Everyday, elementary school children are given the opportunity to take a break from their schoolwork and go outside for recess. There are many benefits of allowing children to take recess breaks during school. From an educational perspective, children are found to be more attentive to academic work following recess and demonstrate improved cognitive performance on school related tasks (Pellegrini & Bohn, 2005). Recess can provide exercise and physical activity for children as a preventative measure for obesity (Barnett, O’Loughlin, Gauvin, Paradis, & Hanley, 2006). The social implications of recess are substantial and have a lasting effect on the developing child. Interacting with peers (rather than adults) at recess is a predictor of positive school achievement (Pellegrini & Smith, 1993), and the opportunities that exist for social interaction assist with developmental tasks—such as improved social skills and cooperative play—and building close relationships with peers (Pellegrini & Bohn). In general, recess behavior is a positive predictor of social cognitive development in children (Pellegrini & Smith). In addition to being proven in studies, teachers and parents often witness these positive outcomes of giving children a recess break during school.
Although recess time provides students with opportunities for positive growth, children don’t always necessarily receive these benefits. For many children, recess is not a time for positive social interaction or physical activity. It is important to keep children active and engaged on the schoolyard at recess and break times. Given the potential recess has for influencing the educational, cognitive, and social development of children, it is important that we take steps toward creating a positive recess environment that supports and encourages children to experience the benefits of recess time. Here are a few ways that peer-led, organized games on the schoolyard can help with this goal:
1. Provides opportunities for inclusion and social interaction in play
Research on the benefits of peer interaction at recess suggests that peer-led games may be an excellent way of allowing children to engage in positive, meaningful interaction. Social skills and peer relationships often develop within the context of active, social games such as tag, soccer, and jump-rope (Pellegrini & Bohn).
2. Provides structure in order to decrease opportunities for bullying
The elementary playground/schoolyard was found to be a school location where the highest frequency of bullying takes place (Vaillancourt et al., 2010). Organizing structured activities on the schoolyard may reduce bullying, as children are engaged in goal oriented, cooperative and, often, competitive tasks.
Let’s set our children up to succeed. If we do our part to create a positive recess environment, our children will thrive.
Barnett, T. A., O’Loughlin, J., Gauvin, L., Paradis, G., & Hanley, J. (2006).
Opportunitites for student physical activity in elementary schools: A cross-sectional survey of frequency and correlates. Health Education & Behavior, 33(2), 215-232.
Pellegrini, A. D. & Bohn, C. M. (2005). The role of recess in children’s cognitive
performance and school adjustment. Educational Research, 34, 13-19.
Pellegrini, A. D. & Smith, P. K. (1993). School recess: Implications for education and
development. Review of Educational Research, 63(1), 51-67.
Vaillancourt, T., Brittain, H., Bennett, L., Arnocky, S., Mc.Dougall, P., Hymel, S., …
Cummingham, L. (2010). Places to avoid: Population-based study of school reports of unsafe and high bullying areas at school. Canadian Journal of School Psychology, 25(1), 40-54.
Written by: Shea Wood, Dynamix Montreal office.
Dynamix: Team-building for Kids and Teens, since 2002.
Picture taken from Google Images, source: http://www.sparkpeople.com/blog_photos/main/BigImages/recessG.jpg