The value of school ‘breaks’
‘Breaks’ during the school day are more than an opportunity for children to fuel up with a snack. This time offers opportunities that can impact positively on a child’s learning as well as their social and emotional development.
Firstly, the physical activity and social interactions that children engage in during these times help lower stress levels, which may rise during class times. Relieving stress helps to regulate their nervous systems which in turn allows them to pay better attention and engage with learning events once back in class.
When under stress, children are more prone to behave reactively (fight and flight responses) so find it difficult to pay attention, follow instructions, solve problems or incorporate new information into existing knowledge. A calm child is better able to use the brain’s executive functions to regulate behaviour and emotions so perform better in school and feel better about themselves.
William Massey, writing for The Conversation, says that his research shows that children get a large proportion of their outdoor and movement time during school breaks. Their activities – running and chasing, swinging, playing games – helps to restore children’s access to higher-level brain functions. They also use this time to form meaningful relationships and practice social skills which are important for social and emotional development.
So regular breaks during the school day help children reduce stress, form friendships and get their brains more ready to learn. They are definitely more than just a time to consume those sandwiches – and should never be denied a child.