Playing and recess: It does a body good

Why do our children need to run, jump and just plain goof off? Because it’s good for their development. Playing is a springboard for giving kids control.

Sometimes we keep our kids so busy doing homework, extracurricular activities, chores, piano/dancing/sports that we forget kids need to just play. It’s this unstructured play that “forces” kids to navigate complex social hierarchies without intervention from an authority figure. They learn cooperation, leadership, compromise and – sometimes – walking away. It teaches kids to encourage others; it teaches confidence.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found many schools are taking recess away as punishment. Giving the student a break from studying, encouraging them to use their imagination and allowing them to exercise helps behavior. Research shows that taking away recess might make behaviors worse, if the student is misbehaving because of an excess of energy – or boredom.

If a child misbehaves, a “logical consequence” approach works best. He threw his crayons across the room? He has to pick them up and put them away. She was pushing other girls on the playground? Then she may have to stay in and explain why that was not safe or responsible behavior.

Guiding students to learn conflict resolution may begin with the rock-paper-scissors approach, which may de-escalate the argument. If two students want the ball, but only one can have it, let them resolve who gets it by the rock-paper-scissors approach.

Can this reduce bullying? Maybe not – but it can reduce arguments and teach some conflict resolution techniques. Ask a youngster in the lower grades what they like best about school, and they may say recess! That’s not a bad thing.

The Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties is committed to sharing information and resources for better mental health and the prevention of substance abuse. It has a website,, with a link to our Facebook page. If you would like more information, please call the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Seneca, Sandusky and Wyandot Counties at (419) 448-0640 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The board’s hotline is available 24/7 at (800) 826-1306.

Nancy Cochran,

executive director