Prescription for play
Why this pediatrician makes the case for mandatory recess
Did you know that neither the Fort Worth ISD nor the Dallas ISD currently have recess policies?
At least not yet, but both school districts are considering adopting a policy and Dallas ISD could have one by the end of the day.
That news makes Kim Mangham, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician in Keller, both relieved and happy. Dr. Mangham focuses on nutrition and activity with her patient families and she believes this is a good start for area schools to get kids moving.
As early as January 2007, A Clinical Report in the Journal of Pediatrics emphasized the benefits of free play for children, “but since that time it seems we have drifted farther and farther away from this concept,” Dr. Mangham said. “Kindergarten and even preschool curriculums are emphasizing academics over social and emotional development, and kids are presenting at younger ages with anxiety and depression due to academic pressures.”
For all children, especially those with ADHD, Dr. Mangham said it is vital that they are offered unstructured free time to allow them to process the information they have learned and to get their exercise. Only then can they return to the classroom and focus.
Children have an innate need to be outside and run and play, according to Dr. Mangham. This helps them to connect socially with their peers and allows them to settle back down in the classroom and learn again.
“I hear from so many of my parents that their children do so much better with homework if they are allowed to play outside after school,” Dr. Mangham said. “Kids are so worn out by the end of the day, they need to decompress and let their brains rest before they can focus again on school work. I tell my parents that if they want well behaved children, to let them run and play outside and to burn off all of their energy. “
Why not focus on the things that are free from side effects and cost nothing? We have so much to gain, says Dr. Mangham.
Children have so much adult-directed time – in the classroom, with sports, with extracurricular activities and with chores in the home. Adults even try to interfere with free play. Children need that free time to learn to share, play nicely, make up games, follow rules, get along and just enjoy friends.
Cook Children’s offers Go Noodle to 18 ISDs (including public, private and charter elementary schools in Cook Children’s six-county region) and 515 schools. The 120,619 students and 4,918 teachers have logged over 35 million aggregate minutes of physical activity.
“My 12 year old daughter started sixth grade this year,” Dr. Mangham said. “Her biggest complaint is not being able to be outside all day. Their only break is the four minute transition time between classes and lunch. “She says, ‘I miss being outside and seeing the sky and the trees.’ My 8 year old son loves climbing trees. The reflection and relaxation he gets while sitting in the top of his tree is just as important as the exercise he gets while climbing.”
About the source
Kim Mangham, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician at 1601 Keller Parkway in Keller, Texas. She earned her medical degree at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. She completed the pediatric residency program at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. Her interests include breastfeeding education as well as disease and injury prevention. Dr. Mangham is board certified in pediatrics.