Yay, recess! — The opportunity and challenge of keeping kids active during distance learning

If you ask many school-age kids what their favorite thing about school is, many will say recess or gym.

The largely virtual fall 2020 school semester is presenting some never-before-imagined opportunities for school children, but also some new challenges.

Many local school systems’ live-online teaching are building recess into the virtual school day, often pairing it with lunch, which means children can have up to an hour to themselves away from the computer.

That means that children can leave their homes to get some fresh air with few restrictions — as long as their parents agree.

Recess has changed over the years — most school systems don’t allow variations of dodgeball anymore — but the benefits of recess are well-documented.

“Kids are mammals — they learn through play,” said Dr. John Farrell, of South Riding Pediatrics.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recess helps children by increasing their level of physical activity, improving memory and attention, and helping them stay on-task in the classroom.

“And don’t get too focused on academics — parents can just get them outside for a walk,” said Farrell.

The social benefits are equally beneficial, says the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing and problem solving, as well as coping skills such as perseverance and self-control.”

Going outside to play — or even playing indoors — during distance learning without a teacher to blow a whistle requires children to keep track of when recess ends. While the old-fashioned method of a parent leaning out the front door and calling the child home is still an option, most kids are capable of setting alarms or reminders on their increasingly ubiquitous mobile devices.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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