Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began studying the importance of break-time for elementary school children back in 2007. No surprise here - “Children need to have downtime between complex cognitive challenges,” says Dr. Robert Murray, (pediatrician). “They tend to be less able to process information the longer they are held to a task. It’s not enough to just switch from math to English. You actually have to take a break.”
In addition to the physical benefits of exercise that often occur during recess, the researchers also report that the children learn better and are less distracted as a result of unstructured play-time (in the US only 3 states have mandatory 20 minute recess per day).
Physical education is also diminishing from the school curriculum. Again in the US, only 6 states are following the 150 minute per week guideline for physical education set by the National Association for Sports and Physical Education These changes impact not only classroom learning but also health: the researchers report that as recess disappeared across the nation, obesity rates increased significantly.
Ultimately their work does not identify the perfect work to break-time formula for kids (they are calling for more studies to determine this), but they do suggest that unstructured breaks are as important to academic development as anything being taught in the classroom.
Bonnie Rochman’s full article can be read here: Yay for recess: Pediatricians say its as important as math or reading
Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project has been writing about the importance of breaks and renewal for adults for years. Whether it be professional athletes and periodization, office workers, pilots, etc., we increase our effectiveness and efficiency when we routinely and ritually take breaks from that which taxes us mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually – read more here: The Productivity Paradox
Jeff Ross, MA RCC
Jeff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and sees clients in Vancouver (Yaletown Counselling) and North Vancouver, BC, Canada. In addition to couples counselling / marriage counselling, he supports individuals with such issues as depression, anxiety, stress management, relationship issues, grief and bereavement, career and educational issues as well as growth and development.
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