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Having recess isn’t only fun for kids in New Jersey—it’s now the law. Starting next school year, public elementary schools there will be required to give students at least 20 minutes of recess every day.
Lawmakers were worried that students in kindergarten through fifth grade were not getting enough of a break. Some schools had shortened recess to make more time for reading, math, and other subjects. Other schools had eliminated recess entirely.
“Children need recess to give them time to play, work off their excess energy, and interact with their classmates,” says Shirley Turner. She is a New Jersey state senator who sponsored the new recess law.
Turner also points out that recess is a good way for kids to get exercise. Health experts agree on the importance of being active. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says kids need 60 minutes of physical activity a day. One way to reach that goal is to have daily recess.
But the law was meant to improve more than physical fitness. Studies have shown that students who have recess are often more focused in class and earn better grades than students who don’t. Those students also tend to behave better in class.
New Jersey is the latest state to make daily recess mandatory, or required. Similar laws went into effect in Rhode Island in 2016 and in Florida last year. Still, less than one-quarter of all states require elementary schools to offer daily recess.