Adult Recess

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On a recent midday stroll along Flinder’s Lane in Melbourne, Australia, I noticed adults hurrying from their office buildings. For the most part, their faces held looks of pleasant anticipation, much different from the rushed and anxious looks they held hours earlier on the rush to work. I’ve seen this phenomenon in Chicago, Nashville, Edmonton, Seattle, Cork, St Louis, and many other cities as well: these adults were headed to recess.

Set free from their office tower jobs for an hour or so, they scurried down the narrow lane to the park for a bit of personal renewal. Time away from offices, cubicles, florescent lighting, deadlines, and irritating coworkers. (Having never actually worked in an office setting, I have no idea if anything in that last sentence was accurate–I’m guessing based on what I’ve seen on television and in movies.) Anyway, they seemed happy to have some time to themselves to spend as they choose.

Based on the sizes of the buildings in the cities listed above and my knowledge of humans, my guess is that fewer than 100% engage in outside recess. I’m sure some feel their time is better spent with nose to the grindstone, some had recess taken away by a demanding boss (“No Recess for you today Jenkins, You didn’t finish your TPS reports!”), and some are inside adults. *

It’s too bad that not all adults (and kids) get a nice hunk of midday time to do as they please. Dr. Stuart Brown would argue all humans need to play to, Danial Pink would argue that a bit of mid-day downtime is good for productivity and creativity, Richard Louv would argue that time outside is well spent, and Dr. John Medina would argue that adult recess is good for the brain.

What does adult recess look like? Over the next few days I did some observing and snapped a few pictures of Melbourne adults who did get outside recess.

Some strolled. Alone and in small groups, they strolled through nearby parks, along the Yarra River, and up and down the city’s busy sidewalks.

Others scrolled. Walking, standing, or seated, there was a lot of smartphone activity. Facebook, Twitter, shopping, texting, and games.

Some chatted. There was a lot of conversation about all the things humans converse about as they walk, sit, eat, run, and play together.

Some Read. They read on their phones, they read on Kindles, they read on tablets, and they read old fashioned magazines, newspapers, and books made of paper.

Some smoked. Forbidden in the office, allowed during recess. I saw (and smelled) cigarettes, cigars, hipster pipes, and weed.

Some nibbled. I saw seated nibbles, walking nibbles, homemade nibbles, purchased nibbles, planned nibbles, and I-gotta-try-that nibbles.

Some romanced. I decided not to snap any photos, but observed flirting, hand-holding, and multiple make out sessions (I’m not sure that’s what the young people call it nowadays, and I didn’t want to interrupt and ask.)

Some sought stillness. There was meditation (alone and in groups). There were people actively seeking to find outside space away from other humans. There was the now universal social signal to Leave Me Alone: eyes-closed-while-sitting-still-and-wearing-earbuds.

Some sought exercise. There was running, yoga, karate classes, jumping jacks, push ups, squats, and formal an informal active play. Some changed into their play clothes for recess.

Some, like the guys below, just removed their jackets and ties and kicked around a half-empty water bottle.

Like kids, adults need some midday free time to refresh and reset their minds and bodies. During this hiatus from the workday, they seem to get up to the stuff that we humans enjoy doing to recharge ourselves.

Do you get adult recess? If not, would you like it? If so, what do you do? How could you make it happen? What about the kids in your life? What does recess look like at their school? How much freedom and choice do they have? How much recess time?

*I’d love to go undercover as an office worker and see what the Inside Adults do during recess. If I ever get the chance I’ll update this article. My guess is that it’s probably the inside version of the stuff I’ve outlined.

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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.