They say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and now, a new study has proved the proverb right by showing that pupils who receive more recess behave better and are likely to learn more.
The study, conducted by researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, suggests that a daily break of 15 minutes or more in the school day may play a role in improving learning, social development, and health in elementary school children.
For the study, principal investigator Romina M. Barros, M.D., assistant clinical professor of paediatrics at Einstein, looked at data on approximately 11,000 third-graders enrolled in the national Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.
The children, ages 8 to 9, were divided into two categories: those with no or minimal recess (less than 15 minutes a day) and those with more than 15 minutes a day.
There were an equal number of boys and girls. The children's classroom behaviour was assessed by their teachers using a questionnaire.
According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, free, unstructured play is essential for keeping children healthy, and for helping them reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones. Unstructured play also helps kids manage stress and become resilient.
The present study shows that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are especially affected by this trend.
"This is a serious concern. We know that many disadvantaged children are not free to roam their neighbourhoods, even their own yards, unless they are with an adult. Recess may be the only opportunity for these kids to practice their social skills with other children.," said Dr. Barros.
"When we restructure our education system, we have to think about the important role of recess in childhood development. Even if schools don't have the space, they could give students 15 minutes of indoor activity. All that they need is some unstructured time," said Dr. Barros.
The study is published in Paediatrics.