Please don’t take away my Recess! 1



Don’t we all have memories of Monkey Bars and Swings? Competing with friends, scraping knees and elbows, negotiating the rules of the made-up game? 

Sadly our children may not. Many schools are eliminating or minimizing recess time despite RESEARCH that clearly shows it’s beneficial.

Here’s the thing – maybe your child’s school still has recess!  Only – as I learned, they threaten that recess repeatedly and often it is taken away as a punishments.

Reasons Recess can be removed

  • Reading Log wasn’t completed or was, but wasn’t signed by parent
  • Didn’t raise hand in class after being warned.
  • Took too long to finish worksheet and needs to complete it before end of day
  • Whole class was “too loud” and loses 5-10 minutes
  • Child’s behavior was “out of control”
  • Child couldn’t control impulse to keep hands to him/herself
  • Too much giggling and silliness

SO if a child is acting like a CHILD – they can have recess removed.  Sadly, this is happening in child care and preschools as well – with children as young as 18 months!!

First – let’s start with RESEARCH.

According to the Illinois Recess in Schools Task Force (, “Research has widely reported the benefits of recess for children. Recess improves students’ physical, mental and emotional health and enhances their classroom learning opportunities. Studies have shown that for students who have recess daily have enhanced cognitive skills, reduced behavioral problems and increased attention and concentration. Classroom teachers have observed that students pay better attention to academic lessons after an active recess break. Disruptive behavior also decreases after recess.

The Council on Physical Education for Children states that “recess provides children with discretionary time and opportunities to engage in physical activity that helps to develop healthy bodies and enjoyment of movement. It also allows elementary children to, practice life skills such as

  • conflict resolution,
  • cooperation,
  • respect for rules,
  • taking turns,
  • sharing,
  • using language to communicate, and
  • problem solving in real world situations.”

But MY child isn’t having recess removed just the “BAD” child.

Seriously?  Don’t we care about all children?  And isn’t classifying kids in categories as “us and them” how we end up with bullying and severe problems?

Here’s the situation – Johnny (a first grader) was being goofy and called his teacher a “booty”.  The teacher interpreted this as disrespectful and felt Johnny needed a consequence.  In her mind, she cannot lose control over her classroom and putting Johnny in his place will help maintain control.  She takes away 10 minutes of his 30 minute recess time.  He must sit on the wall while his friends go and play.  He screams, lets everyone know he is upset and kicks the empty chair next to him, knocking it over.  The teacher gets more stern and says “If you don’t pick that up you’ll lose another 10.” He screams again and keeps escalating while she has now removed all of recess and sent him to the office.

Remember – He is 6 and calling her a “booty” (Inappropriate yes, but criminal? worthy of a principal referral?) How else could this teacher of handled this?  I would argue that Recess Removal is not the solution but the Problem!

What did Johnny learn?  My teacher hates me.  I hate her.  She doesn’t understand me. I am bad for not being able to control my mad feelings.  I am bad for calling her a name even if I didn’t mean it to be mean. I don’t like that everyone saw me be upset. I feel ashamed.

What did Johnny’s classmates learn?  My teacher is scary. My teacher can be mean. If I’m not good, I will be sent to the principal’s office too (Anxiety much?).  I should tattle on kids that are not good because she will like me more.  I don’t like Johnny because he gets in trouble a lot.  I won’t play with him.

Most teachers would agree that this is NOT what they want.  They don’t WANT to take away recess, but what else can they do?  This is the only motivator they have.

Not True! and since most schools have Positive Behavioral Intervention Strategies (PBIS) in place this should not come as a shock to the system.

Alternatives to Recess Removal.

  1. Earn extra recess.  I know, you only have so much time to teach and there is so much in the curriculum and blah blah. But if you have 10-15 minutes towards the end of the day that you can give the kids a dance party, go outside one more time, play a game in the class, give some freeplay time, whatever.  They may hurry through that boring worksheet with you.
  2. Earn extra screen time/free time.
  3. Earn special lunch time (with teacher, their friends, principal, counselor, etc.)
  4. Calm down area of the classroom (*trauma informed* and helpful for LOTS of kids)
  5. Chore or “helper”role especially if its related to their “crime” (Kicked the garbage can over, pick it all up)
  6. Creative Outlet – Write/Draw/Tell a story about a child who did their “crime” and how to solve it better/differently.

All of these require more creativity and there is no “one size fits all”, just like we wouldn’t assume that all children would learn math the same way, they won’t all learn to “behave” in the same way either.



Let’s do better!

As a parent, Do NOT sign the form stating that you agree and/or understand that Recess Removal is the consequence for your child.

Speak UP! Send them this blog.  Direct them to me.  I’d be DELIGHTED to do a workshop, in-service, or consultation with teacher(s) who was interested in changing to a more positive approach.

As the Lorax said,

Don’t be afraid to speak up for your children.  Rally!

Does your child’s school have recess removal policies?  Have you overcome them?  What worked?  What didn’t?  I’m just getting started on this cause, but I have a passion for it and would love to hear from others!


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