Children have been in school for awhile. How much recess are they getting? Is their school day overly organized? Are they getting pretend recess–physical education, or some canned program from a digital device?
How many principals are tricking parents into thinking their children are getting real recess?
Even preschool parents need to ask this question. There’s been an escalation of micromanaging and technology when it comes to our youngest learners!
Many parents pleaded and fought with legislators and school administrators to get a mere 20 minute break for their children in school. But recess should be a child’s right—a break from schoolwork and time to socialize and play on the playground.
There should be several recess breaks a day. To not give children recess is tantamount to child abuse!
Many strange claims of recess have popped up—most which have not been recess at all.
- Nonprofit groups like Shape Up America and Playworks are P.E. programs disguised as recess.
- Getting children to meditate or do mindfulness. Om. Not Recess.
- Letting children sit on bouncy balls while they work. Please!
- Children playing digital games like Brain Breaks. Go Noodle, Leap Band, and moving a joystick. No!
Some of these activities may be fine on their own, but they are not recess!
Non-Profit Phys. Ed.
I have already written about money making groups that go into schools to organize children for physical education activities. This is sneaky school privatization.
Phys. ed. is important in its own right, and there are plenty of good P.E. teachers to teach these classes.
But no matter whether it’s a nonprofit, or a legitimate physical education class, these programs involve organized play. Adults tell children what to do.
This is not recess.
Technology Taking Over Play
Some students get to play activities tied to a screen, Brain Breaks is popular. Likewise, with Go Noodle, students watch and follow an activity video in class. This sounds fun. Children learn to follow directions. They get exercise. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s not recess.
Children don’t have to imagine or reflect on anything creative. There’s no interaction with other children based on the child’s choice. They have no choices to make on their own.
Another digital device is Leap Band, a wrist gizmo for preschoolers to get them to follow directions and get active. It’s called a “customizable pet band.” The child wears it like a watch, and animals pop up to tell them “hop like a frog” or “jump like a kangaroo” et cetera.
It tracks a child’s progress, because you know parents and teachers like to keep track of how many hops children do each day. O.K. Maybe children like to keep track of that.
It’s implied that it will get them away from the screen and give them a break. If preschoolers are so engrossed in online viewing they need another digital device to distract them—maybe it’s time to worry.
Leap Band is a part of Leap Frog materials, which include Leap Frog Academy, which is interactive tech material for students ages 3-6.
It might be fun for a child, but it is by no means free play.
All the Leap Frog stuff was acquired by Knowledge Universe, owned, in part, by Michael Milken (as in “junk bond conviction”) who has been a part of K12 Online Learning and other bad tech stuff in education.
Play is What Teaches
All of the above don’t get children thinking on their own. What the adults who deny children recess and free play don’t understand, recess involves a child using their own brain to think. Any structured activity, while it might have its own benefits, strips a child from this ability.
When children are told what to do and how to do it, they lose their right to be children.
Recess is not really recess.
So, what kind of recess are children getting this year? How much? And is it really recess?
Lisa M says
When my daughter went to Kindergarten it was 25 minutes and then 2 years later when my son entered, it was changed to 20 mins. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty!. Line up and stand still quietly (2-3 minutes). Walk down the hall in a line quietly (2-3 mins). Get outside and listen to “the rules” of where you can or cannot go to play(2-3 minutes). Five minutes before the end of recess they are summoned back to the lines to stand quietly before they are allowed to go back into school to stand in the lunch lines or sit down at a table to wolf down food in their >20 minute lunch period. Sounds rather dreadful and if an adult would have to endure those conditions at work, I am sure there would be law suits galore. I’d say that the lucky kids get 10-15 minutes of recess a day. NOT OK! And don’t even get me started with the lunch shifts and how little time small children (many receiving free/reduced cost meals) have to eat food. Child abuse…..and I don’t know why teachers aren’t making a stink about all of this. If I had to do it all over again, I would homeschool my children and then put them into private school for the HS years.
Nancy Bailey says
Years ago educator Susan Ohanian wrote Whatever Happened to Recess and Why Are Children Struggling in Kindergarten? She tells how even animals in movies are given breaks.
I find the loss of recess one of the most terrible examples of how school reformers are using children to privatize schools.
Thanks for sharing, and I’m sorry. Most of us have been in your shoes.
I am a kindergarten teacher and a few years ago my district brought “play ” back to K.. But it’s not true free play. It’s ordered and organized in a way to improve executive function. Teachers had to attend workshops and be observed facilitating play. Ugh. That being said- our kids do get 25 minutes of recess and 25 minutes of play every day. Better than most.
ciedie aech says
To my mind a very important point: “Children playing digital games….and moving a joystick. No!” If we are, as victims to huge money and our own obsessive interest in technology, now blindly pledging our troth to digital games, make them BODY MOVEMENT oriented/dependent.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Ciedie. Always serious points well-taken.
Joe Leake says
There are a number of definitions around for school recess – here’s a sample.
“(Originally) a school holiday; (later also) (chiefly North American) a break between school classes, typically used for loosely organized recreational activities.”
“a suspension of business or procedure often for rest or relaxation ·children playing at recess.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
“regularly scheduled periods within the elementary school day for unstructured physical activity and play.”
The key words appear to be – “loosely organized, unstructured, rest, relaxation, play, physical activity.” So kids should be able to choose what they want to do with their break – swing, run, jump, climb, play with sports equipment (ball, Frisbee, jump rope, etc.), hopscotch, use leap bands, yo-yos, fidget spinners, talk, read under a tree, stand on their heads, meditate, Adults can provide any equipment and suggestions and encouragement for moderate to vigorous physical activity, but should not dictate other than convey the precautions necessary for safety.
Nancy Bailey says
Excellent, Joe! Love these definitions and your summary. True recess! Thank you.
1. What are teacher’s supposed to do on rainy days when going outside for free play is not an option. You make it sound like GoNoodle and other programs are awful, when they are useful for brief brain breaks and as a choice during “indoor recess”.
Nancy Bailey says
I think I stated these weren’t bad activities but they aren’t recess. Certainly during rainy days or times when children need a break these are appropriate. Thanks for commenting, Laura.