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Building Students’ Social Skills and Relationships: How Recess Can Help

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The conversation around recess in educational circles has undergone a remarkable transformation, evolving from viewing it merely as a break from the rigors of academic learning to recognizing its indispensable role in fostering holistic development in students. This shift highlights the growing understanding that recess is not just beneficial but essential for a well-rounded educational experience. It, in fact, plays a critical role in developing students’ social skills, emotional intelligence, and physical health. This comprehensive approach underlines the importance of incorporating meaningful play and interaction within school hours to support the multifaceted growth of students.

What is Recess?

Recess is a scheduled period within the school day set aside for students to engage in physical activity and unstructured play outside the classroom. It serves multiple purposes, offering students a necessary break from academic tasks, a chance to socialize freely with their peers, and an opportunity to engage in physical activities. This time is much needed for children’s social, emotional, and physical development. 

During recess, children have the freedom to choose from various types of activities. From participating in games like tag or four square, engaging in imaginative play, or simply talking and bonding with friends, it can be anything that they prefer. The essence of recess lies in its unstructured nature, allowing students to express themselves, explore their interests, and develop critical life skills in a less formalized setting. It is a fundamental component of the school day that contributes significantly to the overall well-being and academic success of students​.

The Various Benefits of Recess

Now that we know what recess is, let us also shed some light on its several benefits. Mentioned herein below are some of them.

  • Social and Emotional Development: Recess fosters an environment where children engage in peer interactions. They also practice role-playing essential social skills such as negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem-solving. These interactions are not trivial; they are foundational experiences that equip children with lifelong personal tools. By navigating the complexities of social interactions on the playground, children learn valuable communication skills and coping mechanisms, such as perseverance and self-control. These are extremely crucial for managing stress and adapting to the school environment​​.
  • Academic Enhancement: The link between physical activity and academic performance is well-established. Several studies have highlighted that recess, through its provision of physical activity, contributes to higher academic performance and test scores. The physical engagement experienced during recess facilitates better oxygen delivery to the brain. This further helps in enhancing overall cognitive function​​.
  • Physical Health: Beyond the mental and social benefits, recess is important for children’s physical health. It provides an opportunity for children to engage in physical activity, which is very essential for combating sedentary lifestyles and reducing the risk of obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports recess for helping children achieve the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day​.
  • Cultivating Emotional Intelligence: Through play, children learn to identify and manage their emotions, control impulses, and navigate social structures. These capabilities are crucial for developing emotional intelligence, which plays a significant role in students’ ability to form positive relationships, resolve conflicts, and behave appropriately in various social situations​.

Recess as a Tool for Inclusion and Diversity

Quality recess is characterized by safety, inclusion, and diversity in play options. It is not merely about having time to play but ensuring that the playground is a safe, inclusive space that offers a variety of play options to the kids. A high-quality recess environment encourages positive interactions and engages students in meaningful activities. This leads to improved classroom behavior and socio-emotional development​.

The Role of Adults

The presence and engagement of adults during recess are essential. Adults on the playground should model and encourage positive interactions and engage with students. This helps in fostering an environment where children feel safe and included. It has been seen that schools with such an environment have reported reduced conflicts and enhanced student resilience and self-control.

Bottom line!

In rethinking recess, it is essential to consider its comprehensive benefits that extend beyond physical health to include social, emotional, and academic development. The evidence suggests a strong link between quality recess time and improved student well-being and school climate​​. By prioritizing and enhancing recess experiences for students, schools can create more supportive, inclusive, and productive learning environments.

April 24, 2024