Recess Improves Children's Attention

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It’s not just your imagination – more parents and teachers are dealing with problems with their children’s attention spans. Some blame it on electronics. Some say it’s because of immunizations, or improper diet, or other factors. Others are told it’s a chemical problem and turn to meds.

When many students don’t seem able to focus on school work, teachers are frustrated. They are under pressure to prepare kids for standardized testing that can make or break a school’s standing (and funding.)

Parents are frustrated when they see their kids can’t read well, or do math problems, or sit down long enough to complete a homework assignment.

And the kids are frustrated too – because the response of many schools to their attention deficits is to give the kids more instruction!  Some schools have eliminated such programs as art and music in an attempt to squeeze in more academic time.

How’s that working for them?  Apparently not so well.

More kids than ever are on ADHD drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control – and more are being diagnosed with attention deficits.

With the lack of focus, some schools are getting rid of homework assignments.

Others are turning to strategies such as more nutritious school meals and snacks or using meditation for temper outbursts.

But a Texas school was recently featured on the Today show, with an innovative way to increase attention spans, boost test scores, and bring up levels of students’ active classroom engagement.

It worked in Finland. It’s working in Eagle Mountain Elementary School in Ft. Worth, TX.

What is this bright idea?

Letting kids be kids.  Give them four recess periods a day. Outside, rain or shine, no matter what. Let them run around and scream and chase each other and hang from playground equipment. Let them have fun without instruction.

What was the result?  Kids concentrate better in class. They fidget less. They learn more. They act better.

Who knew?

So what can you do if your school has your kid’s nose to the academic grindstone and you’re seeing more problems with focus?

  • Look at the Liink Project to see how one hour a week of ethics and five hours a week of recess makes schools measurably higher-scoring in academics. Approach your students’ school board to see if they are aware of this research and results.
  • If your school doesn’t have recess, you MAKE recess. Require that your grade-school student come home from school, get a snack and wind down, then go outside in your yard (or with you at a nearby park) and act like a kid for at least 30 minutes! See if homework doesn’t go more smoothly once they’ve released some of the school tension by just being a kid for a while.
Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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