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Why Recess is More Important Than Homework

If you’ve got kids in school — from elementary all the way up to high school — homework is part of life. It can also be one of the hardest parts of the day. After six hours in the classroom, the last thing most of our kids want to do is more work — and we can’t really blame them. We don’t want to take work home with us, right?  Why should we expect our kids to do the same?

We say forget homework — recess is where it’s at. We’re not just parents who don’t want to deal with the hassle of the daily homework fight — though that is a perk. There is actually science that backs us up on this. Why should schools ditch homework in favor of recess?

Recess Makes Them Smarter

We’re sending our kids to school to make them smarter, so why are we letting public schools get rid of recess when it can help make them smarter?

Research has shown kids who get time to play during the day are less fidgety, more on task during class, learn a lot of skills like leadership and problem-solving they don’t pick up in the classroom — and even develop more brain connections than students who don’t have access to recess every day.
We’re trying to give our children all the opportunities possible, so with that in mind, why are schools moving recess to the back burner in favor of structured, regimented test-based learning?

Recess Makes Them Healthier

Childhood obesity is a problem. Kids are a lot happier to sit at home on their phones or their game consoles than they are to go out and play outside, which is leading to a higher number of children suffering from obesity. According to the CDC, as many as one out of every five children is considered obese.

Recess helps children get healthy and stay healthy — just through play. Children should participate in at least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise every week — and that’s at the very minimum. Twenty to 30 minutes of recess a day during the five-day school week easily exceeds that minimum requirement.

It can also help children be more active in their afterschool or extracurricular activities, which adds to their weekly exercise. Pair that with their physical education classes, and recess makes it easy to ensure our kids are getting enough exercise during the school year. Keeping them active during the summer might be tricky, but at least they’ll be active during the 180-day school year!

Recess Helps Them Focus

Roughly 11 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have attention-deficit hyperactive disorder, or ADHD. For those playing along at home, that’s something like 6.4 million children. These children often have problems sitting still in class, which makes it harder for them to learn and can be disruptive to other students. It gets even worse when children’s punishment for being disruptive in class is sitting out from recess.

Studies have shown recess helps children with ADHD focus because it gives them an outlet for all that restless energy. It can also help them develop social skills and prevent isolation, which can lead to more social problems.

Playtime isn’t just beneficial for children who have ADHD. Kids of all ages have tons of pent-up energy that doesn't help them sit still in a classroom setting. It is especially important for elementary school-aged children — trying to get a kindergarten class to sit still for six hours is akin to herding cats across the Mississippi River. Giving them half an hour a day to run, play and just be kids can make it easier on teachers and help students learn and retain their lessons.

Homework doesn’t do anything but teach our children that they should take their work home with them — which is not a habit anyone should be picking up, regardless of their age. We shouldn’t focus on how much work these kids can do. Instead, we should be focusing on letting kids be kids — and recess is the perfect time to do that. If nothing else — all the previously mentioned benefits aside — kids need to enjoy being young and healthy.

There is plenty of time for them to be responsible once they graduate from high school. Don’t load your kids down with homework — they'll get enough of that once they reach adulthood. Let kids be kids — and if your children’s school doesn’t currently offer recess, get involved. Join the PTA, petition the school board, even stand outside the school with a ”Recess Is Life” sign until you can get your point across. Kids need recess — no academic achievement or test score is more important than that.

We all miss recess — for many of us, it was our favorite class, coming second only to lunch. New generations should get to enjoy that class, no matter how focused on the standardized tests the curriculum might be. 


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