Help This Mom Save Recess!

Hi fbdnetfkrs
Readers — Here’s a plea for some great ideas from a mom whose “excellent” public school has killed recess. Has your school tried this, too, and realized its folly? If so, how did it come to its senses? Or is your school considering this and you, too, are trying to figure out how to stop the soul-crushing steamroller of “test success at all costs”? Do tell! — L.

Dear Free-Range Kids: My son just started kindergarten a few weeks ago and I have been so worried about the lack of “Free-Range”-ness in schools — like free choice and play time. Everyone assured me kindergarten was fine and it has been, but the innocence is over in 1st grade: Our school district as DONE COMPLETELY AWAY with RECESS!

The reason? “Just not enough time.” Huh!? What about games and socialization? No, now everything is about test scores. They are keeping 6-year-olds inside for 6 hours to study for tests.

The truly sick thing is that it is an EXCELLENT school academically…great scores. It also prides itself on character building. But my question is: How are they doing all this character building when the students are learning test prep instead of going to recess?  In second, third and fourth grade the kids are literally only learning test-taking skills with the other subjects worked in.  It is a complete disaster and, in my opinion, the school administrators have become so caught up in their reputation for having good academics, they have lost sight of how children learn best and how to mold young children well.

Another mom and I are going to be taking this up with the school and then ultimately the school board.  We have written a letter and are gathering parent signatures.  Any advice/support you could offer I would really appreciate.  This sort of short-sidedness that could really harm the gentle minds our children is devastating to me. Thanks for the support. — Meg

Meg — Lately, child development types have begun emphasizing the importance of “self-regulation,” the ability to control oneself. And it turns out the very best way to develop this ability is by playing with a group of kids, who say things like, “Wait your turn!”  And that is how a kid learns, indeed, to wait her turn.

A great book on the importance of play is Susan Linn’s, “The Case for Make-Believe,” which goes into all the studies and psychology of creativity, play and development. Plus, it’s readable! Another wonderful source of info about free play and all the good it does is KaBoom, the playground-promoting people. And I just read this article on English schools cheating kids out of all-important, tumble-around play.

Please let us know how your crusade progresses. And go get ’em! — L

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104 Responses to Help This Mom Save Recess!

  1. Anthony Hernandez September 9, 2010 at 8:49 am #

    The more complex the mind, the more pressing the need for simple play. – Mr. Spock

  2. bug September 9, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    Some schools are so crowded that even the recess “play” is structured: the whole class must do the same activity for the week (e.g. handball or nothing) and is assigned a new activity the following week. Also a problem, IMO.

    The books “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder” and “Playful Parenting” may be of use, as would be Montessori or Waldorf whole-child materials. (And not to mention: Marie Winn’s “The Plug-In Drug” about screen time, as a related material.)

    Here are some articles on recess, play, and outdoor time. Hope they help.

  3. Kathy September 9, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    Be persistent.

    Involve the media.

    Call Oprah. Hey – why not? Worse thing she can do is ignore you.

    Find reputable studies that show recess is good. Make sure you check the nay-sayers studies too, so you can present your case effectively.

  4. Melanna Heebner September 9, 2010 at 9:30 am #

    I have read a few articles recently about work places forcing people to take their coffee breaks at work because they have found that even a 15 minute break refreshes the mind to help it focus better and be more productive. So wouldn’t that also be true of children? If they’re so concerned about academics they should look at how the mind best learns. Its not through 6 hour cram sessions that’s for sure!
    I’m sorry I can’t remember the articles to link you to them.
    I think they will find if they cut recess they will have classrooms of kids going squirrelly and not learning anyway. And what about the whole sedentary life issue? Sadly, for some kids recess is the only time they are outside burning calories and getting exercise.

  5. crystalblue September 9, 2010 at 9:31 am #

    I highly recommend this book:
    What Happened to Recess and Why Are Our Children Struggling in Kindergarten?
    by Susan Ohanian

    This is such a disturbing trend, especially when jr high and high school students don’t even learn basic English skills, and the tests seem to do nothing to improve most students’ skills beyond mediocrity.

    Continuing with the quotes:
    “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” ~Einstein

    Imagination and curiosity come from play and free time, not tests.

  6. Museum of Jump Rope Chants September 9, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Two words – music class. If your school’s music teacher delivers a developmentally appropriate curriculum, you can be sure your child has at least this small opportunity not only to sing, but also play turn-taking games, imagine and pretend, skip around the circle, act out songs, dance and swing with their partners, and fully experience the joy and beauty of being alive.
    It’s a tiny part of the children’s week and the principal clearly sees it as an interruption to their “real” learning, but for 30 minutes each Tuesday my students get their childhoods back.

  7. EricS September 9, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Wow! Since when are elementary schools making drones? Sounds like they are messing up the kids even more.

    If you make an online petition, I’ll definitely sign it.

  8. thinkbannedthoughts September 9, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    The best way to make a statement about this (Easiest to do if you’re in an open-enrollment district) is to pull your child out of the school (or at least threaten to) and make sure that the principal, teachers and school board all know why.
    We had to send our oldest child to a private school (on scholarship) for a year to make the point that the public schools needed to be offering more options.
    When enough people, acting together, make their needs and wants known then the top dogs will shift their policies.
    It sounds like you are taking the appropriate, diplomatic steps in reaching out to the principal and school board.
    My mother discovered, however, that those people gt very good at ignoring one or two parents, they know your kid will graduate to the next level soon, taking you with them, so you have to be prepared to do more than talk.
    Get the media involved, get other parents involved, show up at the school after your child’s lunch and take them out of class for 20 minutes to play if you have to. But be prepared to act, loudly and with authority.
    And thank you. Thank you for looking after your whole child, not just their test scores!

  9. michelle September 9, 2010 at 10:13 am #

    With schools being encouraged financially to adopt the national standards for curriculum and a standardized national test, we’ll see more and more “teaching to the test”. What incentive does a school have to NOT teach to the test when they’ll loose precious funding if their test scores drop and gain nothing if their kids actually learn something, are healthy, are well adjusted emotionally, etc.

    Check with your state representatives. There might be something in your state educational policy that requires recess or “free time”. If it doesn’t, then again, talk to your state rep about getting that introduced! We elect these representative to represent us – make use of them!

  10. spacefall September 9, 2010 at 10:52 am #

    What exactly are they learning? Test-taking skills? What value does that have, again? Sure, it’ll get them through an undergraduate degree, but then what? Has anyone past their school years ever thought to themselves, “gee, I’m sure glad I can ace a multiple choice exam!”?

    I’m a great supporter of education in theory, but rote memorization of a lot of stupid terms for tests bears *less* resemblance to education than going out to play in the world. A scientist achieves the most by exploring and observing his or her environment, noticing cause and effect. A writer or artist or actor or musician thrives on imagination, which is used in play but not in memorizing a list of spelling words. The only thing they can really be learning in a school that dismisses play as a waste of time is how to be good little worker bees. 🙁

  11. Jennifer September 9, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    Wow. I have to say, I’m stunned- I’m in a state that’s all about teaching to the test, but my grade schoolers still have recess! (although they’re kept in if the temperature is too high or too low outside….another story for another day). With all the attention being paid these days to childhood obesity, that issue alone makes a good argument for recess. My best suggestion for some ammo is to go to the Children and Nature Network website ( and search the website for “recess”. Several articles come up about the importance of recess for childhood development. Here’s one article I pulled off that site:

  12. Kristen Truong September 9, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    I would recommend using some of the resources from First Lady Michelle Obama’s Fitness programs. With obesity such an issue now, they CAN’T remove this exercise opportunity for kids!

  13. Mike September 9, 2010 at 11:22 am #

    Have those administrators even SEEN a child? Ever? Kids need to run around and burn off energy. They physically cannot sit still for six hours. I wonder how the teachers maintain classroom order when the students are bouncing off the walls with pent-up energy.

    Just when I think I’ve heard the stupidest educational idea ever, I’m proven wrong. Again.

  14. Emily September 9, 2010 at 12:22 pm #

    I’d do all you can to fight it this year–studies, common sense, anything. And if there are not drastic changes, which honestly aren’t likely, I’d be pulling my child out of the school. If there is no other viable option (better or charter school in the district? Reasonably priced private or montessori school?), I would seriously start looking into homeschooling. Yes, public schools need good involved parents to make a difference, but this school sounds like it would squish the spirit of any child. I personally would be trying to change it, and if not enough does change I wouldn’t subject my kid to it. Sad state of things for sure.

  15. kymlee September 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm #

    Oh my, how sad. I honestly don’t see how this is legal. Just like adults need a break every few hours, so do kids. This level of teaching to a test is more likely to stunt the children’s development than anything else. I would start campaigning against it. Get the PTA, Booster Club & whatever other parent organizations at the school involved. The more parents you have behind you, the harder it will be for them to maintain such a ridiculous standard.

  16. Steve September 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm #

    Eric Hoffer, a famous American philosopher and longshoreman, wrote short but important books that used to be studied by college students across the country. One of those books: ”The Ordeal of Change,” has a chapter entitled: “THE PLAYFUL MOOD.”

    You can read an important quote from the chapter talking about the importance of play right here on Lenore’s blog —-

  17. J.T. Wenting September 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    “Have those administrators even SEEN a child? Ever? Kids need to run around and burn off energy. They physically cannot sit still for six hours. I wonder how the teachers maintain classroom order when the students are bouncing off the walls with pent-up energy.”

    Simple answer? Ritalin and Prozac. Kids are active, send them to the school doctor who diagnoses them with ADHD and puts them on drugs to “quiet them down”.
    That’s why the number of diagnosed ADHD cases has exploded over the last decade or so (that and ever more parents having no time to look after their children, wanting them to be couch potatoes).

    As to test taking skills: The test is all that matters in schools.
    Not only does it determine the finances of the school for the next year, it determines what followup education the kid will be allowed to sign up for.
    Actually learning something useful is secondary to that, especially with a nationally mandated curiculum that every school teaches to the letter. The kid that does best in the test (which tests the curiculum) by definition is the smartest (when in reality it’s the kid with the best test taking skills, which could mean knowing nothing but having memorised thousands of questions and answers).

    And that system goes on and on, through a person’s life.
    There’s maybe a short break when you enter senior years in university, and some professional certification exams also require original thinking and true mastery of the subject matter, but even most of those tests are simply testing test taking skills, and the exam prep material for those test show that clearly.
    Exams for professional certification which someone who’s used the technology for a decade can easily fail when a schoolkid who’s never used it at all but crams an “exam cheat sheet” and “exam prep book” for 2 weeks passes with flying colours are not uncommon.

    And all that’s simply because people want to capture skill into a single number, a test score, making the skill of passing tests more important than the skill supposedly being tested.

  18. Stacey JW September 9, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

    I wonder if the student that can’t sit still will then be called ADHD. Recess helps kids get out that crazy energy so they cansit down! I thought there was an obesity epidemic???
    I wish I had suggestions. all I can say is for you to point too other countries that have better scores, and lots of playtime.
    I’m sorry to hear this about your school. I’m sure it’s frustrating,esp after trying to find a free range school!

  19. Ash September 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    My high school became like that in my last years there. I had no idea about free range but I did get alarmed about that, and did not accept it

    What worked best for me and eventually for few friends who joined me was escaping classes / school altogether to gain our time, which we used mostly to walk around, sometimes night included (with a tent), sometimes just to surf the internet. Instead, we studied ourselfes from the books (mostly together, either at an empty room at school or at one’s home)

    In fact, despite missing school a lot we got among the highest grades in most exams. Teachers did not believe what they see, but I have explanations :

    1 Going outside, doing stuff together and overall teenage rebelling is a boost for thinking and common sense, which helps to understand stuff rather than memorizing the book like others did in class

    2 Doing our activities also made us see things differently (seeing the world and not the exams in front of us) so we came calm to the exams, unlike our tense classmates

    3 Travelling puts knowledge of physics and mathematics (altering stuff in a trip, planning trips and binding with bus timetables) into use, so you experience it in reality and not on paper

    4 The internet teaches English a lot better than any book or teacher

    There were teachers who did factor presence in class into the grade. In my case this was literature (the subjects I really was bad at and could not understand at all) and the hairline between F and not F for me depended on presence, I was just sitting in class but studying for some oter subject or working on my science class project

    Well, I am not yet a parent but i’d encourage following what i did

  20. Elizabeth September 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm #

    I have a different take.

    Here’s a mom that wants her child to go to a great school with good test scores (presumably… don’t we all?).

    But she feels what is being done to achieve those scores is not right.

    It seems that she has to make a choice. “Good” school according to the tests, or good school according to what she knows about learning, critical thinking, self-regulation, and so on? You really can’t have it both ways, because those tests are geared towards a VERY specific type of learner, and most children will be flummoxed by them when facing them for the first time.

    I’ve already started petitioning my spouse to stay here in Germany because of that. We’ll sacrifice a lot but at least the kids will get an education.

  21. Christy September 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    This is funny! I was actually worrying that our school had TOO MUCH recess. LOL Let’s face it, US education needs a serious overhaul.

    In Geneva Switzerland, recess is built into the district curriculum for all primary school children. The amount for each grade is published information. They take their recess seriously around here! Everyone, ages 4-12 get 2 breaks during the day. The amount lessens as the children get older but still, twice a day everyone gets a break. This in addition to gym class. On top of this, primary school children only go 4 days a week!

    And yet my 6 yr old is starting to read and is writing in cursive. Hmm, makes you think.

  22. Scott September 9, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    Being well known for a stringent academics program in kindergarten, isn’t really something that is a good thing. Particularly when it means lots of study and tests.

    Unfortunately few schools realize this. The “run the kids hard and put them away wet”, as cowboys say. The kids burn out and have little interest in school starting after about 5th grade, as a result of these sorts of programs.

    As far as no recess, we ran into the same thing. No recess. No time for that.

    Of course it is foolish since the kids are better able to focus after blowing off some steam. Sitting still and starting at a wall for 6-8 hrs a day is not something that is a natural state of children. It’s really more of a form of child abuse than anything.

    What to do? If you follow our lead, you’ll talk to the teachers and principle reasonably, show them various studies and try to get some common sense going. If you’re lucky they will sympathize and tell you its out of their hands, the school board and the state have requirements, Bush implemented NCLB, etc. If you’re unlucky, they will tell you you are a bad parent because you don’t want your children to have a proper education. Either way, nothing will change.

    At that point, try a different school, or homeschool.

  23. Kenny Felder September 9, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    The schools are getting more and more academically focused, at earlier and earlier ages, because that’s what parents want. They will only change when parents in large numbers stop wanting that. So you try to change the school, but when it doesn’t work, you look at home schooling, and you look at charter schools, and you even look at private schools. If there is a Waldorf school or a Friends school in your area, you will find the exact opposite of this kind of insane academics. And if you can’t afford a private school, you will probably find that they are willing to work with you on the tuition. (I am personally a huge fan of Waldorf schools: see for a bit more about why.)

    And now, for the really important stuff. It is not Spock who says “The more advanced the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.” It is Kirk who says that.

  24. Taylor September 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    “Directed attention is a limited resource. Long hours in front of a computer or studying for a test can leave us feeling fatigued. But spending time in natural settings appears to activate involuntary attention, giving the brain’s directed attention time to rest.

    ‘It’s pretty clear that all human beings experience attentional fatigue,’ Dr. Faber Taylor said. ‘Our attention has to be restored from that fatigue, and there is a growing body of research evidence that nature is one way that seems particularly effective at doing it.'”

    Google “importance of recess” then click on the “scholarly articles link.” You’ll be able to read abstracts, and buy articles if you want. If you see pdf links you can get the article for free.

    Talk to other parents, I’m sure others are concerned about cutting recess as well.

  25. Andi September 9, 2010 at 7:33 pm #


    #1- In your letter to the board, do not include the term “short-sidedness”. It’s short-sightedness. As in a lack of foresight.

    #2- Gather a crowd. Two parents out of hundreds aren’t going to seem that significant.

    Good luck!

  26. crowjoy September 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm #

    I think Kenny has hit the nail on the head. When you read stories about pre-school tutors to help kids get into the “best” kindergarten, or see ads for products that promise to have them reading by age 2, parents come down on the schools for not “better preparing” their children academically in elementary school. WE the parents are driving this stupid policy with our competitive parenting. My kids are brilliant, and the reason I know this is because I observe their play, not because they can fill in the blanks perfectly in 2nd grade.

    The advice to organize parents is a good one, as is taking the issue to the local school board, the county administrators and state representatives.

    Good luck. And if you can’t change the school, at least don’t let them change YOU.

  27. crowjoy September 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

    Heh, I say observe their play but to be honest, it’s just when they let me overhear it. 😀

  28. Gail September 9, 2010 at 8:09 pm #

    kymlee and others raise a good point. Even adults need breaks. Where I live, people in certain types of jobs are required by law to be given a break for every certain number (4?) of hours they work. Surely that should apply to children as well.

    This sure puts my recess related beef into perspective. At my sons’ school they are changing how they handle indoor recess on days with inclement weather (too cold, icy or rainy). They’ll now be keeping the children in their classrooms for quiet reading, instead of sending them to the gym as they used to do. I can understand why they did it, the school population is growing and there was at least one act of serious bullying during indoor recess last year (I know about that one because it involved my son, don’t know if there were others), but I have to think there are other options. Organized races in the hallways? Yoga? Something? Especially since I’ve seen what this principal defines as “inclement”, I think they’re going to be spending a lot of time at their desks.

  29. Sean September 9, 2010 at 8:19 pm #

    How many people would not be able to walk or talk if we ‘taught’ those activities to children using a ‘curriculum’, standardized testing, and ‘public’ schools to do it? I’ll bet a lot. Almost all people learn to do those 2 things by……

  30. Nicole September 9, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    I can say a lot of not so nice things about the school system I grew up in, but we did have recess until 8th grade (and class length lunches in high school).

    One of the things I like least about C’s school is the K kids only have one 20 minute recess per day. They can ‘earn’ extra recess, they’ve had 1 extra recess since the years started 3 weeks ago. And if the weather is bad they have to stay in the classroom for those 20 minutes, as they serve lunch in the gym. PE is only twice a week. 🙁 . He may be going to a magnet school (he’s pretty far above grade level- reading at the 2nd/3rd grade level, the neighborhood school isn’t equipped to handle that unfortunately) and they have mandated twice daily recess for 1st-3rd grade. You’d think they’d extend that policy to all schools, since this is the highest testing performing in district…

  31. Sarah O September 9, 2010 at 9:22 pm #

    You might find access to some articles on education psychology or learning through the website (or at least find out what journals are covering the topics).

  32. Orielwen September 9, 2010 at 9:24 pm #

    I liked the quote in the Guardian article, from the head of a school where they got rid of almost all the rules for playtime:

    “There were accidents at the beginning because the children were used to playtime being about speed and aggression, but once they got used to the fact that they had to take responsibility for their own safety the accidents disappeared almost entirely.”

    That’s how you teach responsibility to children – give them some!

  33. MITBeta September 9, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    Here’s another article from today’s Boston Globe:

  34. K. Goodkin September 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm #

    I recently ran across this great piece in the Huffington Post: “Don’t Let Recess Die! Six Ways to Save Recess at Your Child’s School.” I imagine it could prove helpful!

  35. Beth Kimberly September 9, 2010 at 10:42 pm #


    I’m sorry to hear about your child’s lack of recess. A time to run around and self-directed play is very important especially for Kindergartners. K. Goodkin has provided the exact resource I wanted to share: Don’t Let Recess Die! Six Ways to Save Recess at Your Child’s School.”

    “Why Your Kids Need Recess” on Forbes could also be a starting point:

    Alliance for Childhood has many resources included “Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School”

    There are cases of recess being saved. The Healthy Schools Campaign has had success in some Chicago schools, including this example:

    You have a very lucky child. Thanks for valuing play! And good luck!

  36. Christina September 9, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    IPA USA ( may have some resources and information you can use when addressing the school’s administration.

  37. Sophie September 9, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    This is why we’re emigrating to NZ (from the UK). I truly hope that by the time DD starts school in 2 years’ time, they haven’t gone down this route too!

    We have 7 year olds burning out from too much academic work over here already – not many, but I do know of a few – courtesy of keen parents and preschools introducing things like reading and numbers at too early an age, imho.

    They’re kids. They need to play. Play = learning without having to sit down!

  38. Carman September 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm #

    This is insane! I can’t even sit still for 6 hours. I am starting to think that homeschooling is the way to go if you can. I just can’t believe the things that are happening in schools. There is a lot of great advice here and I hope it works out for you.

  39. Megan September 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm #

    I am so disappointed and disturbed to hear about this. There is a reason why anxiety and depression have skyrocketed among children and teens, and doing away with recess (yes, recess) is surely a contributing factor. The human brain, and in particular, children’s brains, NEED to rest now and then. It is so important to their development as people. This school is inadvertantly harming their student’s young minds. They’re going to be burned out with all those stupid tests and no time to blow off any steam. I wish the administrators would read the book “NurtureShock”. They’re not doing anyone any favors—for the teachers, parents, and certainly not the students.

  40. jim September 10, 2010 at 12:06 am #

    The more I learn about teaching to the test (and see the kind of brain-dead teenagers this program creates) the more I support a massive Federal program to create many, many travelling circuses. This way, caring, loving parents who want to have intelligent, well-rounded offspring could just encourage their kids to run away from home and join the circus. It would beat hell out of allowing them to attend the Houston Independent School District.

  41. Larry Harrison September 10, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    I have been hearing about this issue for awhile, actually. It’s so goofed up. Breaks are essential for a person’s sanity, frankly. If you need a break, you need a break–simple as that. If adults, with their longer attention span, need breaks, surely kids do.

    I remember, when watching some of the older sitcoms of the 70s, parents saying to their kids in dismay, “what are they teaching you in school nowadays?” I used to think they were being old fuddy-duddies. Maybe, just MAYBE they were then–but I am not so sure. As for now, anyone who says that most certainly is NOT being an old fuddy-duddy. There’s a lot of insanity out there that would make anyone enlightened with some common sense & memories of a better time shake their collective heads.

  42. Hege September 10, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    There’s an excellent video about the effect of “schooling” on child development and learning on the TED-network.

    Really hope the link doesn’t send this message to the spam-folder.

    The description of the school in this post gives me the shivers, and represents everything I don’t believe should be done through education.

  43. Jenny Armitage September 10, 2010 at 12:48 am #

    First, everyone, adults, college students, teachers, everyone, need a break from time to time. And we work better when we have one. Many business have mandated breaks for just that reason, and surely the teachers themselves have noticed that perform better if they get periodic breaks.

    Second, most schools these days have social counselors. One of those counselors wanted to take our shy child out of class to play board games with other shy students. We objected. We felt recess and group projects were sufficient to help her socialize. We were right. But had there been no recess, than I think many children might need such supervised playtime. That, really would deprive them of academic time. And it would cost the school money.

    I would mention both possibilities when talking to the school.

  44. Julia September 10, 2010 at 12:55 am #

    Sadly this is going on in our county’s school district also. Kindergarten was allowed recess and an hour long P.E., but now that my daughter has reached 1st grade, not only did the school take away recess, but they also shortened P.E. to 30 minutes a day! Even more ironic is that this is an Alabama public school system, where Alabama is one of the most obese states in the country! You’d think our public school system would want to fight that label. The elementary school is brand new where I live and the school’s excuse for no recess: no playground. Now first, I don’t know WHY an elementary school would be built without a playground, but second…that’s no excuse! Not too long ago I was in the same public school system and all we had on our school playground were monkey bars. Give the children a ball and a jumprope. Let them run around and make up games. Don’t we want them being creative and using their imagination anyway? Not having a playground is the lamest excuse for no recess that I’ve ever heard.

    Some parents have banned together to help fight this outrage, but it is such a helpless feeling. I liked the comment about taking your child out of school for 20 minutes after lunch to let them run around to show the school just how important this is to you and your child. I wonder if speaking to some other parents and deciding on a time to do this daily together, if it would have any effect at all? Thanks for the idea! Good luck to all others experiencing this. Get recess back into our public schools!

  45. Lynn September 10, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    PE for only 30 minutes a day? They’re lucky. Our school only has PE for 50 minutes once a week. By the time my child comes home from school at 4:00, does her homework, has supper, has a bath, and gets ready for bed, there is no time in there for much in the way of active play, and it shows. By the end of the week, antsy doesn’t begin to describe it. They have recess, but as soon as the weather gets slightly chilly, it’s inside in class. Which mean that from mid October to March there’s no active play at school. When I asked about the indoor recess, they said it’s because parents don’t dress their kids properly. Where I’m from, in BVC Canada, there is ALWAYS outdoor recess. A note goes home saying that kids need to dress appropriately. If not, they’ll be cold. And sometimes they are. Once. You can bet that it doesn’t happen twice, because up there it gets COLD in the winter!

    Anyway. Rant done. I like the idea of gettinga bunch of parents together and arming yourself with all the info you can about the benefits of regular breaks. I don’t know adults who can sit for hours and focus and be at their best, let alone asking kids to do it. Insane.

  46. mvb September 10, 2010 at 1:21 am #

    but it’s just SO much easier for the teachers to just have all the kids doped up on ridalin, isn’t it? they’re just so complacent and easy to handle….

  47. Dot Khan September 10, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    A lot of this is in reaction to teaching to standardized tests. (A better gauge may be the progress a student makes against themselves.)
    The first lady is trying to get kids exercising. Lenore went to elementary school with Rahm Emanuel. Maybe if he remembers her, she can influence educational policies to encourage play time including playground equipment that has been designed only to interest kids under 7 years old.
    Recess is one of many things that get taken out of school that make it worthwhile for kids to look forward to wanting to go to school. While recess has more universal appeal, what interests one kid will bore others. Include sports for the jocks, music and art for the creative folks, industrial arts and auto shop for the hands on types and science and computers for the intellectuals. The discipline, problem solving skills and competitiveness from these electives are great lessons that can be very practical later in life. Most of what is learned for tests is quickly forgotten after one has ingested a bunch of facts and figures long enough to regurgitate them back onto a test paper.

  48. Stephanie - Home with the Kids September 10, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    I have my daughter in an online public school now because the local public school drove me nuts teaching to the test, but it wasn’t recess they took away. They merely almost completely ignored the science and history curriculum. The kids had one day where they did a bit of science, plus a report on dinosaurs. They also did a family tree… both after state testing. Completely ignored topics that weren’t on the state tests otherwise, or so my daughter told me.

    We do active things between classes. My daughter loves that she can get up when she needs to. The classes are definitely more challenging than what she was getting in the local school, but she likes that.

    I can’t imagine making my active children sit still that many hours. They aren’t capable of it.

  49. Gillian in Wales September 10, 2010 at 2:14 am #

    This link is an article published by Aberdeen University about how exercise in schools can help children pay attention in the classroom.

    Issued 19th April 2010.

    Can’t get much more credible than this 🙂

  50. Cynthia September 10, 2010 at 3:11 am #

    GAAA! I think the recess issue is the hill I’m going to die on. I just need to figure out how to fight the battle first. Our state (so the locals can’t do much) only allows one hour per day of non-curriculum work. This includes all PE, music, art, and maybe even lunch, as well as recess. It’s crazy, But really, when will people wake up and remember that education is not for the purpose of passing tests, test are to gauge education? An education which is the sum total of one’s knowledge, and is presumed to be broader than what a test can measure anyway. “Test prep” is a total cop out for actual education, and increasing test anxiety is going to help no one. I wish someone would do a study where kids got to run around and play, then went in and took their test, versus kids who sat through a prep class right before. Heck, I bet the first group would do better than a group that sat and studied the answer key for an hour first. Maybe I should do that study.

  51. Stephen September 10, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Why is anyone surprised about this?

    Take an over-staffed parasitic bureaucracy that has no real interest except to protect its own and its own interests, feed in bonkers policy requirements (kids should become good at taking tests rather than growing and developing intellectually and as human beings), and this is a completely logical and predictable result.

    Not only is this “garbage in / garbage out”, but the machine in the middle is dangerous in and of itself.

    The reality is that if you don’t want your kids to be treated like prisoners making license plates, the only real option is to….. get them out of prison.

  52. Ash September 10, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    @Cynthia I completed high school recently. The entire process of conversion from normal school to exam machine matched exactly on my years in it so i witnessed it first hand, I knew exactly that something very wrong is beginning to happen with the school

    In reaction I did exactly what you call for – for myself. I skipped school alot to go outside (or just surf internet) and completed the study from the book in a short time (not big challenge given that in the meantime students in class dont understand anything, so the same chapter is milled over and over again and they dont advance fast)

    School attempted to talk to parents, I rebelled. School was attempting stuff like calling me for warning speech with the principal etc. but he just shut up when i showed him that my grades are among the highest in class in many subjects despite my sinister behavior.

    Unhappy principal aside, in the last few months or so the math major gave me the task to help teach math to students with bad grades in afterschool. Despite i missed >50 % of math lessons.

    Read more at #18 above

  53. Jenny Armitage September 10, 2010 at 4:32 am #

    Frankly, I don’t think this has much to do with “teaching to the test” in the sense that the subject matter on the test is too hard or takes too long to teach. My generation learned ALL of those things, plus science and history and had recess.

    But the schools have become more and more obsessed with learning to learn, healthy egos, socialization , and not stiffing the children etc. Unfortunately the classroom is not a good place for teaching any of those things. The playground, the neighborhood, and on the way home from school are. That is the purpose of letting them be free-range kids.

    I do want my children to learn something at school, and that something should be reading, writing and arithmetic first, then science and history. Before state testing, our schools weren’t teaching much of anything, except quote: “learning to learn.” I’m not sure how you can learn to learn without learning something else along the way.

    But I think that teachers, and especially the bureaucracy associated with teaching objects to the tests strongly because they rate school and teacher performance. And they do try to punish us all for that.

    If science, history and art aren’t taught because of the test, add them to the test. Mandate recess and lunch time too. Force them to use the time time the have to teach rather than to socialize the kids.

    In the meantime, fight the recess issue by pointing to the studies that show people learn better and faster with breaks.

  54. Barb September 10, 2010 at 4:53 am #

    I found a site that did research on this and states how important recess is to kids. Please check it out.

  55. Arianne September 10, 2010 at 5:43 am #

    When I read FR kids, I remember a lot of things from my short time as a substitute teacher. I was once a long-term sub at a charter school where the parent board had WAY too much power. I came right in the middle of some big upheaval. The director (much like a principal) was pushing for more extracurriculars (there were none at the time yet) including walking to a karate dojo next door so the kids could have SOME form of P.E. They had absolutely nothing like this, and it really showed in the kids’ behavior (some salivating over and pouncing on any opportunity for free physcial time, others begging to come into my room to read, etc. during recess won even the most glorious days). As one of the teachers put it, “Do we want well-rounded kids, or ‘well-rounded’ kids” (with a circling hand motion around the middle). The kids and teachers loved the director’s idea, so did a lot of parents, but the parent board was outraged. They vehemently opposed it and said that instead they should add some super-freaky brainiac classes (I can’t remember what they were, but they were pretty intense). The director ended up being removed over all this. Then, shortly afterward, I had my homeroom (7th grade) outside for some free time because everyone had finished their work. One boy had his feet swept out from under him during a game of basketball and fell down (he actually got hurt pretty badly–sprained wrist, stitches in his chin–it was a total freak accident). The interim director then declared that there would be no outside/recess time whatsoever for the whole school for the remainder of the year. It was such total overkill, but then, I wouldn’t want to be her and face that parent board either….

  56. Jennifer September 10, 2010 at 7:18 am #

    It is so sad, but yes a lot of schools are doing just this. As a former Kindergarten teacher it is close to impossible to teach 5 and 6 year olds without allowing them free time and free play. It is so important for their devolpment and social skills, but who cares about that as long as the test scores are good? The parents thats who. In the long run that is what is going to make them more successful, not what their test scores are!

  57. Stephanie Smith September 10, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    I haven’t read through all the comments so I don’t know if the following book has already been referenced, but it will help make your arguments: “Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All in Your Head” by Carla Hannaford. If we’re not slowly killing our kids through inactivity, we’re certainly inhibiting their love–or even interest–in learning.

  58. Robin September 10, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Besides the elimination of recess, I’m still back at shaking my head at full-day kindergartens. Why are we pushing these kids to learn so much at their age? MOST of their day should be play. Not school and homework.

  59. Stephanie September 10, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Getting rid of recess is the worst thing the school can do to those kids! We need to petition to have recess made mandatory! If we need to add 20 minutes to the school day than so be it! This is in part caused by teacher’s unions who insist teachers get specific things in their contracts. Who is advocating for the children? I was upset that my children’s school cut recess from 15 to 10 minutes because of time. Recess should be considered part of the curriculum as far as I am concerned. Below are links to a couple of papers I wrote 2 years ago on recess.

  60. JP September 10, 2010 at 9:17 am #

    Hasn’t anyone followed the news during the last 10 years or so? Ever heard of “No Child Left Behind?” Until that law is repealed, you’re going to see things like this.
    It works like this:
    1. Federal government (under Bush) demands that every last child in the US reach goal on standardized tests.
    2. Schools where kids do not achieve desired scores are sanctioned, penalized, taken over, and eventually turned into charter schools so corporations can somehow profit off children.
    3. School administrators under pressure to improve test scores start eliminating “extras” like recess

    If you don’t like what you’re seeing, stop electing Republicans.

  61. Anthony Hernandez September 10, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    @JP, I don’t know you, but I LIKE YOU!! :-))

  62. Robin September 10, 2010 at 10:27 am #

    JP and Anthony – A short history lesson for you. The NCLB was Senator Kennedy’s baby as well as Bush’s and was passed by a Democrat majority congress. Please don’t blame this all on the Republicans.

  63. Nicole Down Under September 10, 2010 at 11:02 am #

    Seems like Aussie kids are once again not immune from the helicopter parent and school creep… but a great little editorial on kids needing play from the Sydney Morning Herald:

  64. chavisory September 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Yikes. When I was in first grade, my school still required THREE recess periods throughout the day for first graders, which was gradually decreased to one for fifth graders.

    As a point of comparison, Actors’ Equity, the union of professional actors and stage managers, requires a 10-minute break after every hour and 20 minutes of rehearsal time, and a one-hour lunch break in a 7-hour day. If a professional association can recognize the importance of mental downtime for *adults* to this degree, why is it such a mystery that children need breaks to function well?

  65. chavisory September 10, 2010 at 2:09 pm #

    Oh, and I would say, if this school denies recess to kids so young, no matter what their test scores are, it is NOT a great school, and probably not a very good environment for kids at all.

  66. hoepfl September 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    God I hate standardized tests. Play by Stuart Brown is a good book, but targeted more for adults (it does explain the basic science of play and how crucial it is to happiness, and how it teaches children social skills and altruism).

  67. SuzyQ September 10, 2010 at 6:54 pm #

    “Bell-to-bell instruction” is what OUR district calls it. Our kids get 20 minutes of recess at lunchtime, and if they have P.E. on a particular day they are NOT supposed to have an extra recess. They are “allowed” 15 minutes on days where they don’t have P.E., but if the day is particularly busy, or rainy, or whatever, they might not have it. Tell me…how many 6-year-olds do you know who don’t need 15 minutes of time to blow off steam? All these experts (administration, that is) know children need physical activity to help them focus better at their seatwork, but those test scores drive EVERYTHING. (Here’s a related question: How much do standardized test scores really help, when you’re comparing an inner-city child who has never even seen a log cabin to a country kid who has never seen or ridden the “el”? How can those kids possibly answer the same questions with true understanding?)

  68. Gabriella Kelley September 10, 2010 at 8:45 pm #

    You are completely correct in valuing recess! I have twin 10 year old boys in 5th grade here in a school district that has been identified as “Excellent with Distinction”, the highest rating possible here in the State of Ohio. The year before my boys started Kindergarten our town changed the cut-off date for Kindergarten which caused the year ahead of them to have a ratio of 2/3 girls to 1/3 boys. My boys entered the next year (Class of 2018) and their class ratio was 2/3 boys to 1/3 girls. Not only did this class have a LOT of boys, but they were also energetic and athletic boys as well as being very bright. I watched as every year the teachers that had that class not only made sure they got their recess but, would frequently carve out time for an additional recess (even if it was only for 10 minutes) if possible. You see the thing is, these incredibly bright and wonderful kids NEEDED to run and when they did, they did remarkably better in school. Ask any teacher they had about how miserable things could get when the weather would dip below 20 degrees (our district’s limit for outdoor play) and the kids were not allowed outside. Don’t give up fighting for recess!

  69. Cynthia September 10, 2010 at 9:59 pm #

    Anyone have any experience fighting things on a state level? My oldest is set to start KG next year. I refuse to send him if they don’t change the state-wide recess policy, but I was wondering if anyone has any good ideas of whom to contact.

  70. pentamom September 10, 2010 at 10:17 pm #

    I don’t understand why it has to be either or. Time was kids could be educated, given a good grasp of math and science, literate, all that good stuff — and still have recess.

    And I’m not talking about the one-room schoolhouse days where lots of kids got only a few years of education and others fell through the cracks — I’m talking about the mid-20th century, where outcomes were better than they are now on average, but there wasn’t all this craziness about testing and no recess and what have you. What happened?

  71. Amanda Heidt September 10, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Ugh. This reminds me of when one of my brothers was in elementary school. It was the beginning of the decline of recess due to testing and a local paper wrote a story on it. His principal was quoted saying “I’d rather have a fat child who can read than a fit child who can’t!”

    Why can’t we have the best of both worlds?

  72. Uly September 11, 2010 at 12:10 am #

    Offtopic, but you (sorta) made the Sociological Images blog. It’s two comics we’ve seen before, but there’s a not-small possibility that people will make interesting comments once it’s been up a little longer.

  73. liz September 11, 2010 at 1:04 am #

    My husband taught kindergarten for three years, and he would certainly tell you that kids need some time to run around and blow off some steam so they aren’t so scattered when they are supposed to sit down and learn. The teachers at this school probably aren’t allowed to say so, but my guess is they’re behind you 100 percent!

  74. Meg Rosker September 11, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    How do you set up an online petition????!!! Thanks for all these great comments 🙂

  75. Robin September 11, 2010 at 2:07 am #

    pentamom – that was back in the good old days when if you got in trouble at school you got double trouble at home. Now the teachers can’t effectively discipline kids so a lot of their time is wasted during the day trying to get every one focused. The other part of that is the diverse range of abilities in each class. If they have to go over concepts a second time for the slower learners, she loses the fast learners. But if she goes too fast for the faster kids she’ll lose the slower ones.

  76. Claudia Conway September 11, 2010 at 2:38 am #

    The depressing thing about all this testing is that it works from the assumption that parents can’t trust their kids’ teachers. I’m happy to trust teachers… they’ve been trained, I assume they’re generally good sorts who want the best. If my kid seems happy and engaged, that’s good enough for me – I don’t need or want test results or constant feedback; my child should give me all the feedback I need without even trying.

  77. Uly September 11, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    Of course, Robin, having a mix of abilities in your classroom is nothing new. My mother occasionally talks about her third grade teacher, whom she STILL hates, and how she taught her class: She gave out the work, and nobody could do anything else until everybody had finished. So the bright kids (like my mother) were sitting around bored doing nothing, and the slowest kid in the class was crying by the time she was done, every day, because she KNEW she was holding everybody back.

  78. Uly September 11, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    (That teacher would no doubt have been a bad teacher even with streamed/tracked classes. There *are* good ways to teach with a mix of abilities, that’s just not one of them.)

  79. Matt September 11, 2010 at 4:39 am #

    It’s not a great school if they don’t have recess. Test scores measure only a very narrow aspect of achievement in a very narrow range of intelligences among the many that children need to have nurtured. Most especially in Kinder!

    The secret to getting recess, and sanity, back is to be loud and proud in saying “I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY SCHOOL’S TEST SCORES!” and working to stop the insane funding system that has funneled all activity in our schools towards filling out little bubbles with No. 2 pencils. A good test score does not an education make.

  80. cartooncat September 11, 2010 at 5:10 am #

    I would hate to teach kids who haven’t had the chance to go and work off some energy every couple of hours!

  81. DMT September 11, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    To be honest, when I was younger, I hated PE and recess. Being awkward and uncoordinated, I was always the last picked for teams (if I was even picked at all). So doing away with both would’ve been just fine for me.

    But now that I’m older, I see the value in the mental AND the physical. If nothing else, PE taught me that I hate team sports (still do) but that there are other ways to enjoy physical activity. And again, if nothing else, recess was a nice break from sitting in a class all day. At least I could do something on my own terms.

    Count me in among those who don’t see why both learning and play can’t be combined in one school day.

  82. DMT September 11, 2010 at 6:08 am #

    @ Robin, that’s the problem with public (and many private) schools today. The system is set up to teach the broadest margin possible. Those who are very bright or very slow sit outside those margins, and sadly are often labeled “problems.”

    A co-workers son is extremely bright but stubborn about homework. This makes him a “problem child” in the classroom because he doesn’t sit down and focus on the work. They’re working on it at home, but she said for the past two years the school has recommended medicating him. And she’s getting really frustrated with the constant recommendation because she strongly feels there are other alternatives. Unfortunately these other alternatives are not the quick fix medication is,

  83. Donna September 11, 2010 at 7:30 am #

    “Time was kids could be educated, given a good grasp of math and science, literate, all that good stuff — and still have recess.”

    That was before:

    (a) NCLB in which only the test results matter.
    (b) Funding was cut drastically for schools.
    (c) Tracking students was stopped so that classrooms are mandated to include a mix of high achieving, dedicated students and low achieving, behavioral problem children. Instead of like in my childhood when all kids in the class were about equal in ability and motivation allowing the teacher to teach to the class, the teacher today has to teach to centers and small groups of different abilities which is more time consuming. At the same time, she/he must wrangle the behavior problem children.
    (d) The US became Lake Wobegone where all parents assume that their kids are above average and insist on them being treated as such, even if they have to redshirt them or get them declared “learning disabled.” And god forbid you give one of their little darlings the failing grade he/she deserves.
    (e) Kids became overindulged at home and carry that behavior into the classroom and parents stopped backing the teacher’s play. Now the teacher is the enemy if she dares to tell them that their spoiled, overindulged child is a brat. So teachers spend much more time dealing with behavior issues and tantrums that are disrupting the learning.

  84. Linda Lou September 11, 2010 at 9:52 am #

    “The truly sick thing is that it is an EXCELLENT school academically…great scores.”

    The very fact that you buy in to this theory is what aids and abets administrators in making really poor choices like eliminating recess. It can’t be stated enough that HIGH TEST SCORES DO NOT EQUAL EXCELLENCE IN ACADEMICS. If enough people voice their disapproval by leaving the school for alternatives more aligned with a sensible philosophy, things might change. In the mean time, there is no way in hell I’d leave a kindergartner in school all day while I know they aren’t getting proper breaks. My kindergartner goes to school for 2 hours and 40 minutes a day and has recess. So did my older kids before him and they are both excellent students.

  85. Scott September 11, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    “My kindergartner goes to school for 2 hours and 40 minutes a day and has recess.”

    Thank goodness some places are still sane. In my town, kindergarten is 8am to 3:30pm, because that’s the high school schedule and it’s important that the bus schedule be aligned since the same busses take home everybody from kindergarten to 12th grade. There’s 25 minutes for lunch, including bathroom break and walking to the cafeteria in an orderly line and back, and no recess.

    School now starts in the first week of August, at the apex of summer heat. Next week is the sixth week of the semester.

  86. kherbert September 12, 2010 at 2:45 am #

    One thing that helped my Principal DOUBLE recess is that Texas has a law that kids have to have 150 minutes of daily physical activity during a school week. So our kids have 90 minutes of PE a week* and 30 minutes of recess a day.

    Personal observation is that my students concentration in the afternoon has increased since principal started scheduling recess/lunch as an hour block of time.

    Last year I noticed that when partner teacher had recess duty, they were much more likely to have indoor recess. So this year I volunteered to have recess duty every day and she would take lunch duty (which I hate). The other two teachers across the hall did the same thing.

    We have been in session 3 weeks. We have had indoor recess 2x because of thunderstorms during recess. On days it wasn’t raining, but our playground/soccer field was flooded in ankle deep water we took the kids to the black top or bus porch. (We trade off with the other grade, who has recess then, because the space is too small for 200+ kids to run and play. (100 – 110 kids per grade. ))

    The kids get a kick out of us saying – Get off the sidewalk and ‘Play in the street’ (Street is the drive for the buses. We block the entrances with sawhorses)

    *Specials rotation each week
    90 minutes PE (2 45 minute sessions)
    45 minutes Music, Art, TECH
    45 minutes Reward for good behavior/ not going because you have been disruptive.

    The way it works is once a week your “Specials” is moved from the regular time to the last 90 minutes of school. The kids go to their regular specials class the 1st 45 minutes. The 2nd 45 minutes they have their choices of various enrichment activities. During this 90 minute time we grade Level teachers can meet to plan, have staffings/ARDS, meet about specific students who are having difficulties. We also can request specific staff development during that time.

  87. Sky September 12, 2010 at 4:48 am #

    Our public schools got rid of recess briefly, I think for one year. They realized their folly when the kids started bouncing off the walls, and they reinstated it.

    I recall having one long recess and one shorter one immediately after lunch when I was in school. It also seemed like we had P.E. every day instead of only twice a week, but maybe I am mis-remembering that. I do know lunch was longer and that as soon as you finished eating you were dismissed outside to play and could play until the lunch period was over.

    Last year in public school my daughter had one 20 minute recess a day, and it seemed like they played in their classroom during the slightest heat or cold (where they weren’t permitted to run). This year she’s in private school and they have two recesses a day, sometimes three. The school day is the same length (6.5 hours), the only difference is that, unlike public elementrary schools in this area, they don’t have the 2.5 hour early release on Mondays.

    I think more recess helps, rather than impedes, the academics. They’re more focused with regular breaks and shorter, more concentrated times to spend on academics.

  88. Party Piper September 12, 2010 at 5:42 am #

    I believe I just read something in Harvard Medical Journal about how kids who have ADHD have better performance and academic outcomes when they spend some time outdoors each day, versus children who do not. So, remind the school district that they might actually be working AGAINST better test scores and better behaved children by eliminating recess.

    Also, anyone else see all that information on the gym classed integrated with academic information? Like the games and whatnot were based on curriculum, and the kids were some of the best spellers that had ever been seen?

  89. kherbert September 12, 2010 at 10:21 am #

    DMT – If they are actually saying that the child should be medicated they are violating the law and can be required to pay for medical treatment they recommend.

    We are strictly forbidden to recommend any medical intervention because we are not doctors. Since the difference between an ADHD and a Non ADHD brain can be seen on a MRI, I wish it was required before kids could be diagnosed and given meds.

    Now if a child is on medication and the parent forgets to give it to them – we can call the parent and ask them to bring the meds to the school.

    It really isn’t fair to give the kid meds some days and not others. It really messes with their brain chemistry. I would a rather a parent not give the child meds at all than do the some days on some days off thing. There is a look in the kids eyes on the days they don’t get their meds like they are trapped

  90. Timkenwest September 12, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    I’m not a particularly sporty person, but even I know that when I’m working on a project or trying to solve a problem or studying for an exam, I am much more focused and productive after going for a good walk. There’s even fricken research studies about this. Physical activity = better focus and retention. WTF is wrong with these people that they think doing away with recess could possibly be a reasonable idea?

    When I was in elementary/ jr high (same school k – 9), we had 15 min recess morning and afternoon, plus 30 mins after lunch. Ask me what I remember about being school. It’s playin follow the leader and jump rope, making up secret games with my best friend, running to get dibs on a swing, ice skating at lunch, and when I got older, feeling cool watching the boys skateboard and feeling like a celebrity when all the little kids from the bus would come running and beg me to play with them.

    This is in the 80s, people!! AND in my famously cold Canadian city, so we wore snowsuits for 5 months of the year!!!

    Btw, I mentioned this article to the grade eight girl who babysits for me and her eyes bugged out of her head. She couldn’t wrap her head around WTF these schools are thinking, either.

  91. bellabrowndesigns September 14, 2010 at 1:31 am #

    Our school is foing this too, we are appealing to our schoolboard tonight, thankfully they havent done away with recess altogether, but reducing it in half from what it has been before this year. i started it as a way to help our school but ii am trying to put more and more resources on there, checkout playfulplaygrounds i found a lot of resrouces there.. stay informed, unite against the district, state you case and concern every chance you get, draw media attention, get help from advocates.
    play is not an important aspect of a childs life it is the essence of who they are, to take it away is to deny them the right be individuals and discover the greatness that lies within.
    good luck -i will check back and see if you have made any progress.

  92. Jesica September 14, 2010 at 2:38 am #

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  93. Kristy September 15, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    I read a book called The Hurried Child when I was in teacher ed. in college and I recommend it. I enrolled my daughter in kindergarten for this year, but I pulled her out before classes started when I saw what she would be doing when I went to parent orientation. I know that’s not a luxury that everyone has, but I refused to put her in school there, especially since she’s only four. While the did have some recess the playground was so overcrowded there wasn’t room to play and the had no unstructured play time in the room for centers.

  94. Kerry September 16, 2010 at 12:43 am #

    I am going to be fighting the same fight. My son has recess, but only 20 minutes a day. I am thinking about going to the school everyday at lunch time and signing him out and having our own extended recess. It may be seem a little radical, but nothing is crazier than taking away free play from our children.

  95. Susan Westley September 16, 2010 at 4:50 am #

    As an early childhood educator, I have been fighting this battle in Florida for years. I have written the school board, the superintendent, my representatives in Tallahassee, and the governor. I have published an article in the Tampa Tribune, The Tallahassee Democrat and my hometown newspaper, but to no avail.

    In order to get children ready to read, our “leaders” have taken a step backward and forgotten all the tenets of a good early childhood program. (Early Childhood Education encompasses birth to age 8) Academics seem to be the total focus in classrooms today, thereby forgetting our duty to address the needs of the “whole child.” At five years of age, children need to develop cognitively, but also socially, physically and emotionally. To miss any piece of this is developmentally inappropriate and harmful. Friedrich Froebel, the father of kindergarten, would weep at what has happened to his “garden of children.” Today’s five year olds and their teachers are held prisoner by politicians and school administrators who think play is a waste of time and recess interferes with time better put to use for academic pursuits. What nonsense!

    Please continue your quest. It is so very important to our children. I have listed some references below that I have used:

    Reimagining kindergarten: restoring a developmental approach when accountability demands are pushing formal instruction on the youngest learners
    School Administrator, November 2009, by Elizabeth Graue

    Alliance for Childhood, Crisis in Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play,, March 2009

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children, Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8,, Adopted 2009

    The National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1509 16th Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20036-1426, Top 10 Signs of a Good Kindergarten Classroom, 1996

    New Jersey Department of Education, Have You Heard? The Truth About Kindergarten, A Guide to Understanding Kindergarten,

    North Carolina State Board of Education, The Power of K, North Carolina Position Statement of Kindergartens of the 21st Century,, 2006

    In additon checkout Dr. David Elkind’s book entitled, The Power of Play

  96. Susan Westley September 16, 2010 at 4:52 am #

    I posted the last post – Early Childhood Education is from ages birth to eight. I don’t know where in the world did that happy face came from…

  97. sarah September 17, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    We are in this fight too, I agree it may be one I die on, so many parents ask why I fight for recess (we actually went from 30 min to 15 min, so not out all together, but its still not justifiable). I went before our school board this week, will be appealing at all levels, from what I have heard “its a local” issue so start there, be organzied, be heard… I have SAVE RECESS shoe polished on my car, as do others, PARENTS have to be united and make their voice heard. They are our children. NASPE has a position statement online (from 2006 – they will renew next year) but at a minimum they say 20 minutes and then defend their statement. It is a good starting point, also if the principal made this decision does he/she have a health degree – usually principals have and administrative degree, so they cant really speak for the health, cognitive, well being of our children. At this point I have had contact from 5 different states facing this issue, we need to unite and help one another in the fight for our children.

  98. sarah September 17, 2010 at 10:09 am #

    Meg have you started an online petition, I used and you can have it email several people each time it gets signed, and trust me our school superintendents were NOT happy that they were getting the petition signed from out of the district (trust me people from all over the world signed it) I have restricted it to those in our district because the superintendent threatened those inneighboring districts that he would call his truency officers to investigate if they had kids illegally in the wrong school, basically saying it doesnt concern you so leave me alone, very offensive. These people are to look after the best interest of our children, and not developing their social skills and cognitive awareness, not exploring their creativing and imagination, not developing friendships and learning about self, not being in nature, that is not in their best interest, it is in the best interest of the beaurocratic majority that sits in a desk and takes breaks whenever they darnwell please for coffee or a phone call or to do god knows what. Our children are not to be test taking robots who conform to societies idiodic standards, they are humans capable of the most amazing accomplishements built with dreams inside their minds and hearts that need inspiration and cultivion so they can be that one unique incredible person they were desinged to be. How many Einsteins have we lost in the last 2 generations because they perfomed solely on merit of test taking and on merit of their OWN reasoning, questioning and exploring. Click through my name to my saverecess site for a contact me, and I will share all the research and my speech I delivered to our school board if you’d like.

  99. Andrew September 18, 2010 at 2:28 am #

    I thought this was just a US thing, but here is a recent news story from the UK – – Selby school cancels outside break in row over noise – neighbours of a primary school (children aged roughly 4 to 11) complaining because (shock) they make noise while they are playing outside during their break time. From the comments from the local authority, this sounds like an overreaction by the school governors.

  100. Anthony Hernandez September 18, 2010 at 2:33 am #

    Good lord, that sounds like the douche bags who bought houses near San Francisco airport (right under the departure path of 747s climbing out under full power) and then bitched about the noise. Instead of telling these idiots to sleep in the beds they made of their own free will, the local governments gave them money to soundproof their homes!

    It would be one thing if the airport was built/expanded AFTER they bought the houses and they had no reason to know that would occur at time of purchase… but the airport was there before them! Airplanes were liting off every 3 minutes on cue the entire time they were looking at those houses!

    Honestly, what has happened to personal responsibility? You bought a house near a school, lump it if you don’t like the noise!!

  101. Steve October 5, 2010 at 2:58 am #

    This is sad. With obese rates rising in the US shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to run and play.

    All our educational system seems to be worrying about is “Passing the Test”.

    – Steve

  102. Dianne October 5, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    Ok guys WOW I just found this site this should help our case on WHY these kids need FREE PLAY a little more …I will NOT stop until they take my son out for playtime free not just directed play saying older kids get into fights if they have free play….are u kidding me …thats your argument for this ?!
    They are getting on my nerves let our babies play and run free !!! Its NOT JAIL for Gods sake …..They will be inside learning all the time soon enough let them be children now !!!

  103. Janice D October 17, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

    Homeschoolers can have free play as soon as they finish their work each day. If you don’t HAVE to work, homeschool. You’ll be giving your child the gift of a lifetime, not to mention the company of other homeschoolers who are also creative players.
    I know a woman who goes around to some very big companies and analyzes what’s wrong with the top brass and what she finds is this: They are all from the top ten percent of the top colleges and came from the top ten percent of their high schools. So what’s wrong with that? Schools ar eteaching test-taking and research skills. They are not teaching out-of-the box thinking (and believe me, that box is awfully small these days). They are not teaching (or even allowing) creativity. So these top brass are taught how to answer correctly and research their problems to the extreme, but they are not taught to make independent decisions or find creative solutions. This is where our current educational emphasis leads – to the eventual fall of AMerican companies which are stagnating.
    So anyhow, get your kids out of there and give them a real education, if at all possible.


  1. Guess How Much the Crozet Playground Cost? — RealCrozetVA - September 13, 2010

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