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How Recess Makes Better Learners in the Classroom


How Recess Makes Better Learners in the Classroom

Recess plays a crucial role in enhancing children's learning abilities in the classroom. It does far more than simply give students a break from academic work. It also increases physical activity, improves memory, attention and concentration, and helps students stay on task in the classroom.

With these advantages, it’s no wonder why experts recommend that children get four 15-minute recesses each day. Unfortunately, most students do not get anywhere close to this. In fact, since 2001, the average weekly recess time has decreased by 60 minutes. And only nine states require schools to offer a daily recess.

Since most school districts do not have a formal recess policy in place, it’s important to understand the value in unstructured outdoor time. Students who receive the recommended time outdoors will be better learners - and rule followers. Let’s learn more about the importance of recess and why it leads to improved classroom performance.

Stress and the Brain

When a person is calm, their brain is largely regulated by the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for regulating behaviors and emotions. This makes it easier for people to carry out executive function skills, such as paying attention, following instructions and using context clues to solve problems. Students who have higher levels of “executive functioning” tend to perform better in school.

On the other hand, when a person is not calm, the less advanced parts of the brain take over, leading to more reactive behaviors. As a result, students are more likely to be easily distracted, withdrawn or hyperactive. These things can make it difficult to learn. Furthermore, changes in brain function can reduce a student’s motivation and self-esteem, further contributing to poor academic performance.

Recess and its Role in Student Learning and Behavior

According to research, children who have a safe elementary school playground for recess have fewer problems with executive functions. Getting outdoors for movement and social interaction can help students with the following:

  • Physical development. Physical activities during recess can help improve cardiovascular health, build strong bones and muscles and decrease the risk of obesity. These activities also restore higher-level brain functioning, which is why teachers see improved attention, learning and over well-being during class.
  • Social skills development. Recess provides an opportunity for children to interact with their peers in a less structured environment than the classroom. This interaction helps children develop critical social skills, including communication, cooperation and conflict resolution. Forming meaningful connections can also make it easier to choose groups and get along during shared work.
  • Mental health and stress reduction. Taking breaks through recess is vital for mental health. It serves as a stress reliever, allowing students to unwind and relax from the pressures of classroom learning. This mental break can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood, making students more receptive to learning.
  • Creativity and problem-solving. The less structured environment of recess encourages creativity and imaginative play. Children often engage in games that require problem-solving and critical thinking skills. This creative play enhances cognitive flexibility and innovation, skills that are beneficial in classroom learning and beyond.
  • Enhanced classroom behavior. Regular recess breaks can lead to better behavior in the classroom. Students who have the opportunity to expend energy and manage their stress through play are often less fidgety and more focused during classroom time. This can lead to a more conducive learning environment for all students.

Enhance Your Learning Experience with an Elementary School Playground

Recess is not just about taking a break from academic learning. It is a critical component of a well-rounded educational experience. It supports the holistic development of children, contributing to their physical well-being, mental health, social skills and cognitive abilities. For these reasons, schools should ensure that all students have access to regular, meaningful playtime during the school day.

If you are looking to expand or improve your current school playground, contact Cunningham Recreation today. We offer a wide range of elementary school playgrounds that include numerous challenges, such as spinning, climbing, sliding and more. We also have options for every space and budget, so don’t hesitate to explore the possibilities for your school!