Active Outdoor RecessPrint Page
Recess plays a key role in a child’s academic success, including their physical, social, and emotional well-being. Recess provides students with time to be active to develop healthy bodies and accumulate the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Recess is also a time for children to release energy and reduce stress, which improves attention and reduces disruptive behavior in the classroom.
Recess is social in nature and gives children open-ended free time where they can use their imaginations and engage in meaningful ways with friends through unstructured play. Children develop skills in communication, conflict resolution and teamwork through games and activities while putting the wiggles to good use to help reset and refocus.
Elementary schools should incorporate a minimum of 20 minutes per day of recess for all grades and 30 minutes for primary grades. The benefits of recess also extend to secondary grades, too! Even if it’s just for 15 minutes, older students also benefit from regular physical activity breaks.
Try these simple tips to incorporate active recess at your school:
- Review current recess policies and activities with school administration. Ask the following questions:
- Is your school providing the recommended number of minutes for recess?
- Are students active during recess?
- What things are working well and what areas need improvement?
- Spruce up your playground by reviewing and improving your recess areas.
- Use chalk or paint to draw game boards or activities on the sidewalks or blacktop.
- Partner with families to build buddy benches or communal spaces where students can gather to connect or talk with their peers.
- Have a school garden or green space? Make a sensory path, mindfulness walk, or walking story path where children can choose their own adventure based on what they need for the day.
- Provide inexpensive playground equipment to encourage students to be active (jump ropes, hula-hoops, bean bags, etc.). Put to use old recyclables such as shipping boxes and cardboard and allow students to build their own sailboat or spaceship.
- Utilize professional development days to role model and support teachers on how to teach and interact with students to increase physical activity during recess.
- Practice active supervision of the playground to minimize injury, encourage active play and ensure safe behavior.
- Determine stations or create set areas for activities. For example, ball bouncing and wall passing station where wall space is available; jump rope area; field game area for games of soccer, kickball, speedball, flag football, running/walking on playground perimeter, fitness circuit area, etc.
- Get your community involved! Partner with a local business to donate new or gently used playground equipment.
- Encourage older students to role model and support younger students by teaching new activities during recess.
- Host a recess week to introduce new activities, activate physical activity during recess, and to ignite active recess throughout the school year.
Advocate for recess as a necessary educational support and remind staff to never use it as a consequence.
Create simple rules to provide safe play and share the rules with students and staff.
Regularly check play areas for safety hazards (broken equipment, holes, glass, nails or other objects that could cause injuries).
Schedule recess before lunch!
Be sure all recess activities are inclusive. Options should include activities that require varied levels of skill, non-competitive and more competitive activities, and team and individual options with options that require little equipment. Ensure active recess allows for student choice and encourages physical activity for all students, regardless of skill or ability.
Implement games that have minimal wait time so students are active for as long as possible.
Have students pledge to be active during recess. Have students’ use a physical activity tracker to monitor their active times throughout the day, and provide healthy rewards for being physically active, etc.
Consider moving game and sport activities away from the playground sets.