The Importance of Recess for School Aged Children

By: Lisa Marie Patenaude

All work and no play…

Students today take an average of 112 mandated standardized tests beginning in pre-k up to 12th grade! With the academic standards and expectations set so high for children, unfortunately recess is being reduced or even eliminated completely. School districts are in fear of having the lowest scores within the community and are continuing to find ways to increase classroom/educational time.

Why have schools cut recess time?

However, is more classroom time helpful or a recipe for increased behaviors and inattentiveness? The article, “Recess Physical Activity Packs in Elementary Schools: A Qualitative Investigation,” written by Steven Elliott, Sue Combs, and Robert Boyce, discussed how recess plays an important role in learning, social development, and health- which all must be considered when administrators decide whether to schedule recess during the school day.

Is recess a waste of time?
Here’s what current research has to say!

Let’s take step back and put things into perspective…during a typical 8-hour workday how often do you get up from your desk to move, give your brain/eyes a rest from staring at a computer screen, stretch out your legs, look out the window, go for lunch, or even just get some fresh air? It would be a safe bet to say most of you reading this blog do not sit for 8 hours straight at work!

Now it’s time to discuss the benefits of recess. Is it more than just kids running and screaming on the play ground? Absolutely!

Recent studies have indicated many benefits for including set recess times throughout the day. The article, “Perceptions of the Effect of Recess on Kindergartners,” written by Hannah Martin, Antomia Farrell, James Gray, and Teresa Clark interviewed kindergarten teachers in Kentucky and Tennessee, parents of preschoolers/kindergarten teachers in Texas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, as well as college students from the area pertaining to their views on the benefits of recess.

This particular study named many benefits of recess:

  • Teachers have noticed better behavior once they returned back into the classroom.
  • Improved mood / positive attitude
  • Re-energized, re-freshed, and ready to learn!
  • Increased ability to sit and attend.
  • Children are able to learn conflict-resolution skills, problem solving skills, and sharing at recess.
  • Increased eye contact
  • The opportunity to PLAY and develop healthy habits and routines.

Camahlan and Ipock (2015) stated exercise increases attention to various cognitive tasks and can help academic performance. The study they completed indicated improved math scores pre/post test and the classroom environment was calmer after movement breaks. Camahlan and Ipock (2015) also noted improved attention as well as the ability for children to sit quietly and listen rather than fidgeting in their chairs.

Current research has indicated many benefits for recess, but will school administrations continue to compromise it for the potential of higher test scores? Only time will tell.

Camahalan, F. M. G., & Ipock, A. R. (2015). Physical Activity Breaks and Student Learning: A Teacher-Research Project. Education, 135(3), 291–298. Retrieved from

Elliott, S., Combs, S., & Boyce, R. (2011). Recess Physical Activity Packs in Elementary Schools: A Qualitative Investigation. Physical Educator, 68(3), 150–162. Retrieved from

Martin, H., Farrell, A., Gray, J., & Clark, T. B. (2018). Perceptions of the Effect of Recess on Kindergartners. Physical Educator, 75(2), 245.