Seven steps to prepare for recess this winter

If you’re like most parents, teachers and administrators around the country, you understand how important it is that kids get to play every day — especially when the days are shorter and the weather can be a factor. With a bit of planning and the proper outdoor wear, you can ensure kids have fun at recess each and every day. Here are seven steps to prepare for recess in inclement weather. 

1) Determine the recess policies that require students to remain inside.

  • At what temperature must students remain inside?
  • What other weather conditions require students to remain inside?
  • Who makes the final call?
  • How and when will everyone be notified?


2) If you will be on the playground…

  • Be sure to dress appropriately — both for your comfort and to be a role model to students. Wear layers and appropriate shoes. If it’s cold, cover your head, neck and hands. Find more information on dressing kids and adults for poor weather.
  • Get excited! Winter may not be your favorite season, but to make it more enjoyable for everyone, you can encourage others by being happy and willing to play yourself (which will help you stay warm). Get excited and pretend you love winter!

3) Determine the winter maintenance needs that need to be done to allow students to play.

  • Are there spots on the playground that gather puddles, ice or snow?
  • Does your school need push brooms? Shovels? Salt?
  • Will staff/volunteers need to help get the playground cleared more quickly?
  • Do you need to add mats to doorways and hallways or make other adjustments to prevent mud from travelling into classrooms? 

4) Determine special rules for outdoor recess in inclement weather.

  • Are there rules about what must be worn for outdoor play? Is there extra gear available for students who arrive without proper winter wear?
  • Are there any special rules about where students can play?
  • Are there special rules about how students can play?

5) Pick special games that can be played in inclement weather and teach the rules of play.

  • For rainy days, try… 
    • Running a relay or playing tag with a modified movement, such as instead of running, try speed walking. Speed walking is a great way to learn body control.
    • Here are more rainy day play day ideas.
  • For snowy days…
    • Is there a hill for sledding? If so, you might try setting up a system to allow students to take turns safely sledding down the hill.
    • Identify a fun and safe place for building snow forts, people and creatures.
    • Let kids throw snowballs at a target! Set up a snowball station and teach rules to ensure safe, fun play.
    • Decrease the size of boundaries for common playground games, such as tag, so students can still play, but don’t get overly exhausted (then bored!) running through the snow.
    • Here are more tips for recess in the snow.


6) Determine the plan for indoor recess.

  • Where will students play?
  • Who will supervise indoor recess?
  • How will you ensure recess indoors is still active?

7) Pick special games and activities to be played indoors and teach the rules of play.

  • Every space allows for different games. Think about how you can modify certain games to engage students actively. For example, relays can be played in hallways with modified movements, such as walk like a monkey or Simon Says can be played in the classroom, standing next to a desk and include hopping, jumping jacks and more to get kids active.
  • Here are more tips for recess in inclement weather, including several great games for different indoor recess spaces.

How do you prepare for recess in inclement weather?

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