5 Strategies for Recess Planning

Empower kids to lead active and healthy lives.

June 2017, Volume 40, Issue 10

Recess is a vital component to student well-being and success. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America have developed helpful new guidelines that provide schools with tactics for recess planning.

Physical education helps achieve the nationally recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity and supports SHAPE America’s 50 Million Strong campaign commitment to empower kids to lead active and healthy lives.

Here are five key strategies for effective recess planning:

1. 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.

  • Identify and document recess policies.
  • Put documented recess policies into practice and revise as needed.
  • Develop a written recess plan.
  • Designate spaces for outdoor and indoor recess.
  • Establish weather guidelines to ensure student safety.
  • Train school staff and volunteers for recess.

2. Communicate and Enforce Behavioral and Safety Expectations

Using rules, protocols, and expectations during recess helps ensure that students behave better, know how to deal with conflict, and are safe during recess. Establishing safety and behavioral expectations that everyone understands will create a safe environment for all students.

  • Establish and communicate behavior management strategies.
  • Teach conflict resolution skills.
  • Ensure that recess spaces and facilities meet recommended safety standards.


3. Create an Environment Supportive of Physical Activity during Recess

Creating active environments during recess enables students to select and participate in physical activities of their choice. Providing options for students at every grade level to self-select activities increases their physical activity levels and fosters collaboration, creativity, and fun. Strategic inclusion and oversight of opportunities for students with special needs or disabilities also is essential.

  • Provide adequate physical activity equipment.
  • Add markings to playground or physical activity areas.
  • Create physical activity zones.
  • Provide planned activities or activity cards.
  • Provide a combination of recess strategies.

4. Engage the School Community to Support Recess

Engaging everyone in the school community—including staff, students, parents, and other invested community members—can help recess be successful and sustainable. Identifying the unique roles and contributions of these individuals can help schools strategically engage all school partners.

  • Establish roles and responsibilities for supervising and facilitating recess.
  • Involve students in planning and leading recess.
  • Mobilize parents and others in the school community to support and sustain recess at school.

5. Gather Information on Recess

Tracking basic information about recess enables staff to make adjustments to maximize student enjoyment, success, and physical activity. Careful observation of student engagement can be useful to check whether the available choices are being used or need adjustment. This information also can be used to make the case for recess.

Find out more ways to develop your recess strategies at SHAPE America www.shapeamerica.org.

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