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The Effect of Recess on Children's Academic and Social Performance

by Celia Pyburn 7 months ago in student
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An Analysis of Two Peer-Reviewed Studies on Why Kids Need Recess

"Bring Longer Recess Back"

It is common knowledge that children love to play. From playing pretend, playing sports, playing outside, or playing inside, if it has to do with playing, kids probably love to do it. This is good news, too, because it is very important that children get adequate amounts of exercise and physical activity each day, with the recommended amount of time being 60 minutes. With their seemingly endless supply of energy, it should be easy for children to get 60 minutes of exercise each day, right? Well, unfortunately, the truth is that many children don’t. One possible reason for this lack of exercise could be the fact that a lot of schools only give their students a very small amount of time for recess, if they give them any time at all, and studies show that this does have a negative effect on kids’ performances and experiences at school. This essay will address two of these studies, both of which describe ways that recess has been proven to improve children’s overall experiences and performances in the classroom.

The first of the two articles, Classroom benefits of recess, contributes to the existing literature that demonstrates that recess is extremely important for children and dove into the researchers’ study of how children’s behavior in the classroom is influenced by the environment in which they play (Brez & Sheets, 2017). The article explained that the researchers hypothesized that children’s performances in the classroom, including factors such as creativity and sustained attention, would improve after recess (Brez & Sheets, 2017). The participants for this study consisted of 99 students from 2 school districts in grades 3-5. The independent variable for this study was the amount of time set aside for recess, with the dependent variable for this study being children’s levels of sustained attention and creativity, which were measured both before and after the students went outside for recess. The participants’ sustained attention was tested before and after recess using a letter-cancellation procedure the children were instructed to use while reading a short passage, as this technique is a commonly used assessment of attention control, while creativity was tested using the Alternate Uses Task, where students are given an everyday object and instructed to come up with as many alternate uses for it as they can (Brez & Sheets, 2017). The task measured fluency and non-redundant fluency. The results of this study somewhat supported the researchers’ hypothesis, as the data did show increases in sustained attention after recess as compared to sustained attention before, but it also showed that there were no significant changes to measures of the children’s creativity (Brez & Sheets, 2017). Chapter 4.3 of the textbook Life-Span Human Development, a chapter addressing children’s health and wellness, supports the data found in this study, as it states that “children should do at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity every day,” but that, unfortunately, children often do not get that much exercise each day (Sigelman & Rider, 2021, pg. 117). Additionally, this study clearly shows that children tend to perform better and have better sustained attention if adequate time for recess is built into their school day, suggesting that schools who have not already implemented a time for recess should strongly consider making this positive change to their schedules. In terms of further studies, the researchers suggested that future studies should focus on how children’s individual differences influence the relationship between recess and their classroom performance (Brez & Sheets, 2017). A study of this nature could help determine which activities are the most beneficial for children with different personalities and temperaments, and this information could help schools provide more enrichment opportunities that have the potential to benefit as many of their students as possible.

The second article, Recess physical activity and school-related social factors in Finnish primary and lower secondary schools: cross-sectional associations, covered the investigation of the associations between students’ physical activity at recess and school-related social factors, as well as if these associations differed between boys and girls. In this study, the researchers tested the hypothesis that school-related social factors, such as peer relationships, relatedness to school, and school climate among boys and girls in primary and lower secondary school, are positively associated with the students’ participation in physical activity at recess (Haapala et al., 2014). The independent variable in this study was the amount of physical activity students got at recess, and the dependent variable for this study was the quality of school-related social interactions. The data was collected from 19 Finnish schools in autumn 2010, when 1,463 primary school (grades 4 and 5) and lower secondary school (grades 7 and 8) students completed an anonymous self-report questionnaire concerning their physical activity and social experience at school (Haapala et al., 2014). The association was investigated using multiple linear regression analysis, and the sex differences among the associations were tested using multi-group analysis. The researchers’ results supported their initial hypothesis, as the data found a positive association between students’ participation in physical activities at recess and their school-related social factors (Haapala et al., 2014). Once again, the data presented in this article is supported by Life-Span Human Development , as it states, again in chapter 4.3, that “physical activity during the school day was associated with better-behaved children in the classroom,” as well as “higher levels of academic achievement, including math and reading skills” (Sigelman & Rider, 2021, pg. 118). Therefore, it only makes sense that if schools provided more recess time, it would result in an improvement in school-related social factors in their students, as recess gives these children time to play together and engage in positive social interactions with their peers, giving them the ability to build those necessary social skills. In terms of further research that could be conducted in the future, the researchers suggested that it could be beneficial to study ways in which recess activities could be organised to better support the development of school-related social factors because, as other studies have shown, participation in other recess activities not investigated by the researchers, such as music and other performing arts, could have benefits similar to those found in this study (Haapala et al., 2014). Studies conducted on this topic have the potential to generate a lot of valuable information about what kinds of activities children most benefit from at recess. Additionally, this information could help teachers and schools encourage children to participate in activities that foster positive social relationships as well as help them improve their social skills.

Clearly, the studies and research support giving children plenty of time for recess during the school day. By doing so, schools can improve their students’ performance in both the academic and social spheres. Additionally, without it, children are less likely to get the recommended amount of physical activity each day, which can lead to unhealthy, sedentary lifestyles as well as decreased classroom performance. Therefore, schools should make more of an effort to incorporate recess time and more physical activities into their schedules. By doing so, they have the ability to improve their school’s overall performance as well as enrich the social and academic lives of their students, which should be a goal that every school should strive to achieve.

Works Cited

Brez, C., & Sheets, V. (2017, May 28). Classroom benefits of recess. SpringerLink. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from

Haapala, H. L., Hirvensalo, M. H., Laine, K., Laakso, L., Hakonen, H., Kankaanpää, A., Lintunen, T., & Tammelin, T. H. (2014, October 28). Recess physical activity and SCHOOL-RELATED social factors in Finnish primary and lower Secondary schools: CROSS-SECTIONAL ASSOCIATIONS. BMC Public Health. Retrieved September 11, 2021, from

Sigelman, C. K., & Rider, E. A. (2021). Life-span human development. Cengage Learning.


About the author

Celia Pyburn

Welcome, friends! I write everything from fiction to opinion pieces to political essays, so there's almost certainly something here for you. Feel free to stay as long as you like!

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