Key Elements of a Quality Recess Program

  • The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Minneapolis Public Schools Recess Toolkit offer the following recommendations:

    • Recess length of at least 20 minutes, offered to all students daily, preferably outdoors, and in addition to PE class.
    • Recess takes place before lunch for all students.
    • Students are taught positive playground expectations.  Students and staff have a clear understanding of the rules and the rules are consistently enforced.
    • Multiple activities are offered to foster universal participation.
    • The playground has designated zones for different types of play and quality equipment is provided.
    • Training is provided to designated playground staff, who facilitate and lead group games and activities.

    Sometimes a student’s behavior is so egregious that a teacher or administrator is tempted to withhold recess as punishment.  Often though, these are students that are most in need of physical activity and best practice discourages this response.  Here are some options in lieu of withholding recess.


    The Case for Recess Before Lunch

    • Fewer classroom disruptions and a quicker return to being on task
      • Children are more settled when they return to their classrooms
    • Reduction in food waste
      • Increased nutrient and fluid intake, with increased milk, vegetable, and entree consumption
    • Improved cafeteria environment
      • Students are more relaxed after being on the playground, with a reduction in behavior issues
      • Focus shifts to eating, rather than getting out to the playground
      • May require less supervision