Many parents and teachers see the recess period as the time of day when students have a
break from learning. However, although recess is a time of unstructured play, free time,
and less supervision, it is essential for students’ development and academic success. In
fact, recess is a bit of a misnomer – instead of being a break from learning; it is an
essential component of the school day for young children.
Here are just a few of the proven benefits of school recess for elementary school children:
 Recess improves classroom behavior. A study of 11,000 students conducted by
the Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics found that
children who received more than 15 minutes of unstructured play during their
school day had markedly better behavior and focus. Studies have also found that
recess is especially important in this respect for children with hyperactive and
attention disorders.
 Outdoor play increases focus and reduces stress. A University of Illinois study
found that the mere act of being outside in a natural environment significantly
improves focus and memory, especially during afternoon classroom sessions. Ask
any teacher who has had to teach on a rainy day and have indoor recess: time
outside makes a difference.
 Recess improves social development. Recess is a rare time at school when
children can engage in conversation, engage in imaginative play, create games,
and freely interact. Recess can help students learn how to solve social problems,
work together, organize activities, and learn more about each other as individuals.
 Recess establishes the importance of daily physical activity. Today’s sedentary
world has led to all-time high rates of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes.
Recess introduces children to the importance of physical play in their daily lives
and helps to prevent future medical issues associated with inactivity.
 Recess raises test scores and increases achievement. French and Canadian
studies’ have found that breaks from academic study improve test scores. In these
studies, researchers found that any “informal” activity, including free play, art
classes or music lessons, improved concentration, learning, and memory.
Unfortunately, school budget shortages and the incorrect idea that recess does not aid
school achievement has meant that many schools are nixing recess and keeping children
in a structured learning environment for extended periods of time. In other cases, schools
are shrinking the length of recess to save money. These decisions are bad for students,
teachers, and schools as a whole. Still not convinced? A national 2009 Gallup poll of
elementary school principals found that the vast majority of administrators believed that
recess increased academic achievement, concentration, social development, physical
health, and overall wellbeing.