The importance of recess

Did you ever sat on the bench in elementary school? I did ONCE, in second grade, for screaming in the bathroom. Mortified and bored out of my mind as I watched my friends play, it never happened again.
recess benefits
As academic pressures and safety concerns continue to rise, school administrators have considered restricting recess breaks for increased instruction time or as punishment for bad behavior. However, recess is a crucial part of a child’s development and should not be restricted. Last month the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement to endorse unstructured physical activity and play breaks within the elementary school day, a.k.a. “recess.” According to the report, “Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. In essence, recess should be considered a child’s personal time, and it should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.”

To gain an insider’s perspective, I interviewed Christina Bingham, a current kindergarten teacher for the San Jose Unified School District. Here’s what she had to say about recess:

Q1: Do you think recess is important? Why or why not?
A1: Recess is very important. Everybody, adults and children, need mental and physical breaks throughout the day. We are simply more productive when we have time to unwind. Children also need a time that is unstructured for them to use their imaginations, problem solve and learn social queues from each other. Also, children need to run around to get the blood flowing and to get fresh air.

Q2: Have you ever taken away recess as punishment?
A2: Most teachers don’t like to take recess away as punishment. Usually the kids who have to sit out at recess are the kids who need recess the most, and it is actually more work for the teacher. If I keep a child in at lunch recess, for example, I am also giving up my only break as well. Most times this only happens when the child’s behavior is a danger to the other children. I have used taking away recess as a consequence, but usually it is only for a short time. Most of the time this is a result of the child not following the rules on the playground, which again is dangerous. I will have the child “sit out” for a few minutes. I always make sure the child understands the behavior that needs to be corrected and how they are going to correct the behavior. Sometimes the child may need a few minutes to calm down, especially if there has been an altercation. In order to stop a negative behavior, the consequence should be meaningful to the child. Also, there must be positive incentives to help motivate the child to improve behavior. Taking away recess is not the only way to achieve this, but sometimes it’s an appropriate one.

Q3: What do you do when recess is cancelled due to bad weather outside?
A3: Rainy days are every teacher’s nightmare! Thirty kids stuck in a stuffy room all day is less than ideal. It’s hard for kids to stay inside that long—they need fresh air and an opportunity to run around. Most teachers, myself included, will give the kids “free choice” or activity time in the classroom, play a movie, board games or computers. The children still need to have “free” time. Usually on rainy days, I will stay with my students during their lunch and recess times.


Photo by: Kevin Collins —

Q4: Do teachers get pressure from school administration or parents to restrict classroom breaks?
A4: I have heard and read articles where that is the case, but I personally have not felt any pressure to restrict classroom breaks. My school supports recess and values the benefits that recess has in a child’s ability to focus in the classroom. Studies show that recess is actually very important. I think the idea of schools taking away recess is terrible. I want my students to be mentally and physically healthy. I do not want my students to burn out by the third grade. Teaching should be developmental, and developmentally children need recess.

Q5: Are you required to staff recess? What safety concerns do you have?
A5: Yes, I staff two recesses per day out of the three that we have. I have to say, that after two plus hours in the classroom I am happy to go outside and get fresh air too! I don’t really have any safety concerns. I work a lot with my students about appropriate behavior on the playground. Because I teach small children, I spend a lot of time teaching and modeling appropriate social skills as well. Children, when given the correct training, can follow rules and are great problem solvers.

Q6: Is recess as important to teachers as it is for students?
A6: Definitely! Everybody needs breaks! Our brains need time to process new information. Recess plays an integral part in a child’s and teacher’s day. We all need that time to regroup before moving on to another task. A lot of teachers work through their lunches to prepare for when the kids come back since there is not a lot of down time during the school day. Many times I need to remind myself to take a minute to slow down and actually eat lunch. When I don’t take the time to take care of myself during the day, I pay for it later. I need to keep myself healthy so I can do my best teaching!

As Christina mentions above, even adults need recess. This is something I’m working on personally myself, as evidenced by the launch of this blog. Read why taking a real lunch break is good for your health from here.

Bottom Line: Taking a break is important for everyone. It refreshes the mind, improves mood and increases productivity for the rest of the day.

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Do what you want to do, not what you think you should do

“Most people are so busy knocking themselves out trying to do everything they think they should do, they never get around to what they want to do.”

Quote by Kathleen Winsor

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Do we get old because we stop playing?

I came across a great print by Ginger Oliphant which reads “We Don’t Stop Playing Because We Get Old. We Get Old Because We Stop Playing.”

I remember the day I stopped playing with Barbie dolls. My sister and I were playing Barbies with our girlfriend next door when another neighborhood friend – an older boy of course – stopped by to see what we were doing. “You guys still play with Barbie dolls?” he gasped in disbelief, shocked that a ten year old could be so un-cool. And until that moment, I had no idea that one ever STOPPED playing Barbie dolls. In fact, I had just opened up my Totally Hair Barbie that I had kept in her box to save for my daughter one day, only to succumb to temptation one week later. And until that moment, I loved playing with my Barbie dolls. I pretended to ignore the cruel fun sucker and continued to play. But that night, I announced to my mom I was done playing with Barbies and surrendered them to my younger sister.

Never too old to stop playing

Print by Ginger Oliphant available for purchase at

It’s too bad that some people tell us we’re too old to play. It’s also too bad that we believe them. Granted, children’s toys don’t quite have the imaginative appeal they did when I was young, but to this day I still LOVE watching cartoons, playing Red Light – Green Light and coloring with my niece and nephew. One of the best things about being around children is that they remind us to delight in the little things because they see the world in a different light – new, exciting, full of surprise and adventure.

So guess what I just bought my niece for her birthday coming up? A Barbie. And yes, I plan to play Barbies with her. 🙂

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Growing Up Digital: The Good & The Bad

iphone kidWe want our children to be tech-savy (admittedly, I’m blown away at the ease in which my little nephew navigates through my iPhone) but where should you draw the line between young kids and all things digital? Here’s an interesting Infographic designed by the creative minds of Ogosport. Just like fattening desserts and shopping sprees, it seems okay to indulge as long as it’s with balanced moderation.

Do you agree? Share your thoughts below!

growing up digital

Image via Ogosport .

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Live for the Present

“Children have neither a past nor a future. Thus they enjoy the present, which seldom happens to us.”

Quote by Jean de La Bruyère (1645-1696) French essayist and moralist

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Life is not a race to the finish line

When I was a kid, there were no iPads, PSPs or portable DVD players. Eating and drinking were not allowed in the car and if we were given candy, it was only after doing something really great in school or as a reward for suffering the dreaded doctor’s office (except when going to Grandmas, which was our little secret). We had a Nintendo and local TV (yes, I’m a child of the 80s), but were only allowed to use them for short periods of time – then sent back out front to play and ride our bikes around the block with our neighborhood friends. If you were a kid today, you’d think I had a pretty boring, awful childhood. I can assure you this was not the case.

Having the down-time away from screens and electronics forced me and my two younger siblings to get creative. We’d spend hours setting up props for our home-made movies, developing amateur dance moves to our favorite Disney soundtracks, creating master works of art using sidewalk chalk on the driveway and playing hide and seek.

As an adult, I miss having that downtime. I’m the one in line at Starbucks checking my phone 3 times in line to pull up my inbox to clear the dreaded red action circles telling me there’s email requiring my attention. I’m the one who comes home from work late and plops of the couch to zone out with TV to numb my racing brain that’s trying to make lists for the 110 things I need to do at work tomorrow, all of which were due yesterday.

Life these days often feels like a race to the finish line – sprinting through each day with the hope that one day I can finally stop to smell the roses and reap the rewards. And although I am an adult with many real financial and family responsibilities, it’s alarming to see our children running the same race right alongside us. Competitive schooling, sports practice, tutoring and daycare pack their daily schedule from start to finish – it’s no wonder they too would prefer to get home and play videogames and watch TV to zone out from all the hustle and bustle.

I’ve decided to start this blog for your Little Roadies – the ones racing alongside us each day. It’s my hopes to build a community dedicated to living life in the present while remembering that life is a gift that should be cherished because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

race of life

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