Return to Strategies for RECESS in Schools
Make Leadership Decisions
Leadership and organization is needed to develop a schoolwide recess plan. Initial steps include examining existing recess policies and practices, identifying ways to strengthen them, and determining which strategies are needed for implementation. Schools are then able to ensure recess is consistently organized for all students.
1. Identify and document recess policies.
Schools can determine if their recess policies align with the seven key policies in SHAPE America’s Guide for Recess Policy.5
They also can ensure that these policies are documented in their Local School Wellness Policy, which is one of the strategies recommended to improve recess.21
Schools can consider ways to revise existing recess policies to strengthen them or include additional policies to make them more comprehensive.
2. Put documented recess policies into practice and revise as needed.
Many state, school district, and school policies are not put into practice. Simply having a policy is not enough. Schools must ensure that they are accountable to parents, students, and others in the community by implementing their recess policies. New federal requirements aim to hold districts accountable for monitoring implementation of local school wellness policies.22
These policies can be routinely reviewed and revised on the basis of new evidence and guidance. Schools also can use CDC’s School Health Index: A Self-Assessment and Planning Guide to identify strengths and gaps in policies and practices for recess.23
3. Develop a written recess plan.
Another way to ensure that recess policies and practices are being properly implemented is to develop a plan. This plan identifies who will make decisions about recess and lead the implementation process.24
It addresses the school’s philosophical approach to recess and how it is organized. It can also address the strategies identified in this document and describe how school staff will be accountable for implementing the plan.
4. Designate spaces for outdoor and indoor recess.
Every school should designate spaces where recess will be conducted and communicate to staff and students which grade levels will use them.2,3
Schools also must ensure that the assigned recess locations do not interfere with physical education or other classes. Although recess should be conducted outside when possible, indoor spaces also can be designated so that students have recess on days with inclement weather or when they cannot go outside for other reasons (e.g., construction, safety concerns).2,3
5. Establish weather guidelines to ensure student safety.
Schools should establish and provide guidance about unsafe conditions for recess during inclement weather. Weather conditions that expose students to extreme heat or cold are considered environmental hazards and can be harmful to students’ health.25
Guidance on this issue should be communicated to all school staff, parents, and the entire school community, so that students are safe and properly prepared for weather conditions.
6. Train school staff and volunteers for recess.
Every school staff member and volunteer responsible for supervising recess needs annual professional development.2,9
Recess supervisors can be trained on the established rules, protocols, and expectations for staff and students during recess. They can learn strategies and activities for recess, such as how to use physical activity zones and play equipment. They should also be trained to identify students with specific medical conditions and limitations, deal with medical emergencies, engage students in physical activity, and promote positive behaviors during recess.
View a complete list of content references here.