Give Kids a Break
School children who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more, according to a large study of third-graders conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University. The study, published in Pediatrics, suggests that recess may play a role in improving learning, social development and health in elementary school children.

Learning expert Bobbi DePorter, president of Quantum Learning and SuperCamp programs and author of more than a dozen books on teens and children, outlines some of the contributions of recess:

  • Physical activity during recess increases blood flow and oxygenation in the brain and supports a student's ability to focus and learn. This is especially important with kinesthetic learners.

  • Socialization activities on the playground develop important communication skills.

  • Keeps students in a learning state comprised of three interwoven components: thoughts, feelings and physiology.

  • Provides a major "state change" for students who return refreshed and more focused after a break.

  • A post recess, one-minute review of the materials covered before the break refires neural networks, strengthens connections in the brain and helps move information into long-term memory.

With all these great benefits, it is tough to believe that recess could be under attack. The proportion of schools that don't have recess ranges from 7 percent for first and second grades to 13 percent by sixth grade, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics. In low-income neighborhoods, where there are often no safe places to play, recess time is even less than the national average.

In an informal survey by the National PTA of its state leaders, more than half said daily recess is at risk. Only 9 percent were confident recess would not be reduced in their school.

The Cartoon Network and the National PTA launched a Rescuing Recess campaign. Kids are leading a huge letter-writing effort to school officials with one theme: Let Us Play.

The decision to have recess or not is a local choice. Contact your neighborhood elementary school to find out their recess policy.