Lessons From Recess

When I was a child, I can vividly remember staring at the clock, eagerly awaiting the recess bell to ring. We had three a day; two 15-minute breaks and one half-hour after lunch. As adults, I think it’s interesting to think back to this time and ponder why so many of us loved those periods so much.

At first, we might think it was because of our innocence. We may look back fondly to recess as a time that perfectly represented “no responsibility” as children. It was care-free and something we would no longer get to experience as grown-ups. But is that true? I don’t think it is.

Thinking more deeply, recess symbolized more than just being careless. It was a time of the day when I got to use my imagination, playing make-believe with friends in the field by creating fantastical stories or playing house. It was a time to use and restore energy through physical activity. It was a time for connection; I can recall playing games like Red Rover or What Time Is It Mr. Fox? with children who I didn’t even know that well, but who were still happy to join hands and maybe smash into each other a bit. I remember laughing and playing hopscotch with friends. I remember fighting, but learning how to resolve conflict before the bell beckoned us back to the classroom. There were simple joys on days when the school janitor would scale the roof and send us a hurricane of neon balls, so we could all just quickly lodge them back up there again. Recess was a time for community, fresh air, and rejuvenation.

Yet, as adults, we forget that depth. For those of us who have office jobs, we so often sequester ourselves in cubicles for eight hours, only traveling from our desk to the copier or kitchen. 

Here’s a challenge: give yourself recess again! Notice how refreshed you feel after getting outside even just for a few minutes each day. Take some time in solitude, or enjoy the company of someone else, either are beautiful. Use the time to create or reflect. If you can’t go outdoors, at the very least, change your scenery by walking through the building (or your home if you work remotely). With these small breaks, your productivity will likely improve. Your back will thank you. Your eyes will thank you. Your inner child will thank you.

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