How Finland Keeps Kids Focused Through Free Play

An American teacher in Helsinki questioned the national practice of giving 15 minute breaks each hour—until he saw the difference it made in his classroom. In my quest to understand the value of the Finnish practice, I stumbled upon the work of Anthony Pelligrini—author of Recess: Its Role in Education and Development and emeritus professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota—who has praised this approach for more than a decade. In East Asia—where most primary schools give their students a 10-minute break after 40 minutes or so of classroom instruction—Pellegrini observed the same phenomenon that I had witnessed at my Finnish school. After these shorter recesses, students appeared to be more attentive in the classroom.