The sort of students who are kept in for recess are the ones who need it the most, writes Jessica Lahey in a New York Times parenting blog.
“Recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits” that are “crucial” to growing children, states the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Elementary principals overwhelmingly agree that recess helps academic achievement and social development, yet 77 percent take away recess as a punishment, according to a Gallup survey.
Self-control is not an unlimited resource, writes Lahey.
. . . by the time unstructured play rolls around, most children have depleted their reserves. They have had to resist the temptation to wiggle, eat the piece of cookie someone left on the carpet or talk to their friends in favor of focusing on math facts.
Recess provides an opportunity to refill children’s reserves of self-control through play and expression that’s free from structure, rules, and rigorous cognitive tasks. . . . Several studies have found that students who enjoy the benefit of recess are more attentive, more productive and better able to learn when they return to the classroom from a period of free play.
“As our children’s schedules become more regimented and structured, and free-play time retreats indoors in favor of video games over kick the can and stickball, recess is the only opportunity many children have to learn” important social skills, Lahey concludes.