Recess Your Way to Success

posted in: Leadership, Parents | 0

What’s the difference between surviving a school day and thriving in it?

An elementary school in Texas thinks it’s RECESS…and we can’t help but agree!

The school is among a few in the nation to offer kindergartners and first-graders several periods of 15-minute recess a day to improve their focus in the classroom.

Debbie Rhea, a kinesiology professor at Texas Christian University who created the project said that the key to kids successfully refocusing and rebooting after a break is making sure they get “unstructured play time.” This is described as running around, making up games, and using their imaginations. In addition to better focus, the students also show improved social skills. Being outside with no agenda = better focus. LOVE IT.

A 2014 national Girl Scout study found found similar data, specifically about how learning outdoors is different than say, a classroom. These were some of its findings:

Spending time outdoors in nature is different from playing or learning inside. Here’s how:

Outdoor spaces support physical play. Unlike most indoor environments, the outdoors offers open space where children are able to be messy, make noise, and move in more physically intense ways. This allows them to develop their movement capability and confidence—both of which create foundations for physically active lifestyles and general health.


Time in nature promotes attention restoration. Spending time in nature (even just a walk in a park) has been shown to improve concentration and creative reasoning among children and adults, including those with attention deficits

Oh, but you don’t have an “outdoorsy” kid on your hands? Can they participate in the simple, low-risk activity of Not Having Both Eyes Glued To A Screen? According to Common Sense Media, tweens (8-12 year olds) log 4.5 hours of screen time a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. For teens, it’s even higher: nearly seven hours a day. And that doesn’t include time spent using devices for school or in school. 

So, let’s imagine a very fictional teenager’s day:

7 hours at school, 7 hours on a device, 8 hours sleeping (yeah, right), well that’s 22 hours…and what teen do you know is going outside in the middle of the night for “unstructured play?” Not likely.

Basically, screens and constant distractions are keeping kids from doing something incredibly beneficial to their brains and well-being: PLAY.

Why should students just barely survive school and all the extras that come with it? Why shouldn’t they also have time during the day to disconnect and play for awhile? Since this probably doesn’t happen a lot at school, this is where you come in. The time before/after school and before going to bed are few, but this is where the magic happens. Where the space to be creative and active and playful is made. This is where they learn to THRIVE.

There’s value to unstructured time, the study says, so now stop trying to plan it out – and let it happen!

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