Here’s Why Recess Is an Important Part of a Child’s School Day

Playtime is beneficial to the learning process, not detrimental.

By Hady MawajdehDecember 4, 2015 9:15 am

The Dallas Independent School District Trustees met this week to discuss whether or not their elementary schools should have a mandatory recess for kindergarten through fifth grade. The topic is still under consideration.

In recent years, many Texas schools have made recess less of a priority and used the time instead for academics and standardized test preparation. Dr. Catherine Ramstetter co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy on recess. She says that recess is beneficial to children and their learning environment.

“The research that my colleague and I conducted clearly demonstrates the benefits for recess for all children in terms of their overall growth and development and their learning in the school environment,” Ramstetter says.

The pressure to remove recess has come from worries that the limited time teachers spend with students during the school day should be used for learning, not playing freeze-tag or swinging from the monkey bars on the jungle gym.

“That’s been the pressure to have recess either limited or removed from many schools,” Ramstetter says. “The push is to have more time for testing preparation.”

The idea, she says, is that there would be less time for playtime, which people don’t think contributes to kids’ learning. Ramstetter says it’s the actually the opposite.

“Kids need the time to break from a cognitive processing perspective,” she says. “They need the time to break away from that intense thought-processing that needs to occur in the brain to be able to take in more and continue to process. So from that perspective [recess is] essential for standardized test preparation.”