I ended up in Homesense a couple weeks ago, a new store in Exton that offers an array of furniture, rugs, lighting, office equipment, cooking utensils, etc. I resisted the initial requests from my wife to go in but eventually agreed…it was raining, we did not have our two kids with us, and honestly had nothing better to do. Adjacent to the collection of fake plants I stumbled upon the sanctuary of a bookshelf and picked up Mattel: 70 Years of Innovation and Play. Flipping through the book I came across a quote by Plato, “you can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” This quote reminded me of the importance of play for healthy child development and across the lifespan.
After the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, schools began cutting back recess to make room for more academics. However, with obesity rates showing no sign of decreasing, increasing rates of depression and anxiety in youth, and research supporting the positive association between physical activity and academic performance, more states are passing recess laws and more school districts are implementing policies and programs to increase time allocated to recess. A new law in Arizona requires at least two recess periods during the school day for pupils K-5, and recess is now mandatory at New Jersey elementary schools after a decade long political battle. In Loudon County, Virginia, K-5 students must be given 30 minutes of recess per day and they prohibit students from missing recess for academic or disciplinary issues. Currently, there are only 8 states that require recess – unfortunately, Pennsylvania is not one of those and does not require elementary schools to provide daily recess, nor prohibits withholding recess as punishment for disciplinary reasons.
With the cold weather and limited daylight hours, it is difficult to always find time for my second grader to play and be physically active at home during the week, so I asked him about his recess time. It was refreshing to hear that he has recess every day, but unfortunately, students will miss recess time if their classwork is not completed (he ensured me that has never happened to him). Play is not only essential for children but for a healthy adulthood as well, and may contribute to stress reduction and various aspects of well-being; and of course, as Plato mentioned, you may discover something new about the people in your life.