Is your school “recess ready”? Five tips to build a great recess.

Back to school has arrived. This week thousands of schools open their gates to the floods of students ready to learn–and play. And after those long six hours, we ask our kids "How was your first day of school?"–only to hear "good" and "fine." Okay… "What was your favorite part of the day?" For kids, that's a no brainer "recess!" Recess is not only essential to our children's health and learning, it is the most memorial part of the school day. We love to hear stories of the great games they played and friends they mad, and we fear hearing stories of being excluded or hurt on the playground.

As the 2011-2012 school year begins, let's make our children's priorities also our own. A safe and welcoming recess leaves children healthy and happy, returning to the classroom ready to learn. Try these five tips to get your school recess ready:

  • Map the Playground. Balls flying. Kids running. Whistles blowing. Recess can feel chaotic. Get school staff and students' input and create a map of the playground. Tell the whole school and post the map for all to see. Once everyone knows where it is safe to play kickball (kicking away from other games) and to jump rope (away from balls and runners), the playground will be a safer space and students will know where and what games to join.
  • School Rules. Does your school have a common set of rules? Are there rules specific for the playground? Determine one set of rules for play and make them clear to all students and staff. You can share them in class or an assembly or even post them or paint them on the playground. Some simple rules to start: Be Respectful and Everyone can Have Fun!
  • Common Games. One of the biggest barriers keeping children from joining a game is not knowing the rules. Determine some core games for your school (pick popular games and some fun and inclusive rotational games) and be sure all students and adults know one set of rules. You can do this by encouraging a physical education or classroom teachers to teach to entire classes, by volunteering at recess to teach games, or even asking student leaders to teach their peers and younger students.
  • Equipment. Gather fun and safe equipment and encourage teachers and students to take care of it. You may want a ball cart or to set up an equipment check-out system. Be sure there is enough equipment for each of the games kids want to play and be active, but not so much equipment  that it overwhelms the space or number or kids. And set a system in that allows equal access to the equipment and games. It's never fun or fair when kids are excluded from a game because the "owner" of the ball won't let them play–everyone can play!
  • Rock-Paper-Scissors. Teaching children how to solve conflicts themselves will make recess and the rest of the school day easier for all. Some schools teach "I messages," introduce peace paths, or create student conflict managers. One quick tool you can begin today is teach rock-paper-scissors, student can use this simple game to determine who gets to kick first or even who was first in line for the water fountain. Trust us, it will transform you school! (Check out our games library for some great games like Switch, Evolution and Ro Sham Bo Relay which teach and reinforce rock-paper-scissors). Rock Paper Scissors rules – Scissors cut paper. Paper covers rock. Rock crushes scissors.

What do you think? Is your school recess ready?

(Looking for more help developing a fun and safe school recess? Contact us to see if Playworks Training is right for your school?)

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