Recess. The word alone may bring back vivid childhood memories — the sounds of happy screeching, yelling, and laughter, the feeling of the breeze on your face as you ran as fast as your legs could carry you while your friends chased you, the experience of trying to catch your breath from a fit of giggles, even the bittersweet memories of trying to work out a problem or disagreement with a peer as you stood face-to-face in anger. Whatever your experiences were of recess, they were undoubtedly important to your social and emotional development.
Recess, as it turns out, is about far more than exercise.
Studies have shown time and time again how important play is to the developing human. It boosts healthy development of the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional realms of growth. What happens when children play? They learn to interact and solve interpersonal disagreements with each other in safe, often imaginative ways. They challenge their bodies; sensorimotor development is enhanced during physical, rough-and-tumble playground play.
Science has also recently linked play to healthy cognitive growth and academic success. These links have been specific to writing, reading, abstract scientific and mathematical concepts, critical thinking, and creative problem-solving skills. Play helps children “reset” their brains for the rest of the day, leaving them ready to learn new things when they re-enter the classroom.
What is happening here? Coordination with one’s own body in addition to coordinating with others’ bodies, balance, teamwork, joy, and relaxation all in one!
Imagination, abstract thinking, and a self-imposed time-out: this child was upset and went to be by herself for a few moments. Her friend, standing, checked on her and took a position of protector. They ran off together minutes later. Pure joy!
Simply observing children at recess is enough to see the evidence of this complex and important part of a child’s day. What an honor to be a fly on the wall! Let those kids play!