At Carbondale Community School, kids in grades K-4 get at least 55 minutes of recess a day and kids in grades 5-8 get a minimum of 25 minutes at lunch, plus frequent breaks that get them moving and outside. As a school, we are committed to the whole child, so that means sustaining kids’ access to the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of recess.

Here’s what the American Association of Pediatrics has to say about recess:

Just as physical education and physical fitness have well-recognized benefits for personal and academic performance, recess offers its own, unique benefits. Recess represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks. It affords a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize. After recess, for children or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively. In addition, recess helps young children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment (1).

Stanford University researchers have found additional benefits of recess. Several of these benefits, like school climate, are reciprocal. If recess feels safe and inclusive to kids, recess can promote regular student attendance, positive relationships, pro-social behaviors, connectedness, and engagement. According to Milbrey McLaughlin, founding director of Stanford’s John W. Gardner Center, “adults are integral to a well-rounded recess experience” (2). Furthermore, fostering positive language makes students feel safer and allows for more cooperation and fun at recess.

Your child may have communicated that there are new recess rules. I like to call them expectations and in order to promote a positive school climate and positive language, they’ve been framed positively, as much as possible. The expectations outline what kids can do and provide me and our CCS staff and parents common language when interacting with students. The expectations are not meant to stifle physical exercise, socialization, exploration, or responsible risk-taking. They are meant to promote a climate of safety, cooperation, and fun. Additionally, the expectations are dynamic and may change as adults see fit or as students speak up. Afterall, recess sets students up for success!

You may have read that some schools are decreasing the amount of recess or physical education that students receive at school. I feel that this unjust. The benefits of recess can outweigh the perceived benefits of increased classroom time. The American Association of  Pediatrics’ policy on recess states,  “Optimal cognitive processing in a child necessitates a period of interruption after a period of concentrated instruction” (3).  Look at another list of benefits, published in Scholastic recently:

Research shows that when children have recess, they gain the following benefits:

  • Are less fidgety and more on task
  • Have improved memory and more focused attention
  • Develop more brain connections
  • Learn negotiation skills
  • Exercise leadership, teach games, take turns, and learn to resolve conflicts
  • Are more physically active before and after school (4)

At CCS our commitment to the whole child means recess will continue to be an integral part of our programming, as will unstructured opportunities for kids to interact with one another, explore nature, and to seek new experiences. And, we will continue to guide your child to make safe choices, to positively resolve conflicts, and to reflect on their successes and strengths.


  1. Murray, Robert and Ramstetter, Catherine. “The Crucial Role of Success in Schools.” Pediatrics. Vol. 131, no. 1, January 2013. From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.
  2. Parker, Clifton. “School recess offers benefits to student well-being, Stanford educator reports.” Stanford News. 11 Feb. 2015. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.
  3. Murray, Robert and Ramstetter, Catherine. “The Crucial Role of Success in Schools.” Pediatrics. Vol. 131, no. 1, January 2013. From the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.
  4. Adams, Caralee. Recess Makes Kids Smarter. Scholastic Teacher. Accessed 19 Oct. 2017.