Do Kids Need Recess and Exercise?


If you have never heard the Cat Stevens song titled “Where do the children play” check it out on You tube. It’s a great song. However, that’s not what I am wondering. Perhaps I should have titled this “Why don’t the children play” Because that is really what I am wondering.

Children no longer go outside to play, Kids have “play dates” the parent gets to choose who little Blake gets to socialize with and make the appropriate arrangements, Gone are the days of hide and go seek, kick the can and tag with all the local kids. But kids can still sink a basketball or score a home run in front of the tv using the Wii remote, so I guess it’s OK!

Schools dropped “recess or as we used to call in in England “Playtime” My lunchtime lasted 90 minutes. Now they get 20 minutes at 10 30 am to eat a chicken nugget and fries lunch . I guess “the powers that be” must think that socializing, stretching the body, running, playing, laughing, talking, solving disputes with friends, kicking or catching a ball, or simply relaxing are just not that important.

Of course they still have PE in schools! Well what I mean to say is that they still have PE teachers who take the 50 or so kids they have in each class  into the gym to do jumping jacks and run on the spot.

So as the nation faces an overwhelming number of overweight children and children with diabetes, and even heart problems, And as we continue to invest millions into endless studies and “Think Tanks” on how to fix this ever growing problem, I have to wonder if perhaps this problem might be fixed by simply getting the kids playing outside again.

What do you think? Should the schools do more to help our children be more physically active? Should recess be reinstated? I think it should, If you agree then get involved. Call your congressman and or state representative, call the school board, GET ACTIVE! your kids will follow in your footsteps and get active too


About Julie Labes
Julie Labes: Baby-Boomer Travel Specialist: The Fun-Loving, Feisty, Fearless, Frisky, Fierce Over 50 Traveler Julie owns and operates an internet based full service travel booking engine. She has traveled extensively and lived in several countries including England, Switzerland, 7 years in Athens Greece and now resides in Florida. She has been married 20 years and has two children When not working, she enjoys theater, traveling, music cryptic crosswords and a nice cuppa tea

23 Responses to Do Kids Need Recess and Exercise?

  1. I feel that it is important for childre to have old-fashioned unstructured play–where time and space are open and they get to do whatever they think of that happens to strike their fancy. Most of a child’s after-school time is filled with scheduled activities: sports, ballet, art classes–everything except time and space itself.

    Empty time and space are essential for children if we want them to be happy and creative. It is in the gaps between the structures of our lives where we find refreshment, insight and inspiration. Our originality is rooted in that place, and we can only access it in “downtime”.

    A child who doesn’t get to just kick back and be silly, or kick back and pretend, or kick back and contemplate, is a kid in danger of becoming robotic, of living life in a programmed way instead of being the doer and creator of his own story. Such a child may grow up to be “successful”, but at what cost? Is having a star ballerina or gymnast in the family as important as having a son or daughter who lives genuine fulfillment and happiness, defined on their own terms?

  2. I think all parts of society should support exercise for kids. I also think schools should provide ways for kids to move during the day and be active. But it’s shouldn’t be viewed as a function of school and no one else. Movement and activity should be part of the day.

    I’m part of the generation that remembers playing outside–hopscotch, Red Rover, Statues, tag, even just running around the yard! Many of us have fond memories of playing in summer when the light fades, and you finally go in when your mom calls.

    All that’s been supplanted now by video for so many kids. And many other kids live in dangerous areas where there are not good places to play. Like so many things, there are various issues that mix with socioeconomic factors.

    I see my little grandson and how much moving is part of his whole being. I would hate to see that lost!

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer

  3. YES & YES!!!!! I cannot believe how little physical activity kids do here and having non sporting girls it becomes an even bigger issue for me. In my kids school in Australia they had some kind of PE every day – sometimes just a fitness session with the teacher in the morning to get them moving. They also had longer lunchtimes and a recess. You are so right Julie – I may not have a vote here yet but I’m putting it on my to do list to write to people to bring recess back!

  4. I totally agree with you Julie. Playing provides fresh air and exercise which can contribute to burning off some of the calories of those chicken nuggets and fries. But there are more subtle benefits that I really feel kids are missing out by not having more play time outside such as teamwork – learning how to play as a team, learning communication and social skills by interacting with each other during those hide and seek games and creative thinking.

    Our kids are really missing out on so much of the fun and exercise we ourselves had as children. My friends and I growing up did not have many gadgets or toys but we were very creative with what we had and enjoyed ourselves immensely as children. And we got the exercise we needed.

    I am not sure of the solution because many kids these days live in environments where there is no budget or their surroundings do not allow for places to play. It seems to me, just increasing their school play time and creating games such as relays and races that force them to play might be a start.

  5. Thanks Julie for another to-the-point post that will certainly trigger people’s thoughts!

    I too am from the generation where we had recess, played outside, rode bikes outside, climbed trees and was part of a neighberhood gang of kids. Unfortunately, our environment has evolved in such a fashion that, at least where I live now, that is no longer available for kids primarily due to very real or imagined fears. People have adjusted and the results, as you point out, are obesity and health problems in our kids

    Coupled with such programs as No Kid Left Behind, schools are forced to make changes or lose funding. From a school’s administrative point of view, funding vs. recess etc. is not a hard decision to make, with negative results for the kids. I applaud your call to action, but I think the issue stems from a lot of deeper issues than just a lack of recess. However, once again parents need to take control and provide that down time ( like Rachel discusses in the comments above) for the kids. I know I can’t work all day, so why or how can our kids?

    Good post!

    Candace Davenport ~ Little Books with a Big Message

  6. Wow, I honestly had no idea had bad it had gotten for children in schools. Every body needs exercise most days. I think it is a school’s duty to provide at least 30 minutes a day of playing outside. I’m not a parent, but if I were, this would be a serious matter for me.

    Sharon Hiebing
    Follow Your Dream Compass

  7. Wow, I honestly had no idea had bad it had gotten for children in schools. Every body needs exercise most days. I think it is a school’s duty to provide at least 30 minutes a day of playing outside. I’m not a parent, but if I were, this would be a serious matter for me.

    Sharon Hiebing
    Follow Your Dream Compass

  8. Pat Zahn says:

    Julie – I don’t think you’re going to get anyone taking the other side…the problem, I’m afraid, is money. As we place more demands on the school system with less money, the day shrinks, but they still have to have so much instructional time, so they cut exercise, down-time, and the arts. As far as after school play goes, kids at younger and younger ages are getting bogged down with homework so that by the time they are finished there is no play time left. On top of that, because there is no longer enough recreation in the school day, we must supplement, after/before the homework with sports, art classes and music.

    I think we need to stop concentrating on testing and test scores and allow for innovation. If the schools weren’t so stressed out about meeting test scores they could concentrate on making school the place where a life time love of learning is fostered (and that would include recess!)

    Pat Zahn
    Photo Solutions Superhero

    • fierceover50 says:

      Pat..did you read my post about testing and the cutting of arts in the schools? It speaks to that a little

  9. June Sockol says:

    My son has PE only twice a week. Most kids don’t even walk to school anymore. The only reason I drive my son is because his special needs classes are at a different school then the one that is 3 blocks from my house. I have watched kids being dropped off, then mom drives home ~ she pulls into a house less then 2 blocks from the school!

    As a child growing up in Canada, as long as I was home by a set time, I went out and did what ever I wanted. We would ride our bikes downtown, walked down to the beach (I grew up on an island). We were always outside doing something. When my teenager goes to a friend’s house, all they do is play video games. You should see the look of horror I get when I suggest they go ride bikes, go to the pool, to the tennis courts, etc.

  10. Julie, more recess, less stress. Less homework, more arts, less testing that is meaningless. Lets bring back a supportive social environment to help our kids thrive and enjoy life, and the simple things.
    I used to love my recess. Playing marbles, french skipping. Hanging around with my friends.

    Jennifer Duchene
    Home Makeover Mixtress blending cool & cozy style

  11. This is a complicated issue and one that won’t be solved while my children are in school. I have been involved in the parent side of the public school system in California for 10 years and unfortunately it has only gotten worse; budgetary constraints choking everything but the basics from public school offerings. I appreciate your argument that every child deserves to have recess and P.E., in fact I think you will get little argument on the point. The trick is, what do we do for our children now given the time the bureaucracy takes to effect change.

    I think the only way for me to ensure my children get everything they need is to participate 100% in their lives. That means that I actively parent on every level. I don’t leave anything to chance, I’m involved in their schools, I talk with their teachers regularly and I make sure they get enough exercise. Sadly, gone are the days when you send your kids off to school and trust that they will get a well rounded education…

    At the same time, I will remain active in my local school district and write to my representatives to effect any change that I can…so hopefully things will be righted by the time I have grandchildren.

  12. Yvonne Hall says:

    My oldest will start school this coming September and I am worried what we are up against. I’m not looking forward to the loads of homework and the lack of arts and PE. But that is what we have at this point in time. And here’s to hoping I can make some changes from the inside when we get there.

  13. Yes I think both kids and adults need recess, play time, & meditation time. I also think that the short breaks and reduction of lunch time transfer to the work environment is it any wonder why working adults skip break, lunch, and exercise. Apparently forming a habit of these things in the early years is important and necessary.

    Lisa Ann Landry
    Vibrating Positive Energy …what are you vibrating?

  14. Jean Bentley says:

    I think kids should have recess! Oh and I love the longer lunches. We lived in Illinois for a year when my kids where in the 4th and 1st grades. They didn’t have recess but they had a very long lunch and were able to go out and play as soon as they finished their lunch. My kids loved it!
    Kids need a release during the day! They’re are cooped up in over crowded class rooms, they can’t talk in the halls and even on some days during lunch, and the teachers wonder why the kids act up on school.

  15. amy donovan says:

    i didn’t realize that schools had started canceling recess. that was one of my favorite things when i was in elementary school — playing outside on lovely days with my friends + classmates. we know that exercise helps adults reduce stress + improve their health – obviously the same should be true for children as well. recess + exercise are important for our little ones!

  16. Joan Emmer says:

    Children should surely have more opportunities during the day to run and jump, but with shrinking budgets, particularly in my state (NJ) and increasing demands for academic excellence, recess can go by the wayside. It’s an old battle — we want to do more while we have less to finance it. Fortunately, at least in my town, many, many kids participate in recreational sports like soccer, baseball and basketball. My 10 year old would play outside more if there were other kids available all the time.

  17. You are so right, and I love your blog. I too am a mother of “advanced maternal age” (46 with a 6-year-old, and I also stated on my facebook photo “No, this is not my granddaughter.” I try to make sure she plays outside, and we are lucky to have a yard and dogs in a fairly safe neighborhood. But your comments about PE in schools reminded me of an experience we had in a church day dare when she was only 4. They had a nice playground, but every day she was coming home exhausted and cranky. Finally, I sat her down and asked her what was wrong and if anything bad was happening at the center. (We’d only been going there a few weeks.) She said they made the kids walk 26 laps around the gym every day, and she got yelled at for stopping at the water fountain. I asked her if she told them she was tired and wanted to stop, and she said one little girl stopped and that one of the young, um, women “dragged her around the gym” while she was crying. Needless to say, I had a little chit chat with the director who denied the dragging incident and said that would “never happen here” but admitted that they made the toddlers and preschoolers do 26 laps for “exercise” and to combat childhood obesity! How is that for teaching kids to have positive feelings about physical activity? She said “none of the other parents have complained” but “we can make allowances for your daughter if necessary.” I told her that would NOT be necessary because she would not be back. When I told my little girl, she said “Ok, but are you going to make them stop being mean to the other kids?” So I reported them to DHS. I followed up and found out they did indeed get cited for using physical activity as a punishment, and also that one class was unsupervised when DHS arrived and they got a citation for that too. But they are still in business.

  18. Yes! Children need exercise (fun exercise) in order to keep their minds focused on schoolwork and keep them fit and healthy.

    I’ve been advocating this at my son’s schools since he was 4 years old. He had a kindergarten teacher who wouldn’t take them to recess because she was too obese and her knees hurt (?!) Ironic, eh?

    I made sure they got their recess and have been on top of this ever since.

  19. This is definitely a sad but true realization in many schools (and parents) in the U.S. Video games, movies, and entertainment rule our kids’ time. I think we should adopt a “kick your kid out the house so he/she can go play” day. Maybe that’ll get the ball rolling? Lol. Great observations, Julie.

  20. Kay Rice says:

    Very good article – and YES – kids need recess and they need to go outside and play. Not only should our kids go outside and play, but so should we. How many of us remember the days when we would spend the entire day outside playing with our friends, only to come home when we were hungry, thirsty, or when it got dark we knew we’d better head home “when the streetlights came on”.

    I too am familiar with the issues of “budgeting” and “academic excellence” pushing recess aside … However, children spend enough of their time in school that they should be encouraged to have balance in their daily activities, and learn to PRACTICE healthy lifestyle habits, which includes getting outside and playing and exercising each day.

  21. I think the tendency is to think of children as little adults, and over schedule them and not allow them time for unstructured play. Several factors contribute to this, the short recess and the Wii factor that you bring up in your post and the Wii factor, but I also think one big issue is that parents are very concerned over safety and now will not allow children to play unsupervised outside.

  22. Absolutely the schools should do more to promote physical activity and good nutrition. It needs to come from the parents first and the community as well.

    I’m involved in a two program that address the specific issue of physical activity and nutrition and right now they are mostly after school programs, but we are having great results.

    Thanks for the post.

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