Surprise, recesses are good for grownups

How old were you when you stopped enjoying a leg-pumping, breath-taking swing at the playground?  Or were you a monkey-bars maniac who swung between the bars with abandon, your hand only just reaching the next landing place before your fingers slipped from the prior grip? Last Monday I skidded into twilight all pooped out, wondering how it was that I had only walked 1000 steps when I felt like I had sprinted an Olympic race. As I ticked off all the accomplishments I realized I might as well have gone on a twelve hour road trip because I had sat all day long, taking only necessary breaks for food, water, and washroom.  It really was like a road trip with Greg when the destination was the end and the trip was something to endure.  Instead of a road trip I had taken a desk-trip and I couldn't blame anyone else for the experience.  I was the only one organizing and executing the plan. I had control over the number of breaks or stops I took and I had failed to push my chair out from the desk to exercise my options.  Right then and there I decided that I needed to institute recess time on a daily basis.

Suntanning in the Spring

Recess time had been on my mind because I was driving to town a week ago with Shine FM playing on the radio and I heard a story that really surprised me.  If you have ever been driving along and suddenly realized that the radio announcer has mentioned your name then you have some idea of my surprise.  Sure as I sit here typing, I heard it.  Usually I don't tune my attention into the radio for the talking stuff between songs, but when one hears their name - well that's a whole other experience.  Anyway, I started paying attention immediately.  A boy who I adored in grade two had apparently grown up, become an author, and was telling stories on the radio.  Joy King, was part of the story he was telling on that particular day as Joy (nee King) Monsma happened to be driving to town.

The story was about two youngsters who loved to ride bikes and play together in a small unlikely little Alberta town. Between trips around and across the globe, my family ended up living in the most unlikely little Alberta town for one year.  That was the year I sat in front of him in school.  It wasn't any old school.  It was a strict religious school with ridiculous rules about little boys and girls having separate playgrounds.  Girls wore dresses because pants were evil.  As you can imagine I chafed at the rules even in grade two.  Born a rebel, always a rebel.  And this rebel found a like-minded little friend in Phil Callaway. We devised ways to play together at recess even though it was against the rules and when school was out we would meet and go riding on his bike.

I loved having a challenge like that even as a child. It was the kind of challenge where you involved in something exciting, a bit crazy, and energizing.  As I listened to his story on the radio, I was surprised at how my memory of that time was as clear as his.  I have lots of blank parts in my childhood memories but recess time, bike riding, and Phil are pretty vivid.  Right down to the smell of honeysuckle and lilac from the hedges we rode through and met by in order to be hidden from the powers that be.  But it was recess that really got my attention when I heard the radio blurb.

Robin in the treetop
I began to wonder why adults don't take recess time.  Children get it and there are studies corroborating the great benefits.  The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recognizes the rights of children to have time to play.  A Stanford University article points to several other studies within it that demonstrate the value of recess.  I wondered why all those benefits suddenly get shoved into a deep dark closet when we reach junior high age.  Do they magically vanish or no longer apply as we pass through puberty?  It roused the rebel in me again. I thought we needed to introduce recess to all ages, in all settings and we should lead a charge to measure and validate the results of a scientifically framed study.  I decided to start with myself which means that the sample isn't representative statistically speaking but who cares?

One should always start with oneself no matter what advice is being dispensed.  On Tuesday I became my own guinea pig.  I took a recess break.  Kanti and I went out in the sunshine and the wind for about fifteen minutes.  I walked. Kanti ran back and forth overjoyed at the thought of her human coming out to play in the middle of the day. At times she got so excited that she spun around in circles.  The wind made my eyes and nose run.  The sun warmed my head and my heart, and I went back into the office full of hope.  My first experiment had turned out okay.  So I tried again the next day and the next.  I thought I might be on to something and that I should share it with you.  Will you join me?  I have been posting the photos with the hashtag #recesstime.  Maybe enough rebels will join the recess revolution and we will discover a very simple and cost effective way to stimulate economic recovery, increase productivity, and trigger innovation!  My tongue was stuck in the side of my cheek as I typed the last statement, but you should be warned that I do think there might be hope for us all if we just took a recess!