Not all parents give much thought to the time their kids spend playing during recess because they've never had a reason to. As is usually the case, children get at least a couple of daily break times in school, and physical education (PE) classes also help them get more exercise. Other kids, however, aren’t so fortunate. In the US, for example, there are children who never get to play as much as pediatricians recommend because of the lack of safe places for them to do so. In the Philippines, children from poor families have little to no access to playgrounds as well.

But what does playtime have anything to do with children? Aren’t they better off focusing on other important things, like their studies?

According to a report in the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids who are able to run around with their friends or use the swings have a better chance of improving their physical and mental capacities. This unstructured form of playtime during recess is a big part of what helps the children grow into successful adults. Before they leave the sandbox, they would have picked up a few lessons on getting along with people and using their imagination.

In the case of the students from poor families, they lose out on the chance to develop themselves during recess or PE class. "In close to one-third of schools with the highest poverty rates, recess has been completely eliminated," says lead author Dr. Regina M. Milteer. And even if recess were an option, some schools don't exactly allow the children enough time to make the break count. Ideally, kids should have around 20 minutes of break time each day.


While convincing schools to lengthen recess will certainly be an uphill battle, you can still help your kids by encouraging them to play, and, if needed, visit a neighborhood with a decent playground just for the weekend. A proposal to open more playgrounds in your own neighborhood and have them remain open during weekends and in the evenings with proper security is another way to make a difference.

For more on kids and playtime, check these out on FN:

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