Play Deprivation and Behavior Problems

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boys and girls outside with ballsThe research is clear.

“Children need recess, the benefits of which range across developmental domains. Following are just seven reasons why, if we want children to achieve optimal intellectual, social/emotional, and physical success, they should not be denied recess.”

1. Everyone benefits from a break.
2. Recess increases on-task time.
3. Children need outside light.
4. Unstructured physical play reduces stress.
5. Children need to learn to be social creatures.
6. Our children’s health is at risk.
7. Physical activity feeds the brain.

7 Reasons Why Kids Need Recess

“There is one more reason why recess should not be withheld from children as punishment: It doesn’t work. The rationale for demanding children sit more, therefore, is counterintuitive both to what the research shows and to what we know about children.”

Articles by Educational Consultant Rae Pica,, a children’s physical activity specialist since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire who served on the task force of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE).

Withholding Recess is a “No, No”
Play Deprivation and Behavior Problems
Reading, Writing, ‘Rithmetic…and Recess
Why Recess Is Different from PE
The Value of Play
Linking Literacy and Movement
In Defense of Active Learning

Children typically love recess so it seems quite logical that withdrawing recess from children who misbehave or fail to do assignments is an appropriate disciplinary approach. But some argue that withholding recess does more harm that good.

PODCASTS: Free downloads available at iTunes from BAM – Body, Mind and Child

#64  Withdrawing Recess As Punishment. How recess activities can improve behavior for children with ADHD.
#9    Fitting Fitness in the Curriculum
#33  Why Kids aren’t Going Outside When they Should
#70  Solving the growing physical activity problem
#87  Rough and Tumble Play is Really a Good Thing

Why Recess Matters, How to Defend It? This podcast includes a brief discussion of research about the importance of recess for an child with ADHD.

The Decline of Play in Preschool — and the Rise in Sensory Issues. (Washington Post 09/01/15).

Read More

Quiz: How Much Recess Does Your Child Get Each Day?

Taking Away Recess as Punishment – Does it Help?

Taking Away Recess as Punishment – Find a Better Way


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6 Comments on "Play Deprivation and Behavior Problems"

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My son’s school has not necessarily taken away recess but if he misbehaves they are making him walk laps sometimes during all of recess. He has Adhd and anxiety. I’m concerned whether or not this really works or not.

To me it doesn’t help his anxiety or help with developing socially. It also doesn’t help the with the common problem of outbursts or talking out of turn.

It sounds like this is not addressed in his IEP. If the teacher is not open to changing this approach, you can meet with the principal to open a dialogue & change. If this does not help, you can request an IEP meeting, & request that a behavior specialist observe your son, & counsel the teacher on appropriately dealing with his behavior. If necessary, you can use the dispute resolution processes.

Our son does not get recess because all 3 instructors in his sp ed. Class room take lunch at his recess time so he has missed it almost all year. How do I fix this for next year???

Present your concern & request to the principal verbally & in writing. You can request that a solution be tried this year, even if it is not every day. If necessary you can then approach the special ed director. Every school is to have a process for expressing concerns, & appealing decisions.

Know what you mean, our school in ar. is big on spanking children with autism spectrum and taking away most of their recess and isolating them. Evidently she was so much better after mamma died until they did all of this. Now she has regressed, but it’s my fault. Jeri

Thanks so much for helping to spread this message!