in life

Bring Recess Back

When we were kids, our teachers used to schedule “recess” as part of our school day. This glorious hour of the day had no rules and no restrictions (other than playing “doctor” behind the tire swing). The bell rang, we ran around, and well, that’s about it.

But as we got older, recess fell by the wayside. We got too old and things got “too important” to have part of our day be so unstructured and unproductive. By the time we hit middle school, recess was nothing but a distant memory.

And now, here I am, much older, (I think) much wiser, proclaiming that we need to bring recess back into our lives.

It may not involve playing freeze tag or duck-duck-goose. It probably isn’t going to end with a carton of “Orange Drink” and cookies, curling up on a blue foam mat listening to Mrs. Morris read Berenstain Bears as we drift into a sweet, sweet nap…

But we, collectively, need to rethink our priorities and allows ourselves to be spontaneous. To take a turn every now and then down the path that may not be the most rational, but that excites and inspires us. That makes us happy.

Yesterday morning started with a drive back from a weekend getaway with my wife in Asheville. And ended with an impromptu stay in Knoxville for the night, eating pizza and drinking craft beer in our hotel room as we slowly drifted in and out of sleep watching Billy Crystal do his thing on the Oscars for the 2,918,743 year in a row.

It may sound lame to you. But that unstructured, unplanned addition to our getaway was the highlight of the weekend. It didn’t really make sense. The idea came out of nowhere. But sometimes, the best ideas are the ones you just do. Without question. Without planning. Without regard. Without worry.

We should all shake up the structure and bend the routine more often. As kids, recess was designed to do just that – in the middle of learning multiplication and geography, it was our opportunity to stretch our creative muscles, step away from the structure, and just “be”.

As adults, no matter how insanely busy you may be, you need recess. For your mind and for your body. Not only will it make you happy. It will bring you back to the structure with renewed energy and a rejuvenated perspective.

Ring the bell. Ring your bell. We’re not supposed to be still. We need to be running around. Playing. Learning. Living. 

(Photo credit)

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  1. Couldn’t agree with you more, Matt. We’re building our entire business around this idea. Get out and play. Love it.

  2. This is great insight and I definitely try to integrate it into my life. Still, I can’t help but notice a pattern with my goals: Take the bus or ride my bike more. Make time for recess. Read more books. I feel like I’m turning myself into a 5th grader again.

    • We’d all be a lot better off if we’d allow ourselves to think, and act, like our childlike selves from time to time. Adult responsibilities cause us to lose touch with that curiosity and freedom that we used to have – it takes real effort to tap back into that, but it’s 100% worth it.

  3. I really enjoyed this post and wish I could live by it but my life seems to keep getting in the way. Often I’ll “plan” to give myself down time but then when the time comes, I find that I have no idea what I want to do with it!! I need a lesson on “what to do when you want to be spontaneous” 

    • Don’t over-think it! That’s my best piece of advice. Spontaneous can be going on a vacation or watching a movie – there’s no right or wrong. The most important thing is that we schedule, and prioritize “free” time. Work to Live. Don’t live to work.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I just took  my first real vacation-went to the beach, played in the sand, ate chocolate cake for breakfast, ran around, wore ridiculous sunglasses, and took pictures of silly things. I had FUN for the first time in my adult life and I never, ever, ever want to lose this feeling. Work shouldn’t be a place or state of dread or something that keeps us up at night and prevents us from feeling dead on the inside.

    Here’s to more fun, laughter, and more playtime. Feel free to come visit me in the sandbox. I share my toys!

  5. Go to ‘RECESS SUCCESS AT AMS’.Help get recess back for middle school kids of Asheville,NC safely.Kids need fresh air and sunshineEVERY DAY! Kids need outdoor recess as break to re-set their brain for continued learning.Before lunch to set their biologic clock for better sleep at night.They awaken more refreshed.Recess before lunch as a mid-day break in their academic day gives benefits for health, academics, brain function and growth, social skills. learning, memory. If other inner cities with bigger issues than ours can do it safely we can do it too! There are community resources. Volunteers. Grants. Let’s stand up so they can play too! Let the children play till their old and grey!