5 steps to advocate for more recess and play

Getty Images/iStockphoto

When most adults reflect on their childhoods, they remember recess as a time to make new friends, learn new games, and take a break from the classroom. With increased emphasis on test scores, many schools around the country have cut back on recess time, some eliminating it altogether. Recess is important, not only for the nostalgic reasons parents remember, but because the American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that ‘a safe and well-supervised recess offers cognitive, social, emotional, and physical benefits’ which are key to the development of the whole child.

Parents know play is important for their children, but what might not be as clear is that play is a key component of academic learning. Play has been proven to increase social-emotional skills such as cooperation and conflict-resolution. According to the American Journal of Public Health, elementary students with well-developed social emotional skills are twice as likely to obtain a college degree.

Does your child’s school have a mandatory recess period? Is your child allowed brain breaks to engage in safe, healthy play? Here are some steps that you can take to advocate for more play:

Educate yourself about the benefits of recess and play.

For example, did you know that the experience of play changes the connections of the neurons at the front end of your brain?

Visit your child’s school at recess time.

Look for issues that affect the majority of children and take along a recess checklist to keep track of the things that you observe.

Find out the recess backstory by talking to the principal, teachers or a member of the school staff.

Recess may have been cut back to meet state requirements for increased instructional time, because of a lack of playground supervision resources, or to reduce the number of disciplinary referrals. Having insight into how your child’s school got to their current structure will help inform your future approach.

Involve the community.

Collaborate with other parents who share your concerns and goals, and get your local PTO or PTA involved. Recess is a school issue and not a teacher issue, so having a parent’s forum with school administrators either before or after a PTA meeting might be best.

Volunteer at your child’s school recess

Seek training from your school’s recess staff or principal. There are many online resources to help inspire you out on the playground.

Would you like more guidance on how to approach your child’s school about recess? Playworks, the leading nonprofit in providing safe and healthy play resources for playgrounds across the nation, has a recess toolkit to help get you started.