Living Well

Is Activity Important for Kids and Teens?

Andrew J. Siegel, M.D.
Is Activity Important for Kids and Teens?

Children are back in school, and teachers want to provide the best education possible for their students. In recent years, surveys have shown a trend in reducing recess to accommodate additional time for academic subjects. However, play is important in developing fundamental skills and improving development.

Why is recess important?

Recess is a necessary break from academic subjects. Playing teaches fundamental skills, such as collaboration, creativity and problem solving. It teaches children the importance of physical health as well. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children participate in 60 minutes of “moderate to vigorous activity per day,” and suggested that recess be part of that. Also, parents should encourage extracurricular activity. It helps kids to become a more-rounded person and prepares them for adulthood.

What are the benefits of recess and after school activity?

In early learning, play and learning are inextricably linked. It combines playful discovery with the development of social–emotional skills. When playing with toys, toddlers learn by looking and listening to those around them. Moreover, with older and younger kids, playing improves readiness. Students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. Bored children do not learn as well.

Other benefits:Smiling teens holding musical instruments

  • Improves social skills
  • Improves communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control
  • Teaches children how to manage and eliminate stress
  • Improves motor skills, coordination, balance and flexibility.
  • Reduces sedentary behavior
  • Decreases fatigue and depression
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Improves the ability to fall asleep quickly and sleep well
  • Improves self-image/self-esteem
  • Improves essential life skills, such as teamwork, time management, leadership, goal setting and problem solving
  • Increases enthusiasm and optimism

If your child is a high school student, extracurricular activity can help build their resume and improve their application for colleges.

How can parents encourage play and activity in toddlers and teenagers?

Play is an opportunity for parents to engage with their children by observing and understanding nonverbal behavior and sharing their joy. One study documented that positive parenting activities, such as playing and shared reading, result in decreases in parental experiences of stress and enhancement in the parent–child relationship. Parents who facilitate a child’s play without being intrusive can encourage the child’s independent exploration and learning. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:

  • Read to your child.
  • Take trips to the park, beach, and other places.
  • Encourage play with other children.
  • Let your child help with chores
  • Limit your child’s TV access. This means TV no more than 1 to 2 hours per day.

In older children, parents should offer a wide range of experiences and let them decide what peaks their interest. However, it is recommended to start early to find your child’s interest.

Click here to learn more about the importance of play.

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Dr. Andrew SiegelDr. Andrew J Siegel is an Internal Medicine Specialist in New Orleans, Louisiana. Andrew was born and raised in California and spent his undergrad years at the University of California. He graduated with honors from Tulane University School Of Medicine in 2016. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his wife and child, being outdoors, cooking, or eating at one of the city’s many tasty restaurants.