Jarrett has several theories on why recess may be so beneficial for learning and focusing.

First, having breaks for recess essentially breaks the long school day up into shorter segments. “Brain research shows that breaking tasks up into pieces and providing a change of pace in between enables the brain to focus better,” she says.

Jarrett also stresses that there’s strong medical evidence that exercise has a positive impact on brain chemistry, making it easier to think clearly and focus afterwards. Adults with desk jobs requiring intense concentrations may instinctively do this when they get up to take a walk around the block to “clear their minds.” For kids, recess provides a similar opportunity.

And for kids with ADD or ADHD, having a recess break provides them with a critical opportunity to expend their excess energy, making it easier to focus afterwards.

That’s certainly been the case for Tyler, the fifth grader with ADD. “It’s easier for me to focus after recess because I’m not as antsy anymore,” he says. “I’ve had my fun and now it’s time to do my work. I think recess helps us a lot.”