Race to Recess: How Unstructured Play Helps Kids

Jillian Berndtson

| 3 min read

Multi-ethnic group of little friends with toothy smiles on their faces enjoying warm sunny day while participating in soap bubbles show
The thoughts of running outside, swinging on a swing set and jumping rope probably bring back memories of your favorite time as a kid – recess. Unfortunately, kids today aren’t as active as their parents were growing up.
One-third of children are overweight or obese, leaving room for a host of other health complications. So what can be done to help?
Prevention starts by instilling healthy habits in children when they are young. Beyond teaching them to eat healthy, it is advised that every kid gets at least 60 minutes of exercise per day. You can help by encouraging kids to get active – play outside, have a friend over and play a game of soccer, go for a walk – the possibilities are endless.
Not only will your kids have fun during their free play, but they’ll also enjoy plenty of the health benefits as well. Some of the benefits of unstructured playtime include:
  • Burning calories: Physical activity helps the body burn calories, preventing weight gain and contributing to healthy weight management. This decreases the likelihood of developing other weight-related diseases later in life.
  • Giving your mind a creative boost: According to the National Institutes of Health, a little exercise helps to spur our creativity. Kids love creative tasks and having them exercise for a bit beforehand can help their wildest ideas flow.
  • Promoting greater self-esteem: Sedentary lifestyles often hurt kids’ self-esteem. Encouraging them to go outside or be active can lead to greater happiness and confidence as they grow.
  • Socializing with friends: Physical activity helps develop important social skills, such as teamwork and leadership among peers. A study conducted by the University of Michigan found that middle school-aged children who were active for at least 20 minutes per day had greater leadership skills than those who were not.
In addition, many reports have found that kids who engage in physical activity see better academic achievements. Reports have found that students who eat healthy and exercise regularly perform better in school. The exercise does not have to be rigorous to affect learning. A simple morning walk or bike ride to school has proven effective. Even the smallest of tasks, such as incorporating exercise into classroom lessons can help the brain learn. Not only is free play good for the body, it’s good for the mind too.
Getting started is easy and parents can join on the fun too! So who is going to help kids be more active in their daily lives? Tag, you’re it!
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Photo credit: SeventyFour

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