Back-to-School Signals Time to Think about Recess

  1. Updates
  2. Inclusion
  3. News
  4. Recess

National organization says safe and healthy recess critical to improving school climate; offers tips to help parents assess recess at their child’s school

Oakland, CA, August 20, 2014 – With the new school year upon us, a national non-profit is urging families to add an important task to their already-full plate: reviewing the state of recess at their child’s school.

Playworks, which operates a nationally recognized program that helps elementary schools transform their recess and playtime from periods of chaos and conflict to a safe and healthy experience, says that recess is a critical part of the school day that is often overlooked by schools and parents alike.

“So many schools are trying hard to improve their school climate,” says Jill Vialet, CEO and Founder of Playworks.  “They’re looking to boost grades and test scores, stop bullying and violent behavior, lower absenteeism and enhance kids’ attitudes towards school overall.  What they may not realize is the role that recess can play in reaching those goals – or conversely, the role it plays in making them more difficult to achieve.”

Citing several studies, as well as anecdotal evidence from hundreds of school administrators and teachers across the country, Vialet points out that most discipline problems and injuries happen on the playground during recess, and that these problems can have significant repercussions.  Many schools have considered reducing recess or even eliminating it altogether because of incidents that occur during this time.

Poor recess experience spills into the classroom

“When bad things happen on the playground – when kids get into fights, bully or exclude other students, or exclude themselves because they don’t feel comfortable participating – the result is an unhealthy experience that spills over to the classroom,” Vialet says.  “Kids return to class angry, frustrated and unable to focus on the academic work at hand. Moreover, it can contribute to students having more negative feelings towards school itself.”

The answer, Vialet says, is to give at least as much attention to recess as is given to the rest of the school day.  By having designated and well-trained recess staff, schools can design a well-run recess that provides a choice of activities, gives kids a set of rules that discourages bullying and exclusionary behavior, and teaches important life skills such as conflict resolution, teamwork and empathy.

Playworks has created a recess and play program that is used in more than 900 schools throughout the U.S.  Research conducted by Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research reports that in the Playworks schools examined, bullying decreased, children felt safer, there was more vigorous physical activity, and teachers gained eight minutes of quality classroom time each day.

“Unlike when most of us were kids, many children today just don’t have the same opportunity to learn how to play,” noted Vialet.  “We had more free time, safer streets, and older neighbors and siblings teaching us the rules.  Today’s kids need a little help along the way.”

Hoping that parents will take a good look at recess this year, Playworks has developed a series of key questions so that they can assess the quality of recess at their child’s school.


Playworks believes in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid. The national non-profit organization creates a place for every kid on the playground – a place where every child belongs, has fun and is part of the game. Playworks currently serves more than 900 schools in 23 cities, and reaches approximately 425,000 students directly and through professional training services.

More Updates


November 9, 2020

Play Builds Serious Skills ›

Playtime is many things. It’s fun for children. It’s an escape for busy parents. But it’s much more than that. According to Dr. Stephanie M. Carlson, distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota, and Reflection Sciences co-founder, “Play is about as ‘blueprinted’ a behavior as you can have in terms of basic survival and reproduction.” Furthermore,…

October 6, 2020

Using Play to Foster Social Connections and Physical Activity ›

Play isn’t just fun and games – it’s a vital aspect of our health and well-being. When we play, we engage our bodies, minds, and senses, creating opportunities for increased physical activity, learning, and connection with others. Play can even help relieve stress and support the development of important social-emotional skills, including communication and cooperation.…

September 3, 2020

How Equity, Trauma, and Play Intersect ›

The play opportunity gap Play is critical for healthy child development as it is a safe way for kids to experiment and practice building relationships and cooperating with others. And yet, even in normal circumstances before COVID-19, there wasn’t an equal opportunity for every kid to play. We need to make sure this disparity does…