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Recess, Behavior, and Learning


Can a kickball game help transform the climate of a school?

That playground activity and other informal “classic games,” such as four-square and tag, can promote student health, as well as improved classroom behavior and learning, some health advocates say.

Just last fall, a major effort aimed at expanding access to those activities, during recess and afterschool was launched with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., awarded a four-year, $18.7 million grant to Sports4Kids, an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit, to train adult “coaches” who can supervise and encourage recess and after-school activities.

Sports4Kids’ efforts in that area will grow from five cities to 27 cities, said Jill Vialet, the president and founder of Sports4Kids.The funding will also allow the organization to broaden its training of teachers, parks and recreation works and other adults in supervising and encouraging healthy games, as well as its general advocacy for healthy games, Vialet told me.


Many educators and advocates have argued that recess and student free-time is being squeezed from the school day—and that children are suffering for it.

A study published this month in the journal Pediatrics, by researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, found that 8-9 year-olds provided a break of at least 15 minutes during the school day saw improvements in their learning, social development and health. The principal investigator on the study was Romina Barros, an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Einstein.

Some say the benefits of informal games are often overlooked because they lack the official structure of adult-led leagues and school sporting events. Yet “there is a structure to it—it’s just that kids have control over it,” Vialet argued. “There’s a lot of social and emotional learning that happens in that context."


I really appreciate the information in this blog. We have eliminated one of our recesses this year and we are all wondering why the kids are having so much trouble setting down. They do need the break and your article sure provides needed documentation. Thanks for a timely blog!

It is irritating to me that kids don't get much exercise these days. Unless they are on a soports team, they exercise their thumbs playing games more than their bodies. Obesity is a huge issue and it isn't all because of diet. Parents need to get their kids more active.

Two thumbs up, well done!

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