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What Happened to Recess?

What Happened to Recess?

It’s our second full week of kindergarten and my son is definitely exhausted! It’s not that he’s crashing any earlier or even sleeping in. He doesn’t come home and fall asleep on the couch like some kids I know, but his overall ability to cope has definitely diminished. The other night, after telling him he couldn’t have another snack just before dinner, he started kicking and crying (which is not like him at all!). This has been happening a lot – and this type of upset behavior is definitely outside the “norm” for him.

Last night while tucking him in, I finally asked “What’s going on, buddy?” His shocking response through sobbing tears was “I don’t like recess! I never get to use any of the climbers or the swings.” I confess I tried not to laugh. I know for a fact he goes out for recess every day, twice in fact. Sure, maybe recess isn’t longer than 15 minutes – but he does go out. “What do you mean?” I asked. And then I was surprised to hear him say “The lines are always so long and just when it’s finally my turn, the whistle blows and recess is over!”

Child on the playground at recessI pressed for more and he told me that there is generally a teacher instructing the kids when their turn is up, but sometimes the lines are so long that even if a child wants to use the swing, he/she may be standing in line the whole recess waiting for a turn. After wiping away the tears, hugging him a little extra before saying goodnight, I went to tuck my daughter in. She also confirmed his story to be true.

To solve the problem, I had the idea of using the school playground after hours. When we went, I was delighted to see my son grinning from ear to ear as if he’d never been on a playground before. He ran from one piece of equipment and back again. That smile is frozen in my mind and gives me so much joy.

But, I know that only solves the issue temporarily. Talking to friends about this (as well as about the issue of how short recess is in general) made me realize just how mad and frustrated parents are that recess is no longer a priority. In some cases, recess is so low on the list of priorities it’s actually no longer a part of the school day. And yet there are countless articles and studies that show how important physical fitness is in a child’s life. In fact, even First Lady Michelle Obama has been standing behind the cause of getting America moving through her Let’s Move campaign with The Partnership for a Healthier America.

So, what’s next for me? Well, first, I emailed the President of our local HPTA that organizes after school enrichment programs. Would they consider going “back to basics” and offering a “playground” enrichment class after school? I’ll be interested in hearing what she has to say. I also learned about the Reebok Boks (Build Our Kids Success) program that was created by a mom, Kathleen Tullie, looking to get physical fitness back into schools. With the help of Reebok she’s been able to get the Boks program into over 1,000 schools. Boks kicks off physical activity at schools before the school day begins through local volunteers running the program, in many cases for free or at a minimal cost. I’m eager to learn more – if you have any experience in bringing this program to your school or something similar, I’d love to hear from you. I also intend to reach out to the Principal at the school and Superintendant. Perhaps they can get on board with some solutions.

It’s amazing how a few tears from a 5 year can motivate a mom to at least attempt to make a change.

Do you have any experience with recess issues – or lack of recess issues? Please comment and share your ideas!

Child on the playground at recess

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One comment

  1. Anna Beresin September 20, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    Your son is lucky to have a recess advocate for a mom. It sounds like the teachers are managing the children’s time and so much of it was spent waiting. Are there materials for the children to play with?
    If you are looking for more “recess stories,” you may wish to check out my two recent books, “Recess Battles: Playing, Fighting, and Storytelling (University Press of Mississippi) and “The Art of Play: Recess and the Practice of Invention (Temple U Press.)

    wishing you well with your important work,
    Anna

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