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Thumbs down: Shortchanging recess time is not a good idea

Jan. 01, 2013 @ 09:50 PM

As schools have worked to improve academics over the past decade, one thing that has suffered in many places has been recess time.

That's not a good thing, the American Academy of Pediatrics insists in a new policy statement issued in December.

"A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child's school day at risk," according to the report. Recess not only provides children with a needed break, but it also provides "cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits."

Researchers now have mounting evidence that recess "plays a huge role in a child's life," according to Dr. Robert Murray, a professor of pediatrics at Ohio State University and one of the authors of the report.

Two other points the pediatricians make -- recess time should not be withheld as a punishment and recess should be viewed as "a complement to physical education -- not a substitute."

"The child is allowed to decompress and hopefully creatively express what they want to do," Murray told the Columbus Dispatch. "These are children, and they need to have those little pockets of child time to explore relationships, scream and be wild."

Some of the reductions in recess happened years ago, and concerns about rising childhood obesity are likely to give the issue a new focus. Still only about 70-80 percent of elementary schools offer recess, according to studies, so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Schools have a lot to juggle these days, but keeping recess in the mix is important.

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