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Studies Show that Free Play Time Reduces Childhood Obesity, Helps Students Concentrate and Develop Communication Skills

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Shirley K. Turner that would aid with child development by increasing cognitive skills, reducing obesity and bettering classroom behavior by ensuring all children receive some free play time during the school day was approved today by the full Senate.

“Along with other classes, recess is an integral part of a school’s curriculum that can help children develop necessary cognitive and communication skills for the future,” said Senator Turner (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “During this time, children learn valuable lessons through unstructured play time that further develop their mental and physical health. It is important that we provide recess in schools as part of a curriculum that will ensure the health, well-being and future success of students.”

The bill, S-1594, would require New Jersey public schools to provide a minimum of 20 minutes a day of recess for children in grades kindergarten through five.

According to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report, most school principals say that recess actually enhances the ability of children to learn in the classroom and improves academic achievement. The survey also concluded that nearly all principals surveyed believe that recess has a positive effect on the social development and general well-being of the child. Senator Turner added that recess also helps to improve the health of children and will assist in combating the obesity epidemic facing young people.

“Obesity today is a public health risk affecting the nation as a whole. Healthcare costs related to childhood obesity are already at $14.5 billion annually,” said Senator Turner. “If left unchecked, this could potentially put a strain on the nation’s healthcare budget. Incorporating recess at a young age is critical to establishing healthy eating and exercise habits that can help in preventing future health problems.”

Senator Turner notes that children are increasingly eating poor diets of fast food, junk food and soda and living sedentary lifestyles spending their free time playing video games or watching television. According to the American Heart Association, obese children’s arteries resemble the thickness of artery walls of an average 45-year-old and the prevalence of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure is alarming.

Unfortunately many schools are taking away recess in order to focus on meeting academic standards and improving student test scores, according to Senator Turner. Forty percent of US schools have reduced or eliminated recess, according to Childhood Education, the bimonthly journal of the Association for Childhood Education International, and high-minority, high-poverty and urban schools have seen even greater cuts into the children’s recess time.

The bill was approved with a vote of 39-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.