The Virtue of Recess:Play is Good for the Brain
Recess is a historical staple of elementary education in America and it is not uncommon to see children granted small amounts of time for “free play” or educational games in the primary grades. Some critics of public education or politicians would prefer to see that time devoted to increased amounts of formal, skill-drill exercises; but aside from the fact that test-prep activities quickly hit the point of diminishing returns in terms raising a school district’s aggregate mean test scores, the so-called ” wasted free time” is actually neurologically vital for the optimum cognitive development of children’s brains ( and it’s good for us older folks too!).
A report from the excellent Eide Neurolearning Blog, run by a pair of medcal doctors and research neuroscientists:
“Several recent articles remind us of the importance of play. From NPR, Old-fashioned play builds serious skills, and NYT, Taking Play Seriously.Also from the American Academy of Pediatrics (The Importance of Play for Health Child Development pdf : “Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to health brain development…Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, an to learn self-advocacy skills.” An increased in hurried lifestyles and school-based academic performance may leave a child with little unstructured time. In one survey by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, 30% of kindergarten classes no longer had recess periods
….An additional point made in the NYT article, was the importance of play for the development of the cerebellum. For kids with sensory processing disorders, this is a big one. Sometimes the earliest indication that something isn’t “quite right” is when a child avoids the normal rough-and-tumble play on the playground. That’s why without intervention, a child may accumulate even fewer play experiences and fall even farther behind their classmates with time.”
Read the rest and find additional brain-learning resources here.
While older students do not have “recess”, time for creative, exploratory and imaginative learning activities should be a regular aspect of core academic classses. Furthermore, music, the arts, sports and drama play a critical role in brain growth and do not represent “frills” but a central modality for integration of concepts, application of learning and generation of insight. As subjects, they are the brain’s “Right” side exercises to the ” Left” side’s analytical-logical reasoning provided by mathematics and science classes.
Our students need both, not either-or.