New study: Kids really should have recess before they eat lunch

Playground. Wikimedia Commons.

When is recess at your child’s school in Florida?

It’s in an important question because a new study shows that students should have recess before they go to lunch, rather than after.

Think about the time of the day when moms, dads and grandparents had recess.

“Historically, school administrators schedule recess immediately after lunch,” said Carol Friesen, a nutrition and dietetics professor at Ball State University in Indiana.

“Recent research, however, suggests a plethora of benefits if recess is scheduled before lunch, including decreased plate waste, increased consumption of nutrients, and decreased discipline problems on the playground and in the lunchroom,” said Friesen, one of the researchers involved in the study on the timing of recess.

The study surveyed Indiana elementary school principals in schools with 5th graders and younger, but the issue connects to schools across the nation.

The results showed that almost 70 percent of schools surveyed followed the traditional path of providing recess after lunch.

Pushing recess before lunch created barriers, principals said, such as having to revise their daily school schedules. There also was resistance from some parents and concerns about breaking tradition.

But schools that provided recess before lunch showed benefits, such as improved behavior in the cafeteria, students being more attentive in class and increased consumption of healthful foods, according to the study.

Principals who scheduled recess before lunch said they made decisions based on the current research and other factors.

“The feedback received by the principals from parents, students, and staff regarding offering recess before lunch was either positive or neutral in tone,” the study said.

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.