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Children's Health

Pediatricians Promote Benefits of Recess

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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Dec. 31, 2012 -- The American Academy of Pediatrics has two New Year's resolutions for schools: Keep the school nurse and don't drop recess.

The recommendations are part of two new policy statements published in Pediatrics.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says there's a growing trend in schools to take away recess and use the time to teach subjects.

"There is pressure on schools to increase performance on standardized testing, and a lot of times teachers are using withdrawal of recess as a punishment for children," says Robert Murray, MD, a co-author of the recess policy statement and a professor at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

"Recess is an important part of the school day that should not be cast off without thinking," he says. 

It is not a reward, he says. Recess is necessary and important to help children learn and grow.  

"No matter what kind of recess, whether indoors or outdoors, structured or unstructured, kids need a safe place to play," Murray says. "And the equipment should be good and people who supervise should be well-trained."

Health Benefits of Recess

The benefits of recess are many. "The child who gets regular breaks in the day performs better cognitively in the classroom and gets a lot of social and emotional benefits," he says. "Recess provides kids with the chance to be creative and play with others just for the fun of it."

It doesn't have to be a full hour or half-hour either, he says. Recess can come in shorter bursts of play time sprinkled throughout the school day. "We need to carve out time that belongs to a child."

Recess is not the same as physical education or gym either, says the policy statement's co-author Catherine Ramstetter, PhD. She is a health educator at the Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Cincinnati.

"Recess promotes a healthy learning environment. Importantly, recess should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute," she says. "It would be ideal if every school had deep pockets to build huge, amazing playgrounds. But every kid will play differently anyway, and every school doesn't have the resources. We need to protect recess as it benefits the whole child."

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