The Crucial Role of Recess in School

The following was published through the American Academy of Pediatrics. It echos what educators have said for many years. Recess is an integral part of academic success, allowing children the mental break necessary for academic growth.  I am excited to share this with you.


Lead Authors:
Robert Murray, MD and Catherine Ramstetter, Ph.D.

Recess is at the heart of a vigorous debate over the role of schools in promoting the optimal development of the whole child. A growing trend toward reallocating time in school to accentuate the more academic subjects has put this important facet of a child’s school day at risk. Recess serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom. But equally important is the fact that safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is unique from, and a complement to, physical education—not a substitute for it. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child’s development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

The Benefits of Recess for the Whole Child

  • Cognitive/Academic Benefits
  • Social and Emotional Benefits
  • Physical Benefits
  • Safety and Supervision


In their role as child health experts, the pediatricians of the AAP stress the following perspective to parents, teachers, school administrators, and policy makers:

  1. Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. In essence, recess should be considered a child’s personal time, and it should not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.
  2. Cognitive processing and academic performance depend on regular breaks from concentrated classroom work. This applies equally to adolescents and to younger children. To be effective, the frequency and duration of breaks should be sufficient to allow the student to mentally decompress.
  3. Recess is a complement to, but not a replacement for, physical education. Physical education is an academic discipline. Whereas both have the potential to promote activity and a healthy lifestyle, only recess (particularly unstructured recess) provides the creative, social, and emotional benefits of play.
  4. Recess can serve as a counterbalance to sedentary time and contribute to the recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day, a standard strongly supported by AAP policy as a means to lessen risk of overweight.
  5. Whether structured or unstructured, recess should be safe and well supervised. Although schools should ban games and activities that are unsafe, they should not discontinue recess altogether just because of concerns connected with child safety. Environmental conditions, well-maintained playground equipment, and well-trained supervisors are the critical components of safe recess.
  6. Peer interactions during recess are a unique complement to the classroom. The lifelong skills acquired for communication, negotiation, cooperation, sharing, problem solving, and coping are not only foundations for healthy development but also fundamental measures of the school experience.


At Child’s Voice we regard recess as essential for all our children (actually, for staff too). We would like to talk with all our volunteer parents who come in for hot lunch. This way we will all be on the same page when supervising the children at recess.

Please try to get the recommended 60 minutes of play at home over the weekend. At Child’s Voice, all children have a morning recess and a lunch recess totaling 60 minutes.

January 2013, VOLUME 131 / ISSUE 1
From the American Academy of Pediatrics
Policy Statement


Dr. Michele