When I was in school, a common punishment for misbehavior was to stand “on the wall” during recess. Of course, this never happened to me, but I remember looking over every day and seeing a row of students required to stand silent and still for the entirety of our time outside. To me, being relegated to the wall would have been more of an embarrassment, a blow to my elementary-aged pride, than a disappointment over not being able to join my friends on the playground. But of course, 10-year-old me also wouldn’t have recognized the scientific importance of recess.
These days, with time allotted for recess getting smaller and smaller, it becomes all the more important for students to have the opportunity to make the most of every minute. Recess offers children the chance to develop social skills in a way that is meaningful and natural; the unstructured play format reduces stress; and, according to research cited in Auburn University’s ‘The Right to Recess for All School Children‘, the physical activity enjoyed during recess “improves children’s attentiveness and decreases restlessness”. When you look at it that way, it seems silly to punish a child’s poor behavior by denying him the activity that can reduce his restlessness.
In a study conducted by Dr. Romina Barros and reported by The New York Times, students who had at least 15 minutes a day of recess exhibited better behavior than those with less. Dr. Barros also notes that as adults, our brains need a break every 45 to 60 minutes – and in children, the time frame is even less. Recess is an important one of those breaks.
Does your school take away recess as punishment? If not, what alternatives do you find useful?