Recess Rules!

“For generations, recess has been considered by many students in elementary school as their favorite part of the day.” 

Recess is a cornerstone of childhood. For many children, it’s a breath of fresh air, an opportunity for pretend play, a chance to socialize with peers. Despite the documented benefits of playtime, many children in the United States receive less than twenty minutes of recess. If researchers, educators, parents—and of course, students—agree that recess is great for kids, why are so many losing their “right to recess?” And what can we do to protect it?

In Minneapolis, one lawmaker is taking up the mantle on behalf of students. “Common sense tells us little kids need to get the wiggles out,” says Minnesota representative Jim Davnie. His proposed legislation doesn’t mandate a universal amount of time for recess, but rather that districts must have some sort of policy in place for required recess time. This proposal puts recess on the table while allowing districts to be flexible in deciding what’s best for their schools and students.

Other initiatives are taking root across the country.

In Georgia, where recess is currently optional, similar legislation is being drafted to mandate a minimum of thirty minutes of recess for elementary students. In Austin, TX, one school district has also implemented a thirty-minute recess minimum. In an interview with KUT 90.5, district principal Jennifer Stephens calls the move a protection for students: “The school day gets very busy and it’s really easy to forget about that. And I think, for all the students, it gives them a protection that they have these 30 minutes that they know they’ll be able to completely relax and just be kids and not have to be responsible for anything in that one moment.”

While recess requirements do not exist nationwide, suggested standards are set forth annually by the Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). SHAPE recommends a minimum of thirty minutes of recess, to be held before lunch, with professional development opportunities for recess facilitators. They also advocate against taking away recess time as a punishment.

Why all the fuss?

Countless studies have shown that there are many benefits to recess, including:

  • Promoting a healthy and active lifestyle
  • Increased attentiveness and productivity during class time
  • Socio-emotional development: cooperation, problem-solving, negotiation, self-regulation
  • Motor skill development

Recess is also critical for the school as a whole. In a study from Stanford University, Professor of Education and Public Policy Milbrey McLaughlin says, “Recess isn’t normally considered part of school climate, and often is shortchanged in tight fiscal times, but our research shows that can be a critical contributor to positive school climate in low-income elementary schools.”

Want to hear more about why kids need recess?

Check out an inspiring TEDx Talk from 3rd grader Simon Link, who imagines “a world where every child gets lots of playtime.” 


Feature image courtesy of Unsplash, Myles Tan.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.