Get Psyched Friday: Kids Need Recess
Friday, September 6, 2013
We are now in back-to-school season with all the anticipation and anxiety this brings. Last year around this time I did a back-to-school post on helping your child get back into the routine
and adjust to a new classroom. These are all important every year, but this year I am thinking about a potential problem in our region. Recently, the Washington Post reported that District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has cut recess
back to a paltry 15 minutes a day, with physical education twice a week (this is an improvement over their initial cuts due to an outcry by parents).Why is a shortened recess so important and worrisome?
Physical activity has a very beneficial effect on kids’ brains and bodies. It helps children regulate emotion, body weight, and attention. It can help improve learning and memory. It also feels good and is an important part of health. As we know, kids have busy schedules. They wake up early, get ready for school, spend all day at school, are involved in extracurricular activities, do homework, eat dinner, and go to bed. That doesn’t leave much time for fun physical activity, and leaves kids at risk for problems with weight management, learning concerns, poor sleep, and emotional regulation difficulties. Therefore, parents should be concerned!What can we do?
I am so appreciative for the parents who stood up to DCPS and argued for more physical activity during the school day, even if they were only able to get five extra minutes. Parents should always voice their concerns to school administrators to make change. Even if you can’t make changes at a school level, talk to the teacher about building in two minute bursts of activity throughout the day.
If you can’t make change in the school, find ways to build in physical activity, even into your busy schedule. Some ideas include:
- Make sure your child is involved in extracurricular activities that involve physical activity, like sports.
- Incorporate physical activity into daily routines, like taking a family walk in the evenings, having a race around the living room every morning (winner gets first choice at a family activity or something along those lines), or having a family dance party.
- Teach your child how to do small stretching and moving activities that they can do at their desks without disturbing the class and encourage them to do this between every class/subject. Flexing legs, hands, and arms is a simple, easy system.
- Make weekends a time for plenty of play at a park, the zoo, or at home.
About the Expert
Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two young girls. She has been at Children’s National since 2006 and has been a regular contributor to our “Get Psyched Friday” features since 2012.