Originally published March 29, 2018 in the Sandusky Register.
By Rachel Velishek
I am a full-time working mom. Every day, I strive to find the balance between meeting my children’s emotioA counselor explains the value recess at school plays in the overall development of young children.nal, mental, and cognitive development AND maintaining a home and work.
Parenting for this generation is different than in the past; we receive so many opinions, research from every demographic regarding every issue — cloth diapers or disposable; co-sleeping or not; homeschool or public schooling.
Families today are caught in a paradox. As parents, we’re making decisions in a time where research is consistently being released stating free play is crucial to health and development of our children, yet schools are pushing the opposite and focusing more on academics.
Physical education programs are being cut or reduced to only one semester per year. More emphasis is on academic advancement than on overall developmental growth.
From a personal experience as a parent of a kindergartner, I am confident what he is being required to learn presently is what I was asked to do as a first grader or even second grader. I remember the normal expectation was to learn ABCs and tying shoes in kindergarten.
It was focused on developing social skills and building relationships. Presently my child is learning addition and reading and his gym class is twice a week. Pre-kindergarten screenings are being conducted, children are being required to write legible names, and perfect by the end of kindergarten. I am an advocate of learning. I believe that children have the ability to learn and should be offered the opportunity. My concern is that the emphasis is solely on academics, and children are being forced to learn less social skills, conflict resolution and problem-solving.
I have recently reached out to friends and professionals in our surrounding area to ask the following questions—Do all students have the opportunity to play at recess? Are younger students offered a free time to explore, discover and creatively play at own pace?
I was saddened to hear the response. Yes, some children are being withheld from recess. It is a consequence that is being used, some children are not able to participate in free time because the academic requirement was not achieved for the day or again it is a consequence for not following school and or classroom rules.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently released a statement regarding the crucial roll recess plays, very clearly stating “recess offers cognitive, social, emotional and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it.” In simple translation, keep recess on the student’s schedule despite negative behaviors.
- Recess has been shown to offer a physical benefit for children that are classified as clinically obese. It bridges the gap between sedentary and the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity.
- Recess plays a significant role in maintaining a child’s ability to implement self-control. The opportunity to play allows a child to replenish, essentially gets the wiggles out and increases focus. Studies have shown that students who participate and enjoy recess are more attentive, more productive and better able to learn when they return from free play.
- Recess has also been shown to improve memory. Allowing opportunity for cognitive rest actually increases the likelihood of new learned information being retained for a longer period of time. If recess is not an option, an opportunity to engage in unstructured free time or even time to daydream is just as effective.
- Most important is that recess allows for children to develop the necessary social skills, such as problem-solving, conflict resolution and recognition of non-verbal communication cues.
With the increased pressure on academics and structure, children have less opportunity to learn necessary skills to socially interact with peers. As parents, one of the most important roles we have is to advocate for our children. If you’re concerned, then respectfully communicate to the parties involved, knowing social development is crucial seek out and provide opportunities for your child to socially interact with peers. Allow your child to be “bored,” learn how to entertain self, be creative and explore the world around them.
Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. Her office can be reached at 419-668-0311. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.