Top 5 Tips for a Happier Recess

Reflect, for a moment, on your childhood.

Were there times when you invented new games?

Did you imagine new characters?

How many times did you come home at dusk, hungry and tired?

Many of the games we loved growing up remain some of the best because they adhere to simple, enduring principles—positive language, guidelines for safety, adult interaction, and free-and-imaginative play.

No matter what season we are in, there’s always time to try something new at recess or during playtime at home. Here are our top 5 recess and play tips ensure your students engage in safe and healthy play every day.

  1. Try Lightning Lingo to increase positive language. When students engage in new activities or push themselves out of a comfort zone, they need encouragement from adults. Try Lightning Lingo to strengthen adult-to-kid and kid-to-kid connections.
  2. Set up games for different styles of play: rotational games like Switch and four square; large group games like kickball and Magic Tag; and independent activities like jump rope and hopscotch.
  3. Teach kids Rock Paper Scissors to resolve conflicts on their own.
  4. Recruit older students or kids as leaders with fun titles and roles: Line Leader. High Fiver. Shoe Tie-er. Game Leader. Equipment Manager. Recess Buddy.
  5. Learn a new silly clap and then ask your kids to come up with their own silly clap.

Stories from the Field

Since launching Recess Lab, we’ve received more than 1,600 stories from principals, teachers, and parents. We’re sharing one or two (with the author’s permission) in our monthly newsletters—here are two recent stories from January and February:

“I teach Kindergarten and we have our own, separate playground with one, very tall climbing structure, an open sandbox, and a shed for our fleet of six trikes. At recess, there are about 60 kids on the yard being supervised by three aides. We, the teachers, are not expected to be on yard duty, but I find myself being drawn into helping, trying to think of ways to reduce the chaos and screaming. I am looking for ways to redirect the children so that they’re playing more cooperatively. Less ‘Zombie’ chasing would be ideal!”
—Mrs. R., Biggs, CA

“I teach grades 1-8 in a parochial school. The thing I love most about recess is how the older students look after the younger ones. The challenge, however, is finding games to play that don’t bore the older students yet aren’t too challenging for the younger ones.”
—Janelle H., Minneapolis, MN

Do you have a story to share or a tip for your peers? Let us know, and we’ll share a few stories (with permission) in future blogs.

Want to assess the health and safety of play on your playground? Take the Recess Checkup. This three-minute quiz will help you identify areas of strength and provide strategies for areas needing improvement.