According to Olga Jarrett, associate professor of Early Childhood Education at Georgia State University, there’s ample evidence that recess and other forms of unstructured play are critical for a child’s social, emotional, physical, and psychological development.

Jarrett, whose main areas of research include recess, play, and science has also found that recess helps children stay physically in-place and entally on-task while in the classroom. Over several months, Jarrett and numerous assistants monitored the behaviors of two classes of kids, comparing their behaviors at the same time each day.

In one experiement, Jarrett and her assistants monitored the behaviors of one class of kids, comparing their behaviors at the same time each day over the course of several months. The only variable: Some days the students had had a recess break before the class started, while other days they had already been working for a few hours.

Jarrett and her team found that recess helped children keep their bodies still and minds on-task while in the classroom. “On the days the students had recess before class, the children were more focused and less fidgety,” explains Jarrett. “Following a recess break, the children were more likely to be doing what they were supposed to be doing–whether it was reading or writing, looking at the teacher, or listening to another child recite.”

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