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The Case for Recess

Dallas kids have some Texas-sized challenges when it comes to holding on to the humble school recess. Despite research demonstrating the benefits of this traditional break, an online survey from the national Parent Teacher Association (PTA) and the National Education Association (NEA) found that nearly 40 percent of U.S. schools have reduced or are considering eliminating recess from the school day.

But Texas is fighting back. In 2007, the state signed into law a bill calling for local school districts to recommend daily recess guidelines for elementary students. This year, the Texas School Health Advisory Committee followed up with a report reminding schools and parents of the research-supported benefits of free play at recess.

The report acknowledges worries that play and physical activity time are being threatened by outside factors, including hurried lifestyles, well-intentioned over scheduling of enrichment activities and increased pressure within schools to focus on academic issues. Research has documented that both physical activity and free play have a positive impact on cognitive, physical, social and emotional health, as well as academic performance and test scores.

Experts caution against equating free play with unsupervised activity. “Recess can be a wonderful opportunity for children, but without careful adult supervision, it can also be a setting for bullying and harassment,” warns Dr. Marion Underwood, professor of psychological sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.