More and more schools are cutting back on recess or eliminating it entirely so they can devote more time to academic subjects and standardized test preparation. But educators, parents and researchers are protesting, arguing that kids need recess because it can help them do better in school.  

Why is a shortened recess worrisome?

Physical activity has a very beneficial effect on kids’ brains and bodies. It helps children regulate emotion, body weight and attention. It can help improve learning and memory. It also feels good and is an important part of health. As we know, kids have busy schedules. They wake up early, get ready for school, spend all day at school, are involved in extracurricular activities, do homework, eat dinner and go to bed. That doesn’t leave much time for fun physical activity, and leaves kids at risk for problems with weight management, learning concerns, poor sleep and emotional regulation difficulties. Therefore, parents should be concerned!

What can we do?

Parents should always voice their concerns to school administrators to make change. Even if you can’t make changes at a school level, talk to the teacher about building in two minute bursts of activity throughout the day. 

If you can’t make change in the school, find ways to build in physical activity, even into your busy schedule. Some ideas include: 

  • Make sure your child is involved in extracurricular activities that involve physical activity, like sports.
  • Incorporate physical activity into daily routines, like taking a family walk in the evenings, having a race around the living room every morning (winner gets first choice at a family activity or something along those lines), or having a family dance party.
  • Teach your child how to do small stretching and moving activities that they can do at their desks without disturbing the class and encourage them to do this between every class/subject. Flexing legs, hands and arms is a simple, easy system.
  • Make weekends a time for plenty of play at a park, the zoo or at home.


Eleanor Mackey, PhD, is a child psychologist and works primarily with the Obesity Institute and Children’s Research Institute. Dr. Mackey is also a mother of two girls.

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