Even Animals Need Recess, Then Why Not Children?

Contributed by JC Boushh

There has been an enormous amount of research conducted on the important role recess plays in healthy child development, concluding that recess is necessary for a child’s: Physical Health, Mental / Emotional Health, Social Development, Cognitive Development, and Academic Achievement. An article titled “Even Turtles Need Recess: Many Animals -- Not Just Dogs, Cats, and Monkeys -- Need a Little Play Time” in Science Daily examines the findings of Gordon Burghardt, a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Burghardt states that there are five criteria for play and summarizes it as "Play is repeated behavior that is incompletely functional in the context or at the age in which it is performed and is initiated voluntarily when the animal or person is in a relaxed or low-stress setting."

Burghardt's research demonstrates how play is vital in species' biology and development, including in the brain. Play, affects emotions, motivations, perceptions and intellect, and is part of our evolutionary history and not just random, meaningless behavior. Reduced opportunities for outdoor play time have been linked to: School Difficulties, Increased Childhood Anxiety, Disconnection from Nature Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and Epidemic of Childhood Obesity. The research overwhelmingly shows that recess is a necessary component of a child’s physical, mental, social, and academic development. To ignore the benefits of recess could very well be detrimental to our children’s health and well-being. Therefore, recess and its many benefits should remain a part of our children’s daily school routine.