who constantly touches everyone we should explore:

Do they have visual processing issues? Can we seat them away from others?


When we turn the focus to WHY the behavior is occurring, we can better understand the necessary steps we need to take to support those students.  However, the answer will never be found with limiting, discouraging, or eliminating the ability to move and play freely.


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