On August 5, 2020

The importance of free play

The National Education Association notes that recess and free play are critical to the development of students in grades pre-K through eighth grade. According to the NEA, recess and free play during the school day encourages interpersonal interactions and problem-solving skills, and such opportunities also can prove beneficial for older students. Despite these benefits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 40 percent of schools have reduced or eliminated recess over the last 20 years in an attempt to increase instructional time for students. While that may be understandable, it ignores the many benefits of recess and free play, which the American Academy of Pediatrics says are crucial to students’ mental, emotional, physical, and social development. In addition, the AAP notes that research has shown a connection between recess/free play and improved performance in the classroom. This is true even for older students, including high schoolers. Regular breaks from the rigors of the classroom provide adolescent students with opportunities to mentally decompress, potentially improving their focus when classroom sessions resume. Such benefits highlight the important role of free play in the development of students, including older students whose school schedules may no longer include time for free play or recess.

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