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Should Running at Recess Be Banned?

By November 12, 2012

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Image: D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr/CCL

I thought it was bad enough when one of my kids came home and told me they weren't allowed to talk anymore at lunchtime, but I never thought I'd see the day when kids couldn't run around at recess! According to a recent blog post on Parenting.com, that's exactly what's happening in one (unnamed) school district.

Unfortunately, neither Parenting.com's post or the original source of the story, a post on Free Range Kids, has any information about the reasoning behind the "no running" policy, but I can't think of anything that would override a child's need to regulate his body in order to regulate his mind for learning.

As the About.com Guide to Family Fitness, Catherine, points out in her article Teach the Importance of Activity, exercise "feeds" the brain and releases endorphins that help everyone perform at optimal levels.

Add to that the fact that an increasing number of children (1 in 88) have an Autism Spectrum Disorder and untold numbers of children in classrooms have dysfunction in sensory regulation, disorders in which physical regulation is closely tied to emotional regulation, and not allowing kids to run at recess could actually be detrimental to more than just one child's learning.

In fact, in an article in Psychology Today, arguing against taking away recess as a punishment, Drs. Michael Otto and Jasper Smits stated: "Research indicates that even 15 minutes of post-lunch exercise can improve cognitive performance that very school day."

Of course, the school in question isn't taking away recess, but they are severely limiting the way children are being allowed to exercise. What would you do if this happened in your child's school?

November 12, 2012 at 7:53 pm
(1) Patti Wigington says:

A few years ago, my kids elementary school established a rule that there was to be no running at recess because running usually involved games of Tag — and Tag, apparently, makes some kids feel bullied when they’re It.

It seemed like a very strange logic process, and apparently didn’t last long. I know darn well my kids run all over the place.

November 12, 2012 at 8:14 pm
(2) Jana says:

Kids absolutely need to run! And they need to learn how to socialize appropriately at lunch by speaking with their peers!!! I’m becoming more and more enamored of my daughter’s school where they focus on “Whole Child” education including Physical, Emotional, and Social in addition to their cognitive development. We need to let kids be, well, kids!

November 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm
(3) Nessa says:

I can understand the no talking at lunch to some extent. At the school I sub at, many of the kids are sometimes too busy bopping around and talking and wouldn’t finish their lunch. There aren’t rules about not talking, but they’re told to stay in their seats and eat first.

But running..they need it. Kids get squirrely and wiggly and running it off can help make the day go smoother. Keeps them healthier too.

November 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm
(4) JessMarie says:

Kids need to be kids! Run, talk, jump, shout, sing, wear buckets on their heads! Stop the “sit down and shut up” culture!!!!!

November 12, 2012 at 8:21 pm
(5) Erica says:

Kids DO need to run and have downtime/ physical activity at recess! (and to talk at lunch…our elem. school doesn’t give them much talking time but luckily the middle school lets them talk while they eat).

November 12, 2012 at 9:43 pm
(6) Jon says:

A safety risk? Wow, is that actually some people’s stance?

November 13, 2012 at 12:44 am
(7) Carrie says:

This is crazy. The school cannot keep limiting children just in case something happens. Good grief – a kid could poke his eye out with a pencil. Should they all use keyboards instead?

The real risk here is getting these children accustomed to sitting in one place all day without getting up and moving. That’s not natural and shouldn’t be encouraged. Let them run and be wild for a while!

November 13, 2012 at 1:00 am
(8) Stephanie says:

Oh Lawd. Bust out the bubble wrap.

November 13, 2012 at 1:35 am
(9) Sukhmandir Kaur says:

The year my son turned nine he kept gaining weight, every week or two I had to buy him new clothes. The next school year a teacher casually mentioned something about how he had been kept in the library during every one of his lunch recess the year before. I had never been consulted by either teachers, faculty or any school staff members, my son never once mentioned it. I felt so violated and outraged on my child’s behalf. He struggled with weight until his mid teens.America has an obesity problem which is not all about food. Kids need to run!

November 13, 2012 at 1:40 am
(10) Angela says:

Name the school district. Out them. This is stupid. And you wonder why America’s kids are obese? Stupid.

November 13, 2012 at 11:10 am
(11) Kerry says:

Children are hardwired to run and it is ridiculous to think that the dangers would ever outweigh the benefits.

November 13, 2012 at 11:56 am
(12) Maureen says:

I am in the NYC school district. There is no running in most schools in our neighborhood (public or parochial). The argument is that there isn’t “safe space” — usually just a parking lot to play in. But I played on asphalt for 9 years of grammar school and lived to tell about it.

Ironically, I started homeschooling this year and one of the requirements I am supposed to meet includes “one hour of physical activity per day.”

That’s easy when the kids are home anyway, but interesting, considering I bet no kid in a NYC public school is getting that during their school day.

November 13, 2012 at 7:13 pm
(13) Nikki says:

This is just plain stupid. With obesity running rampant among children and adults in today’s world, kid’s should be encouraged to run and play at recess. I remember as a kid feeling an urge to run and run and run sometimes.

November 14, 2012 at 2:09 am
(14) Doris says:

I can see banning running on a paved surface, and there may be some school playgrounds, especially in urban areas, where the entire playground is paved. In those cases, they better have a nice, indoor gym where the kids get lots of time to run.

November 15, 2012 at 5:59 pm
(15) Alicia says:

When I returned to school to go to my first grade class I was held back and spent a second year in kindergarden and part of that year I went to a special school. I was re-integrated back into my new class in the first grade. The game Red Rover played with my soon to be new classmates and special education speech classes was the difference in my then autistic life but at that time I was also dealing with hyperactivity which at that time my family was faced with fighting school authorities because they wanted me on Ritalin or I couldn’t go to school. The words attention deficit disorder and autism were scarsely even in coming into existence then. Recess meant the world to me because there was school equipment to play with and children to inter-react with. Tag involved running, softball involved running, and then relay races too involved running. I didn’t know a single fat kid then and I was better off with fresh air and exercise and never had to take any Ritalin shot. Don’t take away recess. If kid’s can’t run these days they should be placed into an institution where everything they do involves being physically active to prepare them for entry into careers in sports and passing a military basic training course. These kids are our future.

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