As more and more pressure is placed on schools and students to raise their standardized test scores, the perceived value of physical education classes and recess is decreasing. How necessary is recess? Does it add value to the development of the whole child? We have watched the trend swing from having recess twice a day, in addition to a physical education class, to perhaps once a day with a physical education class optional in many schools across the United States. However, studies have shown that minimizing or eliminating recess can negatively affect academic achievement, as growing evidence not only links recess to improved physical health and social skills, but also cognitive development.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), recess is a necessary break from the rigorous demands of school. In their policy statement “The Crucial Role of Recess in Schools” published in 2013, they state “safe and properly supervised recess offers children cognitive, physical, emotional and social benefits. It should be used as a complement to physical education classes, not a substitute, and whether it’s spent indoors or outdoors, recess should provide free, unstructured play or activity.” They also recommend that recess should never be withheld as a punishment as it can provide opportunities for growth that students may not be exposed to in the academic environment.
Every school district across America is now required to have a written Wellness Policy in which they describe the cafeteria food and snack options given to the students, as well as physical education requirements and recess opportunities. These are usually posted on the school district or school board websites and are easy reads. Take a few minutes to read through the Wellness Policy for your child’s school. Then ask your child about their recess and P.E. classes. With obesity rates in America soaring to new heights, I was a little concerned to learn my child’s PE time was used to explain the school fundraiser – a cookie dough sale. After learning more about your child’s physical activity during the school day and considering the recommendations of the AAP, let your school administration know you support their continuing efforts to include physical education and recess as part of your child’s daily routine.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture