How Schools Can Make Those 20 minutes Go Smoothly

  1. Updates

On Friday August 10th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed a bill from the New Jersey State Senate making 20 minutes of recess every day mandatory for all Garden State elementary schools.

Students are now guaranteed 20 minutes of play a day at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. This is a big win for kids.

Survey results from Playworks partner schools show that students who play at least 20 minutes a day develop healthier lifestyles and achieve greater academic, social, and emotional success.

But simply adding more time for play is only the first step. Making sure that all kids feel like they have opportunities to play and to feel included at recess can be challenging, especially for schools that have not had a full 20 minutes of recess in the past.

When Tennessee made recess mandatory two years ago, staff at schools that did not have recess previously found themselves on a learning curve.

“‘We let them all out on the football field, gave them a couple balls, and said, ‘go ahead, good luck!’ Kids didn’t know how to interact in that environment, we didn’t know how to resolve conflicts in that environment, and by first quarter I was desperate,” remembered Hannah Reinke, one PE teacher charged with implementing the new law.

After finding that other schools were struggling with the same challenges, Reinke’s school decided to partner with Playworks to train their staff for success.

“It has been amazing,” says Reinke. “Now, kids have ways to express themselves, to play, to move—and they can choose to do so. It’s not like we are out there teaching a P.E. class. It’s been amazing to see our 6th graders go crazy for jump rope.”

The CDC recommends that schools create a recess plan to support student safety and health. Taking this approach, “should result in increased physical activity, positive behavior during recess, and improved behavior and engagement in the classroom.”

Where should schools start?

  • Review the CDC’s Strategies for Recess and Recess Planning Template here.
  • Use the Playworks Game Guide or Games Library to find new games to teach students so every kid has fun, active options at recess that they enjoy.

Need more support?

Playworks New York/New Jersey already supports safe and healthy play for 16,000 kids at 35 schools in New Jersey. Playworks offers staff training and consultative support services that can help get your team on the same page around new recess approaches.

  • Power of Play & Group Management 1: a half or full day of training teaches staff new games and approaches to recess management. It’s playful, fun, and will energize your recess team.
  • PlayworksU: bite-sized videos teach and reinforce games and strategies. Watch together at staff meetings throughout the year or use to onboard new yard staff.
  • Recess Implementation: a two day working session teaches your team new games and approaches while they build a recess plan for equipment management, transitions, and more.
  • Recess Reboot: Four days of “I do, We do, You do.” Playworks kicks off recess openings, closings, systems, and a student leadership program. Job-embedded training and modeling helps your team sustain a new recess approach throughout the year.

For schools that would like a dedicated recess staff person or longer-term support, a few spots are also still available for this school year for our on-site, year round services.

Whatever your recess needs, the Playworks New York/New Jersey team is here to help! Get in touch to bring Playworks to your school.

More Updates


December 4, 2019

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November 7, 2019

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