Health experts say that kids ages six to 17 years old should get at least 60 minutes of exercise each day, but even recess times can vary from state to state during the school year. (Many parents and teachers have spoken out when recess time has been slashed, asking for more break time to benefit young students.) Parents with kids who home school have an even bigger challenge if they’re slipping into less-structured playtime. And even in summer, despite all of the chances to be outdoors, computer games may still beckon inside or on the sidelines.
The fact is, childhood obesity is still an issue in the U.S. when it comes to what and how much kids are eating, and how much they’re moving. The most recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that the obesity rate among both young children and teens age two to 19 is still too high at 18.5 percent, affecting about 13.7 million kids. (Those percentages are even higher in both low- and middle-income families).
This presents a challenge to make the most of recess and recreational time for schools and families alike, to get flexible, build strong muscles, keep hearts healthy, maintain a healthy weight, and strengthen immune systems as kids grow.
A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that recess gives kids their “necessary break” from schoolwork. Experts say that this change of scene and activity can benefit the “whole child,” enabling kids to improve attention spans, think more clearly and creatively, prompt their imaginations, and develop better communication, coping, and social skills with classmates and others — in addition to the physical benefits of fresh air and exercise.
Parents and teachers, here are a few ways to help kids hit their “re-set” button, on the school playground, or in your own backyard:
- Welcome all kids to play. Adapt activities for physically challenged children.
- Whether activities are planned or kids make up their own, have adults present for fairness and safety.
- Make kids part of the process, to choose activities and games that make them happy, and to help identify problems, like bullies.
- Match activities to the age, skill, and group size of kids participating.
- Have safety gear on hand for any team sports. The same goes for the right gear for the right activity.
- Plan for both good and bad weather! Have both indoor and outdoor activities in the game plan.
- Break for recess before lunch. Eating after an activity allows kids to digest better. They’ll also settle in with more focus before returning to schoolwork.
- From bean bags to Hula Hoops, check out Playworks’ game library for families and schools alike.
By Lisa Miceli Feliciano