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Prevention Institute

January 17, 2013

New advocacy resource: American Academy of Pediatrics endorses recess
Rapid Response: Dialogue on Food and Activity

This month, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a landmark policy statement in support of recess as a crucial tool in advancing children’s health and development. Citing two decades’ worth of research, the AAP concludes that recess not only “serves as a necessary break from the rigors of concentrated, academic challenges in the classroom,” but offers unique “cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits” that play a vital role in every child’s school day.

Limited resources and staffing, and an increasing emphasis on academics and testing, have whittled away at dedicated time for recess. In California, enhancing physical activity in schools is a key priority in communities up and down the state. For local advocates, AAP’s statement can help make the case that recess is essential for the health, social development, and academic performance of California’s kids.

The following stories highlight the American Academy of Pediatrics statement, and use compelling frames to drive home the importance of recess:

•    Frame #1: Taking time for recess enhances academic achievement. Participation in Recess and unstructured playtime are integral to academic achievement. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that physical activity doesn’t take away from educational performance but actually enhances it.

“Everyone should be jumping in the air and clicking their heels together [over this],” Kranowitz said. “This is great news. Unstructured, creative play is what we want to sponsor in our children... When you are playing hopscotch, you are learning math skills,” Kranowitz said. “When you are standing on a step and jumping as far as you can and the next time you jump farther, you are learning about addition and physics and aerodynamics. When you are observing an ant hill, you are learning about zoology and social behavior. All of this matters when you go back in the classroom.”
-- New AAP statement calls recess “crucial” to child’s development (Washington Post)

•    Frame #2: All kids deserve a fair chance at health.  Not all school environments are created equal. Across the country, students in low-resource schools experience a “recess gap,” in which many students receive no time for recess at all, when compared to their peers in more affluent schools.

Kids love recess, and we should nurture and encourage the love for something that is incredibly good for them. More than that, though, we have a job as parents and educators to protect recess. For it's not merely a privilege afforded to the best schools and most well-behaved students; it's a childhood right that will do wonders not only for their academic success but for their social and emotional well-being.
-- “Recess important part of kids’ education” (Sacramento Bee)

•    Frame #3: Safeguarding children’s health is a community responsibility. Physical activity is essential for kids’ physical, mental, social and academic development. Parents and families have a role to play in protecting child health, but they can’t do it all alone. Schools and community institutions have a critical role to play in ensuring access to safe places for kids to play and opportunities to be active during the school day.

We did not come across any examples of this community responsibility frame in coverage of the AAP policy statement, but we believe that this frame has the potential to help local advocates make a strong case for policy, systems and environmental changes by placing responsibility for children’s health squarely on the community as a whole.

Take Action: Media advocacy in support of recess

1) Use the American Academy of Pediatrics statement as a hook when you pitch your community’s work around physical activity during the school day to a local health or education reporter. For tips on pitching your story to a reporter, visit the Strategic Alliance website.

2) Listen to one of the co-authors of the AAP policy statement make the case for recess on WHYY’s RadioTimes.

3) Post a comment online in response to related coverage you’ve seen, or write a letter to the editor outlining the benefits of recess and physical activity in your community.

4) Connect with Strategic Alliance on Twitter (
@Strat_Alliance) - we’ll be tweeting research, talking points, and community stories that help make the case for Complete Streets and other built environment policy changes.

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Get featured in a future Rapid Response alert!

If you’re using media advocacy to advance policy, systems and environmental changes in your community, we want to talk to you! We’re looking for advocates, health departments and community coalitions working on food and activity to share their media advocacy stories in future Rapid Responses. Email us today!

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