Building skills through play: adult engagement at recess

  1. Updates

What does adult engagement look like at recess and why is it important?

Adults actively engaging on the playground is important because it encourages healthy play at recess. Playworks’ programming recognizes this and highlights the need of providing a kind and consistent adult during the school day for students to connect and build trusting relationships that will support their development. Having adults engaged during recess helps model inclusive play, positive language, and simple conflict resolution skills, therefore enhancing and ensuring a safe space for every student on and off the playground.

Adult engagement at recess comes in different forms. The end goal is to show that when adults play, we share our humanity with kids. Try out these adult engagement tips during recess:

  • Play games with kids
    • Kids are eager to play with their teachers and recess staff. Model play even when the activity isn’t your best game. When students see adults trying and failing, they get the message that it’s okay to make mistakes.
  • Check in with kids not participating
    • Ask what game a student wants to play or why a student is unwilling to try a game. We never want to force students to play, but simple questions can help break down challenges students are having on the playground.
  • Maintain a healthy level of competition
    • Competitive games can be unsafe and intimidating. If a tag game is moving too quickly, modify the game! Instead of running, ask students to move in a silly way, like a “zombie” or “skip.”

Games and activities to promote adult engagement at recess:

  • It takes planning to create a space for every student—including those with different skills, interests, and abilities—on the playground. The same goes for adults—if you’re not up for an athletic game, turning the jump rope counts as positive interactive play.
  • Even if you don’t want to lace up your sneakers and jump into a game, serving as a line monitor for games such as Three Lines Soccer or Foursquare are excellent ways to engage with students during recess.
  • Are you interested in playing games that have a less physical component? Try out the Big Cheese or Group Count! If you like the games but want to add a physical component, have students do jumping jacks when they get out as a prerequisite to get back in the game!

Other resources:

  • Adult engagement at recess is also built through positive reinforcement and communication. Check out this article that explains how you can create safe and inclusive play on the playground through positive communication.
  • Still not sold on how important adult engagement at recess is? This study details the way that adults play a key role in a successful, healthy, and fun recess.
  • Remember to move around while on the playground! Learn more about the strategic movement approach and its importance on adults intentionally moving around the playground to increase student safety and engagement.




Do you have other ideas to promote adult engagement at recess? Tweet us and let us know!


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