Recess Is More Than Child's Play

Friday November 30, 2012

By Sherri M. Gordon

Recess. It's a time for kids to blow off steam, learn to play cooperatively and be physically active. But recess as we remember it has changed dramatically. Some schools have limited recess to non-running games and some have eliminated it all together.

In fact, a Time Ideas article reported that children attending poor or urban schools have on average 10 to 15 minutes less playground time per day than children in wealthier school districts. And sometimes these kids have no recess at all.

There are a multitude of reasons why schools have eliminated recess. Some schools have reduced or eliminated recess in order to devote more time to academics in hopes of bringing up low standardized test scores. Other schools reduce or limit recess for safety reasons. And other schools indicate that bullying is a primary reason for eliminating recess.

While it is true that more bullying occurs on the playground than in the classroom, eliminating recess in hopes of preventing bullying is a short sighted answer that doesn't adequately address bullying at school. Kids who are prone to be bullies will find other avenues for bullying in the absence of recess. They will bully in the bathrooms, in the locker rooms, in the hallways, on the bus and online. Eliminating recess will not eliminate school bullying.

In fact, a study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research and Stanford University found that organized recess improves the climate at school. Not only does it improve students' behaviors at recess, but it also reduces bullying.

The solution then to bullying on the playground is to train recess monitors and supervisors to handle bullying situations. Not only do they need to be able to tell the difference between normal conflict and bullying, but they also need to be able to be respond appropriately to bullying situations. One way to do this is to expand a school's bullying prevention program to include specific bullying prevention ideas for recess monitors.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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