Safe Return to Recess

  1. Updates

Recess is a necessary break in the day for optimizing a child’s social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development… After ‘socially isolating’ one could argue that socializing children through regular recess should be a top priority.” – American Academy of Pediatrics

Playworks believes in using the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. As schools transition back to in-person, it will be more important than ever that kids have the opportunity to play every day.

Why is play so important?  When transitioning back to school buildings after remote learning due to COVID-19, a safe and healthy recess is especially critical for:

  • Building connections between a community of peers and adults
  • Healing from distress of the pandemic
  • Rebuilding a sense of belonging
  • Academic success

As you plan to bring students back in-person, we know you have a lot on your plate. Let us support you with determining what recess will look like as you relaunch this spring, leveraging our expertise with mapping and leading play. Recess and play will be a key tool to re-engage students and rebuild relationships as we all recover from the pandemic. Playworks is ready to support you and your team to ensure all your students are safe, engaged, and empowered. 

Join us at our FREE Safe Return to Recess Workshop

Looking for a few quick tips about high-quality recess in a socially distant world? Join our upcoming free virtual workshop to hear directly from the Playworks team!

What: Safe Return to Recess Workshop
Who: Anyone interested in making recess safer, more engaging, and more empowering under COVID restrictions
Where: FREE webinar, registration required through links below
When: Wednesday, March 24th – 3:30 – 4:30 pm (register here!) or 6:30 – 7:30 pm (register here!)

The Return to Recess Workshop was great for learning ways to modify games – we’ve been back at school since September with hybrid groups and struggling with how to utilize the Playworks’ methods and games we’re used to… this really helped!” – New Bedford Teacher

Games, Activities, and Action Planning Resources

If you aren’t able to join us at a workshop, use the resources below with your team to put a successful Safe Return to Recess strategy in place for your students.

Five Things to Think About:
  1. SPACE: Mapping your recess area is more important than ever. Specifically it’s important to consider: 
    • Recess Schedule & Group Sizes
    • How to utilize natural zones/areas to keep groups separated
    • Ensuring enough space for games to be played safely
    • Where will students transition in and out of the building to avoid overlapping and crowding?
  2. RITUAL: Empower your students to be successful by starting each recess with a brief opening to introduce activities and remind students about expectations. Similarly, you can help prepare your students to return to learning with a daily recess closing and cool down. By making these rituals a regular part of each day, you can build consistency for your students.
  3. RULES: Set simple expectations for your students and encourage them to be creative within them. Consider co-constructing these rules with your students so they feel engaged in the process and ownership of the end product. Learn more in our Recess Guidelines informed by CDC and DESE guidance.
  4. RECESS TEAM: Using your recess map to assign roles for the recess team will be critical. Ensure each team member knows which space they are responsible for and a few games that can be played in that space.
  5. GAMES: As you’re setting up the different zones of your recess area, plan to offer 1-2 rotational games or activities every day to provide consistency and engage a variety of students across skill levels. You can then supplement these core games with a Game of the Week that can be played with students properly distanced. Try modifying recess favorites or holding individual tournaments to keep kids engaged.Check out these resources for some fun socially distant games:

For a step by step guide to determining your school’s recess plan, download Playworks’ School Reopening Workbook – a free resource with ideas, suggestions, and concrete activities to ease the transition back to in-person learning.

Need More Help? We have you covered!

  1. Learn more about how Playworks can support your school community through direct programming and professional development. Use this link to set up a time to talk with Partnership Director Dawn Lavallee!
  2. Check out RecessLab.org – our free recess resources site for information on mapping your playground, creating a safe recess, and more.
  3. Sign up for Playworks’ newsletter to stay in the loop on upcoming training and resources.

More Updates


May 25, 2021

Recess Reboot at the Guilmette Elementary School ›

Playworks knows that recess is one of the most critical opportunities for students to be physically active, build core social-emotional skills, and build relationships with their peers. However, recess can often be a source of stress and chaos for schools – especially in light of new guidelines and restrictions due to COVID-19. For some added…

Principal Coleen Smith
Principal Coleen Smith

May 24, 2021

Recess Rocks in RI prioritizes Rhode Island students’ health and well-being throughout COVID-19 crisis ›

Recess Champions program recognizes educators who have made play a priority   Recess Rocks in Rhode Island, a six-year old partnership of Playworks New England, the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC) and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), has launched an initiative to recognize school professionals who have made it a priority…

May 21, 2021

Six Boston Schools Receive $25,000 in Wellness Grants After Helping Get Boston Back in Motion ›

More Than 3,000 Students Participate in Month-Long Effort Aimed at Improving Health and Well-Being of Youth BOSTON  – Boston Back in Motion, an effort to get young people across Boston to stay active as schools transition back to in-person learning, on Friday awarded six Boston schools a total of $25,000 in wellness grants for participating…