Do kids need more recess time? Project suggests students do better academically with more free play

Several North Texas schools are changing and now giving students more time for recess.

In most elementary schools, kids get one recess for about 15 minutes a day. But the LIINK Project calls for four recess breaks and a total of about an hour of free play.

TCU professor Dr. Debbie Rhea, who is the director of the project, said there is strong research that shows that children who engage in more physical activity and play do better academically than children who sit in a classroom all day.

The project emphasizes unstructured play, which is said to prepare the brain for learning. It also helps them develop socially and emotionally, Rhea said.

Irving ISD has three schools participating in the project including Townsell Elementary School. Principal Angela Long said right now it is being tested with the kindergarten and first grade classes.

She said there is absolutely still enough time for the kids to learn.

"We find that we spend less time in the classroom redirecting off-task behavior. So, kids are going to take recess whether it's in the class or outside so we just give it to them," Long said.

Other schools that have tried out the program have said kids are less fidgety, more focused, follow directions better, are better problem solvers and there are fewer discipline issues.

Long said the kindergarten and first grade parents are not hesitant about the changes at all. But Rhea knows there is a big emphasis on test scores for older students. The changes are a hard sell.

"There are certain administrators that say, 'This just won't work.' And we're showing that it really is working," Rhea said.

Schools across the country are reportedly watching the project and waiting to see the results. Rhea and Long hope to see it expand to more grade levels and schools in the next year.