Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Importance of Recess

The other day my oldest son was bouncing off of every wall in our house like a ping pong ball. I looked at him after about an hour and said, "you didn't have outside recess today, did you?" His immediate response, with a bummed face was, "No, it was raining all day." It was an awful rainy/icy day in Vermont leading to an indoor recess, which is actually, and thankfully, a rare occurrence. I'm happy to say that even all winter, the kids get bundled and get out for some much needed fresh air and movement. Now, our oldest is one who needs to move, daily, and it was quite amazing how that day impacted him.

This got me thinking of how many children in today's world are not getting the movement and exercise they need, getting required oxygen to their brains for development, motor skill enhancement, opening learning capacities and emotional regulation to name a few benefits. Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a big epidemic in our world today as well, a culture becoming more and more built on eating processed foods while sitting on a computer or tablet at all ages. The decrease in movement, sun exposure and fresh air is having a real impact on our children. Children are constantly diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, OCD, and Anxiety at alarmingly young ages and are being prescribed meds for these diagnoses. The truth is, increasing movement and exercise, decreasing screen time, and improving a child's diet with whole foods filled with vitamins, minerals and nutrients is all the prescription a child may need, so please consider these options first.

As school systems and teachers across our country have more demands placed on them in regards to budgets, standards and tests, and parents are working more and more to support their families, it seems the importance of play, recess and PE keep taking the hit, impacting our kids. As an OT in the schools, I highly encourage teachers to NEVER, yes NEVER, take a recess away from a student. If it's missing homework, irresponsible behavior, talking out in class, taking away recess will most likely only enhance those behaviors as the child is now losing their movement time for that day, and this may be the only real movement they will receive. Allowing children to move freely, laugh, and run with their peers is allowing them to grow neurologically and physically, and be more prepared for learning when entering back into the classroom. Some tips to combat or calm overstimulation when returning from recess can be:

  • wall push-ups prior to walking through the door 
  • hook-ups giving a nice tight squeeze
  • 3-5 balloon breaths (hold hands at sides and on the inhale, raise arms overhead and blow up your belly like a balloon, hold the breath - clap hands and pop the balloon or don't - exhale, arms slowly return to sides)
  • 5 minutes of lying down listening to meditative music.

I hope that this post has been helpful in encouraging you, whether you are a mom, dad, aunt, uncle, teacher, administrator, to help kids get out there and MOVE, in an unstructured manner. The unstructured piece is just as important, as this promotes imagination, teamwork, creativity and the ability to just be a kid!

As always, if you have concerns about your child's development or would like ways to incorporate holistic therapies into your child's life, please contact me! I look forward to working with some of you in the future!

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