Studies on Play Bibliography

Curious about the research on recess?  Playworks is pleased to present a comprehensive review of the academic research on play and recess, compiled by the 2Play Lab at Oregon State University.  For specific questions or for more information, please contact the Playworks research and evaluations team.

Explore Research Citations

Research Policy Reports on Recess

  • Basch, C. E. (2011). Healthier students are better learners: a missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. Journal of School Health, 81(10), 593-598. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00632.x
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010). The association between school-based physical activity, including physical education, and academic performance.Available at:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Results from the School Health Policies and Practices Study 2014. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2015.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Bridging the Gap Research Program. Strategies for Supporting Recess in Elementary Schools, Update for the 2012–13 School Year. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2014.
  • Lee, S. M., Burgeson, C. R., Fulton, J. E., & Spain, C. G. (2007). Physical Education and physical activity: results from the School Health Policies and Programs Study 2006. Journal of School Health, 77(8), 435-463.
  • Lounsebery, M. A., McKenzie, T. L., Morrow, J. R. Jr., Monnat, S. M., & Holt, K. A. (2013). District and school physical education policies: implications for physical and education and recess time. Annals of Behavior Medicine, 45(Suppl 1), S131-S141. doi: 10.1007/s12160-012-9427-9.
  • Ramstetter, C. L., Murray, R., & Garner, A. S. (2010). The crucial role of recess in schools. J Sch Health, 80(11), 517-526. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2010.00537.x
  • Slater, S. J., Nicholson, L., Chriqui, J., Turner, L., & Chaloupka, F. (2012). The impact of state laws and district policies on physical education and recess practices in a nationally representative sample of US public elementary schools. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Journal, 166(4), 311-316. doi:10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.1133.
  • Siedentop, D. L. (2009). National plan for physical activity: Education sector. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 6(Suppl 2), S168-S180.
  • Turner, L., Chriqui, J. F., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2013). Withholding recess from elementary school students: Policy matters. Journal of School Health, 83(8), 533-541. doi:10.111/josh.12062.
Systematic Reviews of Evidence for Recess​

  • Broekhuizen, K., Scholten, A. M., & de Vries, S. I. (2014). The value of (pre)school playgrounds for children’s physical activity level: a systematic review. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act, 11, 59. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-11-59
  • Erwin, H. E., Ickes, M., Ahn, S., & Fedewa, A. (2014). Impact of recess interventions on children’s physical activity–a meta-analysis. Am J Health Promot, 28(3), 159-167. doi:10.4278/ajhp.120926-LIT-470
  • Escalante, Y., Garcia-Hermoso, A., Backx, K., & Saavedra, J. M. (2014). Playground designs to increase physical activity levels during school recess: a systematic review. Health Educ Behav, 41(2), 138-144. doi:10.1177/1090198113490725
  • Ickes, M. J., Erwin, H., & Beighle, A. (2013). Systematic review of recess interventions to increase physical activity. J Phys Act Health, 10(6), 910-926.
  • Parrish, A. M., Okely, A. D., Stanley, R. M., & Ridgers, N. D. (2013). The effect of school recess interventions on physical activity : a systematic review. Sports Med, 43(4), 287-299. doi:10.1007/s40279-013-0024-2
  • Ridgers, N. D., Salmon, J., Parrish, A. M., Stanley, R. M., & Okely, A. D. (2012). Physical activity during school recess: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med, 43(3), 320-328. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2012.05.019​
Research Examining the Effects of a Playworks Recess on Children

  • Bleaker M., Beyler N., James-Burdumy S., & Fortson J. (2015), The impact of Playworks on boys’ and girls’ physical activity during recess. Journal of School Health, 85, 171-178.
  • Beyler, N., Bleeker, M., James-Burdumy, S., Fortson, J., & Benjamin, M. (2014). The impact of Playworks on students’ physical activity during recess: findings from a randomized controlled trial. Prev Med, 69 Suppl 1, S20-26. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.10.011
  • Beyler, N., James-Burdumy, S., Bleeker, M., Fortson, J., & Benjamin, M. (2015). Estimated distributions of usual physical activity during recess. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 47(6), 1197-1203. doi:1249.MSS.0000000000000535.
  • Fortson, J., James-Burdumy, S., Bleeker, M., Beyler, N., London, R.A., Westrich, L., Stokes-Guinan, K., & Castrechini, S. (2013). Impact and implementation findings from an experimental evaluation of Playworks: Effects on school climate, academic learning, student social skills, and behavior.  Retrieved from:
  • James-Burdumy, S., Beyler, N., Borradaile, K., Bleeker, M., Maccarone, A., & Forston, J. (2016). The impact of Playworks on students’ physical activity by race/ethnicity: Findings from a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 13, 275-280.
  • ​London, R. A., Westrich, L., Stokes-Guinan, K., & McLaughlin, M. (2015). Playing fair: the contribution of high-functioning recess to overall school climate in low-income elementary schools. Journal of School Health, 85(1), 53-60. doi:10.1111/josh.12216
  • Massey, W.V., Stellino, M.B., Godbersen, T., Holliday, M., Rodia, R., Kucher, G., & Wilkison, M. (2017). The impact of a multi-component physical activity programme in low-income elementary schools. Health and Education Journal.  doi: 10.1177/0017896917700681
  • Massey, W.V., Stellino, M.B., Wilkison, M., & Whitley, M.A. (2017). The impact of a recess-based leadership program on urban elementary school students. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. doi: 10.1080/10413200.2017.1318417
Other Recess Intervention Programs

  • Anthamatten, P., Brink, L., Lampe, S., Greenwood, E., Kingston, B., & Nigg, C. (2011). An assessment of schoolyard renovation strategies to encourage children’s physical activity. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9(8), 27. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-27.
  • Christiansen, L. B., Toftager, M., Pawlowski, C. S., Andersen, H. B., Ersboll, A. K., & Troelsen, J. (2017). Schoolyard upgrade in a randomized controlled study design-how are school interventions associated with adolescents’ perception of opportunities and recess physical activity. Health Education Research, 32(1), 58-68. doi:10.1093/her.cyw058.
  • Ehlers, D. K., Huberty, J. L., & Beseler, C. L. (2013). Changes in community readiness among key school stakeholders after Ready for Recess. Health Educ Res, 28(6), 943-953. doi:10.1093/her/cyt090
  • Ehlers, D. K., Huberty, J. L., & Beseler, C. L. (2013). Is school community readiness related to physical activity before and after the Ready for Recess intervention? Health Educ Res, 28(2), 192-204. doi:10.1093/her/cys102
  • Huberty, J. L., Beets, M. W., Beighle, A., Saint-Maurice, P. F., & Welk, G. (2014). Effects of ready for recess, an environmental intervention, on physical activity in third- through sixth-grade children. J Phys Act Health, 11(2), 384-395. doi:10.1123/jpah.2012-0061
  • Huberty, J. L., Beets, M. W., Beighle, A., & Welk, G. (2011). Environmental modifications to increase physical activity during recess: preliminary findings from ready for recess. J Phys Act Health, 8 Suppl 2, S249-256.
  • Huberty, J. L., Siahpush, M., Beighle, A., Fuhrmeister, E., Silva, P., & Welk, G. (2011). Ready for recess: a pilot study to increase physical activity in elementary school children. J Sch Health, 81(5), 251-257. doi:10.1111/j.1746-1561.2011.00591.x
  • Janssen, M., Twisk, J.W., Toussaint, H. M., van Mechelen, W., & Verhagen, E. A. (2015). Effectiveness of the PLAYgrounds programme on PA levels during recess in 6-year-old to 12-year-old children. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(4), 259-264. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091517.
  • Parrish, A. M., Okely, A. D., Batterham, M., Cliff, D., & Magee, C. (2016). PACE: A group randomised controlled trial to increase children’s break-time playground physical activity. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 19(5), 413-418. doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2015.04.017.
  • Saint-Maurice, P. F., Welk, G. J., Russell, D. W., & Huberty, J. (2014). Moderating influences of baseline activity levels in school physical activity programming for children: the Ready for Recess project. BMC Public Health, 14, 103. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-103
  • Siahpush, M., Huberty, J. L., & Beighle, A. (2012). Does the effect of a school recess intervention on physical activity vary by gender or race? Results from the Ready for Recess pilot study. J Public Health Manag Pract, 18(5), 416-422. doi:10.1097/PHH.0b013e318226ca47
  • ​Stellino, M.B., Sinclair, C.D., Partridge, J.A., & King, K.M. (2010). Differences in children’s recess physical activity: recess activity of the week intervention. Journal of School Health, 80, 436-444
  • Van Kann, D. H., de Vries, S. I., Schipperijn, J., de Vries, N. K, Jansen, M. W., & Kremers, S. P. (2016). A multicomponent schoolyard intervention targeting children’s recess physical activity and sedentary behavior: Effects after one year. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 24, 1-28.
  • Wang, H., Li, T., Siahpush, M., Chen, L. W., & Huberty, J. (2017). Cost-Effectiveness of Ready for Recess to Promote Physical Activity in Children. J Sch Health, 87(4), 278-285. doi:10.1111/josh.12495
  • Yildirim, M., Arundell, L, Cerin, C. E., Carson, V., Brown, H., Crawford, D, … Salmon, J. (2014). What helps children to move more at school recess and lunchtime? Mid-intervention results from Transform-Us! cluster-randomised controlled trial. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 48(3), 271-277. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2013-092466.
Physical Activity and Recess

  • Anthamatten P, Fiene E, Kutchman E, Mainar M, Brink L, Browning R, Nigg CR. A microgeographic analysis of physical activity behavior within elementary school grounds. Am J Health Promot. 2014 Jul-Aug;28(6):403-12. doi: 10.4278/ajhp.121116-QUAN-566.
  • Baquet G, Ridgers ND, Blaes A, Aucouturier J, Van Praagh E, Berthoin S. Objectively assessed recess physical activity in girls and boys from high and low socioeconomic backgrounds. BMC Public Health. 2014 Feb 21;14:192. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-192.
  • Chin JJ, Ludwig D. Increasing children’s physical activity during school recess periods. Am J Public Health. 2013 Jul;103(7):1229-34. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2012.301132.
  • Efrat MW. Exploring effective strategies for increasing the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity children accumulate during recess: a quasi-experimental intervention study. J Sch Health. 2013 Apr;83(4):265-72.
  • Erwin, H., Abel, M., Beagle, A., Noland, M. P., Worley, B., & Riggs, R. (2012). The contribution of recess to children’s school-day physical activity. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 9, 442-448.
  • Fairclough SJ, Beighle A, Erwin H, Ridgers ND. School day segmented physical activity patterns of high and low active children. BMC Public Health. 2012 Jun 6;12:406. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-406.
  • Gao Z, Chen S, Stodden DF. A Comparison of Children’s Physical Activity Levels in Physical Education, Recess, and Exergaming. J Phys Act Health. 2015 Mar;12(3):349-54. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2013-0392.
  • Hayes LB, Van Camp CM. Increasing physical activity of children during school recess. J Appl Behav Anal. 2015 Sep;48(3):690-5. doi: 10.1002/jaba.222.
  • Howe CA, Freedson PS, Alhassan S, Feldman HA, Osganian SK. A recess intervention to promote moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. Pediatr Obes. 2012 Feb;7(1):82-8. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-6310.2011.00007.x.
  • Ishii K, Shibata A, Sato M, Oka K. Recess physical activity and perceived school environment among elementary school children. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2014 Jul 15;11(7):7195-206. doi: 10.3390/ijerph110707195.
  • Martin, K., Bremner, A., Salmon, J., Rosenberg, M., & Giles-Corti, B. (2012). School and individual-level characteristics are associated with children’s moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity during school recess. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 36, 469-477.
  • Mayorga-Vega D, Viciana J. Adolescents’ physical activity in physical education, school recess, and extra-curricular sport by motivational profiles. Percept Mot Skills. 2014 Jun;118(3):663-79. doi: 10.2466/06.10.PMS.118k26w0.
  • Pawlowski CS, Andersen HB, Troelsen J, Schipperijn J. Children’s Physical Activity Behavior during School Recess: A Pilot Study Using GPS, Accelerometer, Participant Observation, and Go-Along Interview. PLoS One. 2016 Feb 9;11(2):e0148786. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0148786.
  • Ridgers ND, Fairclough SJ, Stratton G. Twelve-month effects of a playground intervention on children’s morning and lunchtime recess physical activity levels. J Phys Act Health. 2010 Mar;7(2):167-75.
  • Saint-Maurice PF, Welk GJ, Silva P, Siahpush M, Huberty J. Assessing children’s physical activity behaviors at recess: a multi-method approach. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2011 Nov;23(4):585-99.
  • Springer AE, Tanguturi Y, Ranjit N, Skala KA, Kelder SH. Physical activity during recess in low-income third-grade Texas students. Am J Health Behav. 2013 May;37(3):318-24. doi: 10.5993/AJHB.37.3.4.
  • Stellino MB, Sinclair CD, Partridge JA, King KM. Differences in children’s recess physical activity: recess activity of the week intervention. J Sch Health. 2010 Sep;80(9):436-44.
  • Viciana J, Mayorga-Vega D, Martínez-Baena A. Moderate-to-Vigorous Physical Activity Levels in Physical Education, School Recess, and After-School Time: Influence of Gender, Age, and Weight Status. J Phys Act Health. 2016 Oct;13(10):1117-1123.
Environmental Factors Associated with Recess

  • Black IE, Menzel NN, Bungum TJ. The relationship among playground areas and physical activity levels in children. J Pediatr Health Care. 2015 Mar-Apr;29(2):156-68. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2014.10.001.
  • Blaes A, Ridgers ND, Aucouturier J, Van Praagh E, Berthoin S, Baquet G. Effects of a playground marking intervention on school recess physical activity in French children. Prev Med. 2013 Nov;57(5):580-4. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2013.07.019.
  • Dalene KE, Anderssen SA, Ekelund U, Thorén AK, Hansen BH, Kolle E. Permanent play facility provision is associated with children’s time spent sedentary and in light physical activity during school hours: A cross-sectional study. Prev Med Rep. 2016 Aug 13;4:429-34. doi: 10.1016/j.pmedr.2016.08.011.
  • Mainella FP, Agate JR, Clark BS. Outdoor-based play and reconnection to nature: a neglected pathway to positive youth development. New Dir Youth Dev. 2011 Summer;2011(130):89-104. doi: 10.1002/yd.399.
  • Martin, K., Bremner, A., Salmon, J., Rosenberg, M., & Giles-Corti, B. (2012). School and individual-level characteristics are associated with children’s moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity during school recess. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 36, 469-477.
  • Ridgers, N. D., Stratton, G., Gairclough, S. J., & Twisk, J. W. (2007). Long-term effects of a playground markings and physical structures on children’s recess physical activity levels. Preventative Medicine, 44(5), 393-397.
  • Stratton G, Mullan E. The effect of multicolor playground markings on children’s physical activity level during recess. Prev Med. 2005 Nov-Dec;41(5-6):828-33.
  • Taylor RW, Farmer VL, Cameron SL, Meredith-Jones K, Williams SM, Mann JI. School playgrounds and physical activity policies as predictors of school and home time activity. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011 Apr 27;8:38. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-38.
  • Van Cauwenberghe E, De Bourdeaudhuij I, Maes L, Cardon G. Efficacy and feasibility of lowering playground density to promote physical activity and to discourage sedentary time during recess at preschool: a pilot study. Prev Med. 2012 Oct;55(4):319-21. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2012.07.014.
  • Verstraete SJ, Cardon GM, De Clercq DL, De Bourdeaudhuij IM. Increasing children’s physical activity levels during recess periods in elementary schools: the effects of providing game equipment. Eur J Public Health. 2006 Aug;16(4):415-9.
Social and Emotional Health and Recess

  • Boulton, M. J., Chau, C., Whitehand, C., Amataya, K., & Murray. L. (2009). Concurrent and short-term longitudinal associations between peer victimization and school and recess liking during middle childhood. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(Pt 2), 207-221. doi:10.1348-000709908X336131.
  • Mayfield, C. A., Child, S., Weaver, R. G., Zarrett, N., Beets, M. W., & Moore, J. B. (2017). Effectiveness of a playground intervention for antisocial, prosocial, and physical activity behaviors. Journal of School Health, 87(5), 338-345. doi:10.111/josh.12506.
  • McNamara L, Colley P, Franklin N. School recess, social connectedness and health: a Canadian perspective. Health Promot Int. 2017 Apr 1;32(2):392-402. doi: 10.1093/heapro/dav102.
  • Stellino, M.B., & Sinclair, C. D. (2013). Psychological predictors of children’ s recess physical activity motivation and behavior. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 84, 167-176.
  • Warren, K., Carcium, G., & Anderson-Butcher, D. (2005). Everybody else is: Networks, power laws and peer contagion in the aggressive recess behavior of elementary school boys. Nonlinear Dynamics, Psychology, and Life Sciences, 9(2), 155-173.
Cognitive Function, Academic Success and Recess

  • Barros, R. M., Silver, E. J., & Stein, R. E. (2009). School recess and group classroom behavior. Pediatrics, 123(2), 431-436. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-2825
  • Esteban-Cornejo I, Martinez-Gomez D, Garcia-Cervantes L, Ortega FB, Delgado-Alfonso A, Castro-Piñero J, Veiga OL. Objectively Measured Physical Activity During Physical Education and School Recess and Their Associations With Academic Performance in Youth: The UP&DOWN Study. J Phys Act Health. 2017 Apr;14(4):275-282. doi: 10.1123/jpah.2016-0192.
  • Pellegrini, A. D. & Davis, P. D. (1993). Relations between children’s playground and classroom behavior. The British Journal of Educational Psychology, 63, 88-95.
Qualitative Research - Student Experiences of Recess

  • Anderson-Butcher D., Newsome W., & Nay S. (2003). Social skills intervention during elementary school recess: A visual analysis. Children & Schools, 25, 135-146.
  • Caro, H. E., Altenburg, T. M., Dedding, C., & Chinapaw, M. J. (2016). Dutch primary schoolchildren’s perspectives of activity-friendly school playgrounds: A participatory study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 13(6). doi:10.3390/ijerph13060526.
  • Knowles, Z. R., Parnell, D., Stratton, G., & Ridgers, N. D. (2013). Learning from the experts: exploring playground experience and activities using a write and draw technique. J Phys Act Health, 10(3), 406-415.
  • Massey, W.V., Stellino, M.B., Wilkison, M., & Whitley, M.A. (2017). The impact of a recess-based leadership program on urban elementary school students. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. doi: 10.1080/10413200.2017.1318417​​
  • Pawlowski, C. S., Andersen, H. B., Tjornhoj-Thomsen, T., Troelsen, J., & Schipperijn, J. (2016). Space, body, time and relationship experiences of recess physical activity: a qualitative case study among the least physical active schoolchildren. BMC Public Health, 16, 16. doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2687-0
  • Pawlowski, C. S., Tjornhoj-Thomsen, T., Schipperijn, J., & Troelsen, J. (2014). Barriers for recess physical activity: a gender specific qualitative focus group exploration. BMC Public Health, 14, 639. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-639
Planning and Evaluation Tools For Recess

  • Ingoldsby EM, Shelleby EC, Lane T, Shaw DS, Dishion TJ, Wilson MN. The Aftercare and School Observation System (ASOS): Reliability and Component Structure. J Child Fam Stud. 2013 Oct 1;22(7):893-902
  • Lounsbery MA, McKenzie TL, Morrow JR Jr, Holt KA, Budnar RG. School physical activity policy assessment. J Phys Act Health. 2013 May;10(4):496-503.
  • Martínez-Gómez D, Calabro MA, Welk GJ, Marcos A, Veiga OL. Reliability and validity of a school recess physical activity recall in Spanish youth. Pediatr Exerc Sci. 2010 May;22(2):218-30.
  • Massey, W.V., Stellino, M.B., Mullen, S.P., Claassen, J. & Wilkinson, M. (2018). Development of the great recess framework – observational tool to measure contextual and behavioral components of elementary school recess. BMC Public Health, 18:394.
  • McKenzie TL, Marshall SJ, Sallis JF, Conway TL. Leisure-time physical activity in school environments: an observational study using SOPLAY. Prev Med. 2000;30:70–77. ​
  • McKenzie TL, van der Mars H. Top 10 research questions related to assessing physical activity and its contexts using systematic observation. Res Q Exerc Sport. 2015 Mar;86(1):13-29. doi: 10.1080/02701367.2015.991264.
  • Parrish AM, Iverson D, Russell K, Yeatman H. Observing children’s playground activity levels at 13 Illawarra primary schools using CAST2. J Phys Act Health. 2009;6 Suppl 1:S89-96.
  • Ridgers ND, Stratton G, McKenzie TL. Reliability and validity of the System for Observing Children’s Activity and Relationships during Play (SOCARP) J Phys Act Health. 2010;7:17–25.
  • Recess Moves: A Toolkit for Quality Recess:
  • School Physical Activity Policy Assessment –​

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