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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Five Steps to Making Recess Fun for Everyone

Photo by will kay (Flickr)
When I was in elementary school, I thought recess was unplanned spontaneity. We went out and played on the swings, jungle gym, bars and slides. Some of us played kickball or baseball or whatever was in season and some came up with their own games and scenarios out of their own imagination. I really didn’t think there was a plan to anything, just let the kids play and if they get into a fight stop it before it gets too serious and someone gets hurt.

But I’ve found out recently through my time as an education reporter and my work here for that like most things, recess takes a certain amount of planning and commitment to pull off well. From planning who those supervisors of recess will be to giving children plenty of options I’ve found there’s more than meets the eye to an unstructured time of play, and the CDC and Shape America, the Society of Health and Physical Educators, agree. They recently released their Strategies for Recess in Schools report.

Children are supposed to get 60 minutes of play a day according to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans and recess is an important part of that. The report recommends at least 20 minutes of recess a day, but I remember mine was closer to 45. It goes on to list five general steps for making recess a success in any learning environment and gives 19 specific ways to implement them.

The first is to make leadership decisions. This basically boils down to deciding what kind of recess you want, putting policies in writing and training people to meet those policies. This makes sense because without a vision, anything can go off the rails, even an unstructured time of play.

The second is communicate and force behavioral and safety expectations. In other words, make sure everyone knows your vision and what it takes to keep kids safe while playing and train your employees and supervisors accordingly.

The third is create an environment supportive of physical activity. When your students get to recess, make sure they have something to occupy their mind and body so they have the most productive recess possible. This includes both indoor and outdoor recess. I know when we had indoor recess in school, there was not a lot of physical activity involved, and this report offers some suggestions to remedy that.
The fourth is to engage the school community to support recess. This includes establishing roles and responsibilities and getting children involved in planning recess. This is an interesting concept and one I wish I had when I was in school. Asking children their ideas and then listening is a great way to make sure recess is a time everyone enjoys.

The last strategy the report mentions is gathering information on recess. This means following physical activity and tracking student performance because of that. Everyone needs proof that something is working, and recess is no different. If it isn’t working, it needs to be changed, right?

Those are the strategies the CDC and Shape America recommends, and the report is worth a read. It goes into much more detail than I have room to hear and will only take about 15 minutes. However, it offers some great suggestions for bringing some order to the chaos and keeping recess fun and rewarding for everyone.

Learn about the author: Parker Jones