Play, both with parents and peers, is important for child development, not only improving physical health and social skills but also helping kids manage their stress.
Despite this, schools have decreased the amount of time allotted to unstructured playtime. This is particularly troubling, as childhood obesity continues to be a concern – one study found that 57% of today's children will be obese as adults.
There's a lot to be hopeful about, though. With parents and lawmakers advocating for recess, we decided to survey over 1,000 parents with kids in kindergarten through fifth grade about their perceptions of recess at their child's school. An overwhelming number of parents voiced support for recess and its continued inclusion in the school day. To see what parents had to say, keep reading.
A Positive Trend
There's no denying that children go to school to get an education. The time they spend in class is imperative to their development. However, many health and education experts argue that recess is just as much of a necessity for child development, even as schools cut back on the amount of recess time. It's recommended that children have at least an hour of vigorous exercise outside every day, which helps to promote social, emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of elementary schools with no specified time requirements for recess in 2012 was 11.5%, which increased to 15.5% in 2016. The number of schools providing 30 or more minutes of recess stayed the same between 2012 and 2016 at 30.2%. However, the number of schools offering between 20 and 29 minutes of recess every day increased from 33% to 35%. And in 2016, less than 1 in 5 schools offered just 10 to 19 minutes of recess time.
Not long ago, children may have been offered multiple recess periods, with some schools offering nearly a full hour outside. According to the CDC, the most common policy in schools in 2016 was to offer children between 20 and 29 minutes of dedicated recess.
Our study found that a third of parents thought their child receives insufficient recess time during the school day. The parents surveyed reported their children averaged 4.7 days a week with recess offered, and the average total amount of recess parents reported was 37 minutes.
Thirty-seven minutes may seem like a good chunk of time to many, but it falls significantly short of the recommended minimum of 60 minutes of daily physical activity for kids aged 6 to 17.
From a Parent's Perspective
No matter how old you are, spending time outside is good for your health. Research shows that even just a few minutes spent outdoors every day can help improve memory, the ability to focus, mood, and other aspects of physical health.
When asked how their children's behavior changed when they were less active than normal, more than 1 in 3 parents identified hyperactivity, trouble focusing at school, and misbehaving at home. Negativity toward school (almost 32%) and trouble focusing at home (31%) were also commonly cited when children got less playtime.
Seventy-two percent of parents believed their children's academic performance would be negatively impacted if they didn't have recess, and 86% of parents would rather their children have more time outside instead of additional instructional time in the classroom.
As schools seek to improve test scores and student performance, creative pursuits like art and physical activities – including recess and physical education – have faced cuts. However, research has shown this approach can be counterproductive and does little to help academic performance.
Saying Yes to Recess
When children misbehave in class, teachers may want to withhold activities or experiences as a way to communicate punishment. Recess has traditionally been one of these activities. However, this has become a topic of debate in recent years, as some experts say this practice can be extremely detrimental to both the student and teacher – recess is an important way for children to develop and sharpen their social skills.
More than half of parents surveyed said their child's school restricts recess as punishment. However, 41% of parents felt using recess as a way to discipline children was inappropriate, a position that was more common among mothers than fathers.
Nearly all parents agreed that schools should be required to give children a minimum amount of recess time during the school day, and more than 1 in 3 parents believed there wasn't a set age where children should stop playing during the school day. Some parents even felt recess was an important break in the day allowing kids to decompress.
Sunny Side Up
When asked about the perceived importance of recess, 89% of parents indicated recess was just as important to their child's development as the time they spent in a classroom.
Nearly 3 in 4 found recess extremely important to their children's physical health, and more than half believed it was extremely important to their mental health. A majority of parents also felt recess was extremely important for their child to succeed academically but to a lesser degree than physical and mental health.
Childhood obesity, which is often linked to adult obesity and lifelong physical and mental health problems, can be combated by encouraging children to stay active. The CDC recommends children get at least 60 minutes of playtime every day, which can include activities like playing games, jumping rope, and swimming. Essentially, the more recess kids get during the day, the healthier they can hope to be in the long run.
Importance of Play
As kids grow and develop, the time they spend on the playground, playing games, and enjoying free time is beneficial for the classroom too. Studies show that the more time kids get outside, the better their focus is inside the classroom. A majority of parents saw the benefit of ensuring their children get recess, and 1 in 3 parents would like to see their kids get more time in the sun as opposed to time behind a desk.
At Super Heroic, we believe play needs to be preserved. Our children benefit from the time they spend outside, helping to build imagination, creativity, and confidence. That's why we're passionate about empowering children with the footwear and apparel they need to play their own way. Learn more about our mission and shop kids' footwear and apparel today at SuperHeroic.com.
We surveyed 1,062 parents with at least one child in kindergarten through fifth grade on their perceptions of recess during their child's school day. If parents had more than one child in the specified grade range, they were asked to answer survey questions based on their experiences with their youngest child.
Respondents were 57.6% women and 42.4% men. The average age of respondents was 34.8 with a standard deviation of 7.3.
Parts of this project include data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This includes the results of the CDC's School Health Policies and Practices Study for 2012 and 2016. Additional statistics about state policies on recess were pulled from here.
Respondents were asked to report how many days per week, how many periods per day, and how many minutes per day their child had recess. The data for average days per week and average periods per day were validated to apply only to a five-day school week. The data for average minutes per day were calculated to exclude outliers. This was done by finding the initial average and multiplying it by two. This number was then added to the initial average. Any data point above that sum was then excluded.
Parents were asked to report what behavioral changes they perceived in their child when he or she was less active than normal. The question was given as a check-all-that-apply question and, therefore, the percentages won't add to 100.
Respondents were asked how they thought their child's academic performance would be affected if he or she didn't have any recess time during the school week. They were given the following answer options:
- Extremely positively
- Somewhat positively
- Neither positively nor negatively
- Somewhat negatively
- Extremely negatively
In our final visualization of the data, these options were consolidated into the following groups: positively, neither positively nor negatively, and negatively.
Due to the nature of this digital survey, it's possible that we were unable to collect data from particular populations. This could have skewed the results.
Additionally, the data presented here rely on self-reporting. Common problems with self-reported data include exaggeration and selective memory.
Fair Use Statement
Recess is an important part of the school day. If you know someone who would benefit from the findings in our study, you are free to share for any noncommercial reuse. Our only request is that you link back here to give our contributors credit for their efforts. It also allows people to review the study's methodology