Why Kids Need Recess and Exercise
Researchers, educators, and parents are realizing that not only is exercise good for kids -- it is crucial. Find out why. Plus: Take this fitness quiz to find out how healthy your family really is
Armed with mounds of research--and some 300 signatures from like-minded parents--Walton spoke before the local Board of Education, arguing for playtime for all other township's schools. "So much pressure has been put on our teachers to produce high test scores," she told the board. "Perhaps you would see [the kids] perform better if they were given a chance to release the anxieties and stress of everyday school pressures."
It took many months of advocacy--and a movement-sparking front-page story in the local newspaper--for the board to implement guidelines that, while not mandatory, ask schools to fit in at least 20 minutes of recess daily and to limit punishing students by taking away playtime.
The fight wasn't easy, Walton concedes, but was well worth it--if only to help her kids make it through the long day. "They need fresh air," she says. "And it's up to us, as parents, to fight for their right to take a break." She and some other moms later got a more sweeping bill introduced before the state legislature. (At press time, that bill hadn't made it through the governor's office; a new one has been introduced.)
As for my own frazzled child, things--happily--turned around. A new principal, who seems to recognize the importance of playground time, has stepped in at Marl's school. Marl's enjoying her time outside, where she's found new best friends, gets to work off some steam, and, best of all, is able to just goof off for a while, hanging on the monkey bars, feeling the calluses on her hands and the wind through her locks.
How to Get Recess Back
What you need to know to fight for your child's right to play midday.
Get informed. Arm yourself with plenty of research about the importance of play to kids' development. You'll find great resources at Peaceful Playgrounds, an advocacy group whose Right to Recess Campaign includes downloadable PowerPoint presentations and studies to support the argument. You can also connect with your state's "recess advocate," who can help gather information and resources, here.
Get galvanized. Teresa Evanko Bilello, a Muncie, IN, mom of two, rallied a core group of parents to speak at school-board meetings so they could see she wasn't the only mom riled up about the lack of recess at her children's schools. "Make yourselves a nuisance if necessary," says Bilello, whose efforts successfully brought playground time back to the schools' schedule.
Get to the higher-ups. Talking to your child's principal about reinstating or extending recess is a good start. But if you're really looking to change school policy, take your case to the local school board (or higher!), where system-wide reform can be made. And remember says Walton: "We're the ones who vote these people into their positions. If they don't give your school what it needs, you can replace them with leaders who will."
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