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Recess ‘Crucial’ for Kids, Pediatricians’ Group Says

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Kids aren't getting enough recess at school, the country's top pediatricians' group said in a new policy statement released Monday.

The statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics is the latest salvo in the long-running debate over how much of a young child's time at school should be devoted to academics -- and how much should go to free, unstructured playtime.

The authors of the policy statement write that the AAP "believes that recess is a crucial and necessary component of a child's development and, as such, it should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons."

"The AAP has, in recent years, tried to focus the attention of parents, school officials and policymakers on the fact that kids are losing their free play," said the AAP's Dr. Robert Murray, one of the lead authors of the statement.  "We are over structuring their day. ...They lose that creative free play, which we think is so important."

The statement, which cites two decades worth of scientific evidence, points to the various benefits of recess.  While physical activity is among these, so too are some less obvious boons such as cognitive benefits, better attention during class, and enhanced social and emotional development.

Pediatricians not directly involved with the drafting of the statement applauded the AAP's move to save recess.

"It fascinates me...that this continues to be a debate," said Dr. Barrett Fromme, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.  "The business world repeatedly lauds the corporate culture of companies like Google who offer opportunities for play and community collaboration, and suggests that such culture is the reason for the success and happiness of its employees.  Yet, we do not encourage the same culture in our children who are at a far more critical developmental period."

"This policy statement is not only important because of the physical, but also the cognitive ability of our children," said Dr. Shari Barkin, director of the Division of General Pediatrics and of pediatric obesity research at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.  "This policy has created a thoughtful, comprehensive look at what is to be gained by coming back to an emphasis on physical activity and recess."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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