||The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the English-speaking world and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (October 2011)|
Recess is a general term for a period of time in which a group of people is temporarily dismissed from its duties. In parliamentary procedure, a recess is initiated by a motion to recess. It was invented by Bronson Alcott, who wanted his students to have active physical play and time to talk.
In education, recess is the North American term (known as "lunch" or "break" in the UK and Ireland, also known as recess in Australia it is a much smaller break period where you can have some mid morning snacks and a bit of a play before having Lunch after a few more lessons, or "interval" or "morning tea" in New Zealand) for a daily period, typically ten to thirty minutes, in elementary school where students are allowed to leave the school's interior to enter its adjacent outdoor playground, where they can play on recreational equipment, such as seesaws and swing sets, or engage in activities such as basketball, dodgeball, or four square. Many middle schools also offer recess in an effort to provide students with a sufficient opportunity to consume quick snacks, communicate with their peers, visit the restroom, study, and/or other various activities.
Importance of play in child development 
Although no formal education exists during recess, sociologists and psychologists consider recess an integral portion of child development, to teach them the importance of social skills and physical education. Play is essential for children to develop not only their physical abilities, but also their intellectual, social, and moral capabilities. Via play, children are able to learn about the world around them. By role playing, children are able to experience, and gain insight on, a socio-emotional level. Psychomotor learning also gives children clues on how the world around them works as they can physically demonstrate such skills. Children need the freedom to play in order to learn skills necessary to become competent adults such as coping with stress and problem solving. Through the means of caregiver's observations of children’s play, one is able to identify deficiencies in children’s development.
If the weather is bad, recess may be held indoors, in the classroom, where the students finish work, play board games or other activities.
Effects of limiting recess 
Data suggests that students who lack opportunities for play do not grow into happy, well adjusted adults, and, although schools are now focusing their attention on the test scores while eliminating recess/physical education, studies show that recess and/or P.E. actually increase test scores as the students produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and problem solving.
Childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes are also a major concern as the United States youth do not get the physical outlet needed not only for their cognitive development but for their physical health.
International recess 
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, high school students traditionally do not have 'free periods' but do have 'break' which normally occurs just after their second lesson of the day (normally referred to as second period). This generally lasts for around 20 minutes. During break, snacks are sometimes sold in the school's canteen and students normally use this time to socialize or finish off any homework or schoolwork that needs to be finished. Once break is finished, students go to their next classroom. Lunchtime commences one or two lessons later and usually lasts around 45–60 minutes. This system is more or less the same in junior schools in the UK and Ireland, but infant schools will normally add another break time towards the end of the day. In the UK recess or a break is mandatory at all levels of education. A European study has reported that children spend between 30–105 minutes of recess per day in European schools.
In Australia and New Zealand, generally in public schools "recess" occurs as a break between morning and mid-morning classes. It is followed after mid-morning classes by a more lengthy break, lunchtime. Thus, the structure of the school-day consists of three lesson blocks, broken up by two intervals: recess and lunch respectively.There must be at least an hours worth of "recess" or "free period" a week. In Queensland, the short morning break is generally referred to as "first break" and the longer lunchtime break as "second break", it may vary between trends at different schools, but is majorly the same.
The difference in the overall length of US and Japanese school days is due almost entirely to the increased amount of time Japanese school children spend in recess. The average school day in Japan is eight hours but the time in the classroom is no different compared to the U.S. but the time spent out of the classroom is what makes the day longer. A fourth of the day is spent in non-academic activities. A typical day contains the same amount of instructional time as the kids in the U.S. but a long enough lunch break to go home and eat with their family. This gives the students time to soak in their morning lesson and prepare for the afternoon session. Students who do not go home, read for the their pleasure or interact with other students. When the school day is over the majority of the students do not go home, but rather stay after school for clubs and other activities. The benefits of having a longer break and several non-academic clubs after school, is that the students interact with one another and tend to have fewer physical symptoms related to stress as well as better relationships with their classmates.
Children in Beijing, China do not have anytime in their day to socialize or to even step out of the classroom. For lunch they either pack or buy from a cart that visits their classroom. When they have received their lunch they go back to their desk and eat alone. Once every one has eaten there is a quiet period. During this period a few students are chosen to help clean up from lunch. The students covet this job. After this they can read at their desks or play by themselves. They do not have a play ground and do not leave their classroom. The students do not have any time to socialize, most schools do not even have a playground or play equipment, but instead continue to move on in their daily lessons.
United States 
In North America, the point where recess ends in a child's education is largely dependent on the school district, though by many standards it is removed when the child enters middle school. However, in college, students usually have free periods, which are similar in spirit, although usually one studies or talks with one's friends during such times rather than playing games, which are made difficult by the lack of a playground.
With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, many schools have significantly cut back on the amount of recess time for children, even in preschool. Some have even eliminated recess all together. With the focus now on preparing the children for testing into the next grade, there is less time to incorporate physical education or recess into the curriculum.
In Washington, recess and physical education are being removed from the curricula. This is controversial because according to some researchers and child education specialists, children need a break from schoolwork.
- The Value of Play 1: The Definition of Play Provides Clues to its Purpose. Gray, Peter. Nove. 19, 2008. http://www.psychologytoday.com
- No Child Left out of the Dodgeball Game? Trickey, Helyn. Aug. 22, 2006. http://articles.cnn.com/2006-08-20/health/PE.NCLB_1_physical-education-obesity-rates-national-academic-standards?_s=PM:HEALTH
- How much do we know about the importance of play in child development? Tsao, Ling-Ling. Childhood Education. Olney. Summer 2002. Vol. 78, Iss. 4; Pg 230
- The Serious Need for Play. Wenner, Melinda. Jan. 28, 2009. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-serious-need-for-play
- Recess-It's Indispensable! Young Children. National Association for the Education of Young Children. September 2009 Vol. 64, No. 5; pg. 66.
- Ridgers, Nicola. "Variables Associated With Children's Physical Activity Levels During Recess". International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Phsical Activity. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
- Day, Nicholas. "The Rebirth of Recess". Slate.com. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/family/2012/08/recess_in_schools_research_shows_it_benefits_children_.single.html Retrieved 29 August 2012.
- Stevenson, H. W. (1992, December). Learning from Asian Schools. Retrieved December 4, 2012, from http://www.tdl.com/~schafer/Asian.htm
- Lasseter, T. (2007, September 10). Is School Recess a Right? Retrieved December 5, 2012, from China Rises website: http://blogs.mcclatchydc.com/china/2007/08/is-school-reces.html