When families are thinking of enrolling their child in a Montessori program, one of the most common questions asked is, “When do the children have recess? How often are they outside?”
In the book, From Childhood to Adolescence, Dr. Maria Montessori states, “The closed environment is felt as a constraint, and that is why [the child] no longer wishes to go to school. He prefers to catch frogs and play in the street. These seemingly superficial factors prove that the child needs wider boundaries than heretofore.” What is the closed environment that she is referring to? Someplace rigid, like a traditional classroom with no recess. A balance of work/play is important to Montessori schools, and recess is built into the daily schedule.
The Value of Recess
“The Crucial Role of Recess in School” was released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently. Within the policy statement, the AAP states, “Recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits that may not be fully appreciated when a decision is made to diminish it. Recess is necessary for the health and development of children and should never be withheld for punishment or for academic reasons.”
In other words, recess is essential. It should not be taken from a child who has misbehaved. Recess is not meant to be a privilege or a reward. It is something that is required for children to thrive.
Montessori schools agree that recess meets the emotional, social, and physical needs children need to develop. That is why movement and play are so integral to the Montessori curriculum.
The Montessorian View of Recess
Maria Montessori called “play” a child’s work. In other words, without an element of play, children cannot work. Unstructured time is just as important to a child’s development as structured periods of work. Some schools will have an outside playground set up for their students, while others avoid using the word “recess” and weave in movement throughout the day.
That said, physical activity is a focus on the Montessori curriculum.
In a Montessori classroom, the children have uninterrupted periods of work, but they are still and concentrating because they are captivated. This self-directed environment makes it easier for children to sit quietly and focus, unlike the traditional lecture hall.
Yet, even during these moments of quiet, there is some kind of motion involved. Children are counting, arranging blocks, writing, and carrying items around the room. There are multiple trips required to bring materials, such as the Pink Tower, from its place on the shelves to the child’s chosen place to work. When children are learning about Verbs, they act out the words by running, leaping, and skipping.
There is always something happening in the classroom, even when it is quiet.
Finding the Work/Play Balance With Montessori
While there is no traditional recess time in Montessori, there is a dedicated balance between Work and Play. Montessori knew that children are fascinated by the world around them, and so she made nature a key component of the Montessori Method.
Montessori also felt that bad behaviors were a sign that the environment was no longer serving the child. That is why regular trips outside to garden and explore are part of the curriculum. Montessori teachers also look for signs that the children are becoming wary. When they sense that a break is necessary, they can pick up a bell and suggest that the children venture outside to release some energy.
However, playing outside is also full of opportunities for work and play to combine. For instance, learning how to throw and catch a ball, how to water flowers, to weed, and to name the types of clouds are all valuable skills.
What About Recess During Inclement Weather?
During the winter and summer, or on days when the weather makes it impossible to take a break outside, Montessori teachers purposefully increase movement in the classroom. For instance, the class may have tasks to clean the classroom thoroughly and practice scrubbing vigorously. The activities in the classroom may require more energy and movement, as well. This ensures that the children are learning how to expend energy usefully, all while developing interpersonal skills.
Looking For a Montessori School in Philadelphia?
Time spent at play, either indoors or outside, is an important facet of Montessori education. Recess is essential to the growth and happiness of children, as there are so many things for them to learn while at play outside. Montessori schools always work in time for play, even on days when the weather is too poor to go outside.
Fishtown Montessori incorporates outdoor play and many other physical activities, like yoga, into the daily schedule. Schedule a virtual tour of our school today to learn more about our programs and meet our incredible teachers.