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The Value of Recess

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Whether in or out of the classroom, time off makes a big difference in our lives!


When I was in elementary school, recess was one of my favorite parts of the school day. In good weather, teachers would take us outdoors for sunshine, fresh air and exercise—once in the morning and once in the afternoon. One game I especially enjoyed was kickball—a cross between dodge ball and baseball. We could not wait for those fun breaks from reciting math tables, correcting spelling errors on essays and memorizing names and dates for history class.

We live in an age of increasing overweight and obesity in America, Canada and other western nations. We are finally "discovering" that this problem begins at a very young age, with children spending so much sedentary time in class, sitting before computers or watching television, texting or listening to iPods. But at last some are once again realizing the value of recess.

A recent article by New York Times writer Tara Parker-Pope reported, "The best way to improve children's performance in the classroom may be to take them out of it" ("The 3 R's? A Fourth Is Crucial, Too: Recess," February 23, 2009). The article continues, "New research suggests that play and down time may be as important to a child's academic experience as reading, science and math, and that regular recess, fitness or nature time can influence behavior, concentration and even grades"

An earlier Parker-Pope article reported, "Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine reviewed data on about 11,000 third graders, collected in 2002 as part of a large study, financed by the Education Department, to determine how an array of family, school, community and individual factors affected performance in school. The study, published last week in the journal Pediatrics, found that about one in three of the children received fewer than 15 minutes of daily recess or none at all. Compared with children who received regular recess, the children cooped up during the day were more likely to be black, to come from low-income and less educated families and to live in large cities"

This study revealed, "Children who had at least 15 minutes of recess scored better than the others on teachers' behavioral ratings. Dr. Romina M. Barros, a pediatrician and assistant professor at Albert Einstein, said the data were important because many new schools were being built without adequate outdoor space for students. 'We need to understand that kids need a break,' Dr. Barros said. 'Our brains can concentrate and pay attention for 45 to 60 minutes, and in kids it's even less. For them to be able to acquire all the academic skills we want them to learn, they need a break to go out and release the energy and play and be social'" ("Children: Recess Found to Improve Behavior," New York Times, February 2, 2009).

Our technical gadgets are both a boon and an imposition. To benefit from them we need to balance their use with all other important life commitments. If you have children, I hope you will encourage and ensure that they will have adequate play time in a safe environment outdoors. Especially now in this national obesity crisis, our children need to run off the excess calories they are consuming. Additionally, more and more studies reveal the need to eat more nutritious diets.

But what about you—the parent? To set an example to your children, you too need to follow the scriptural principles of health (see "Bible Principles of Health" on page 22 of this issue). Yes, you too need recess. We not only have a daily circadian rhythm, but a weekly biological rhythm too. Did you know that our Creator mandated a weekly spiritual "recess" for us? It is called the Sabbath. To learn more about this wonderful blessing from God, ask for a free copy of our booklet, Which Day Is the Christian Sabbath? Why not be refreshed by this weekly recess and interact with the Designer of the vigorous life?

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