My 7 year old got on the bus, only to stop abruptly, spinning back out. “I’m going to play outside. We didn’t have recess today,” he yelled back at me. After doing some research, I later determined that one of his teachers had taken recess for the whole class after they were making too much noise. My mother, bear blood, got a little warm hearing that. As a former teacher, I know that our young children only have 20 minutes of their eight hours a day to spend at recess, so when it is occasionally taken away as a result of behavior, it hurts.
The American Academy of Pediatrics points to the need for recess, similar to lunch or taking breaks to go to the bathroom and drink water, as a must for children’s mental health, which is at maximum levels of concern. Research has found that more than one in five children between the ages of 3 and 17 have a mental health, emotional or behavioral disorder. Programs like Texas Christian University’s Liink Project, meanwhile, found that having an hour of recess reduced chronic stress and anxiety by 70%, increased positive emotions by 17%, and even had physical impacts such as body fat percentages. healthier in children.
Some districts and states have even mandated consequences beyond restricting recess for children. The D.C. Healthy Schools Act, for example, insists that recess not be interrupted for behavioral reasons, and requires students to be given at least 20 minutes of recess, although it recommends giving them a full hour. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also notes that 60 minutes or more of “moderate to vigorous physical activity daily” is recommended for youth ages 6 to 17, for The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Here’s what’s really going on when a student is watching recess from a wall instead of participating.
Missing out on an essential reset for regulation
Lara Goodrich, a psychologist who works with schoolchildren in Madison, Conn., says recess is important in terms of regulation, which refers to “commanding one’s emotions and behaviors… environment”. Dysregulated children – meaning they are unable to control their body, mouth, impulses, attention span and more – are not in the ideal space to learn. The DC Healthy Schools Act, for example, explains that recess compensates for this with a “cognitive reset,” which helps children not only regulate but also learn more efficiently, as breaks are essential for retention.
Goodrich agrees. “For kids, in a structured school environment, reaching all of their academic milestones, having that release where they don’t have to be mindful of one thing and can shape what they’re choosing to be mindful of” is essential, she says. There is also power in “being physically able to burn away the angst or stress [and] getting fresh air and vitamin D,” she adds.
Stephanie Krauss, mother of two boys in the St. Louis, former fifth-grade teacher and principal and author of Whole Child, Whole Life: 10 Ways to Help Children Live, Learn, and Thrivesays taking recess is often “harmful” to children.
“If they have a behavior problem that has anything to do with executive functioning or behaviors that could be related to anxiety or tension issues, you’re taking away the opportunity for them to organically reset and regulate themselves,” says Krauss. “Then they go back to the classroom and the likelihood of that happening again [increases].”
Shaming sensitive children
Like me, Cincinnati mom Tiffany Alston has two kids at a school that frequently cuts recess as a result, a strategy she calls “counterproductive.” that much needed reset It is social opportunities. Staying out can be embarrassing.
“It’s humbling to have all your colleagues watching you sitting there while they enjoy themselves,” says Alston. “My 5-year-old misses recess at least once a week for things like accidentally pushing in line (no one was hurt); rolling at wheel time; playing fight; getting up twice during table hour and accidentally tearing up a friend’s newspaper.”
Krauss adds that for sensitive or socially conscious kids, being left out can exacerbate the problem. “When they are cut off from their peers and have to be left out,” they may encounter a “social stigma” that can weigh heavily.
Goodrich says it also creates unpredictability in the child’s day by having a constant possibility of missing recess. “They’re distinctly seeing that I’m different from other kids, and that adds to the implicit message of ‘you’re bad, you’re wrong, and anyone can succeed,’” she says. “If a child gets that message a lot, it’s just a very sad and unwanted belief.”
The end of “hanging on the wall” watching recess
According to Michael Amick, principal of Bellevue Elementary School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, there has been a slow movement away from past punitive consequences in favor of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). This is a structure that some districts have begun to use, which provides more incentives and rewards positive behavior, he says.
While “there’s still a part of this where you need to have clearly delineated rules and systems, and part of that is a consequence of an infraction,” notes Amick, taking recess is not recommended as a consequence. to deny or “take” something, it has to be intentional, and it shouldn’t be an assembly or an entire recess period. “It should only be five or ten minutes, and that should be on purpose, not just sitting on the bench somewhere — [the time-out] should be talking to the teacher” or another similar opportunity for meaningful learning.
Amick says he wanted to “eliminate the practice” of denying kids recess because “it led to more problems throughout the day, whether it was a direct result of students not running around or them just being angry all day because they missed recess. and that’s their favorite part of the day,” he says, adding, “one thing I don’t like is that a student infraction has nothing to do with recess.”
As an educator, Amick doesn’t want kids to feel like they have to “walk on eggshells all day,” wondering what will cause them to miss recess. “It actually increases the anxiety and importance of recess,” he explains. “Type, I was good and now suddenly I’m bad because I missed recess.”
How to talk to your child’s school about recess as a consequence
Amick says that if parents are concerned about any consequences their children receive at school, it’s best to speak directly with the teacher first. “Clearly articulate this and the rationale, and that you also want to support the teacher,” he suggests.[Try saying] ‘Hey, I want to make sure my child is following the rules too, but I’d like to talk to you about what a different consequence or approach would be.’” He adds that teachers also need more support as expectations change, so who feel able to provide more appropriate alternative consequences for children.
Goodrich hopes that more schools will implement ways that are integrated into the school environment for children who are becoming dysregulated or with behavioral problems to settle down, along with teacher support. This could look like a corner with sensory objects to calm students down, or simply a swing, inflatable chair or other object that helps them pull themselves together “in a way that is not an automatic connotation of being bad or being punished” independently , she adds . This is something parents can advocate for their child’s school to consider as a potential step before taking a consequence.
Krauss also recommends visiting the teacher face-to-face for that person-to-person interaction and “assuming the good” from the teacher early on. The issue of recess is worth addressing, she adds. “This is one to talk about.”
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