No Recess Under 32 Degrees? Because Kids Freeze Like Water?

Hi Readers — Got a notice from our school last week: No more recess when it’s freezing outside — 32 degrees Fahrenheit — or when the wind chill takes an above-freezing day and makes it FEEL freezing.

Now, as a kid growing up in Chicago, this was my dream policy. (Yes, even as a kid I dreamed of improving public  policy. Didn’t you?) How many days were we outside when it was 15 degrees with those famous Windy City winds whipping us around? That’s before kids were fat! We were like coffee stirrers skittering across the blacktop!

On the other hand, now that I’ve got two middle-school sons, I want them to run around during recess. They want to run around, too. The good news at our school is that they ARE allowed to leave the premises for lunch. (I know — how very New York.) It’s just that if they stay and eat in the cafeteria, they can no longer go out to the playground.

What harm would it do them to play outside in the cold? Aren’t Finnish kids #1 in the world in everything, and aren’t they freezing from Day One? Since when did winter become too much to bear? — Lenore


112 Responses to No Recess Under 32 Degrees? Because Kids Freeze Like Water?

  1. Lola December 21, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    Don’t complain. My kids are not allowed outside during recess due to THE RAIN!!! Well, I don’t know about other kids, but mine don’t shrink when they get wet. I have been trying to change the school’s policy ever since I joined the PTA, but I found out it was a parents’ request.
    So now I’m going underground: I take my children’s rain boots when I pick them up from school, and let them jump, skip, roll and swim in the puddles. I’m setting a bad example so that other kids become envious and start nagging their parents to let them play in the rain, too. So far, two more families have joined the “boot club”. And we haven’t caught a cold yet.

  2. Bob December 21, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    I remember that they wouldn’t let us in in the morning until the bell rang. When it was about 10 degrees we would play a game where we would mash against each other in an inside corner of the school building. The person agaist the wall would try to escape the pressure of the ten or so others applyng the pressure. Our body heat and protection from the wind and physical activity kept us somewhat warm.

  3. Bob December 21, 2009 at 9:44 pm #

    One clarification is due in you’re story. Chicago earned its label as the Windy City for its windbag political oratory. The phrase was coined by a New York political reporter. The reputation has not changed in over a hundred years.

  4. Jennifer December 21, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    Hah. If they instituted this policy here in Minnesota, the kids would be inside all winter. As they say, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.

  5. Jennifer December 21, 2009 at 9:50 pm #

    @Bob It looks like there’s disagreement over where Chicago got the Windy City name:

  6. babelbabe December 21, 2009 at 9:51 pm #

    I do hate this policy BUT: many children in my sons’ public school come from poverty-level families. They come to school without coats, gloves, hats, sometimes even no sweater. Because they don’t have them. That is the real reason for this sort of policy.
    Now, I have suggested we raid the overflowing lost and found and kit everyone up (not pretty, I admit, but useful), but so far no one has taken me up on this suggestion.
    So I don’t like it either, but my kids go to school bundled up. If they couldn’t, I probably wouldn’t want them outside any more than necessary either. Especially with the foot of snow we have on the ground right now.

  7. bushidoka December 21, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    We do that throughout Canada but at far lower temperatures than the freezing point – holy moly! Here in Ottawa it is based on wind chill factor and while I’m not sure exactly what the temp is, I believe it to be getting on to -30C which is getting pretty darned cold.

    Last week for the Beavers (Scouting ages 5 to 7) I teach we decided to go tobogganing instead of having a regular class – mainly because the school gym we normally meet in was not available. It was -19C and most of the parents bailed out on us. But 4 families showed up and we had a great time for an hour. With windchill it was probably around -25C and by the end of the hour it was certainly time to get indoors. But we were dressed for it so no big deal.

    10 or 15 minutes at recess is no issue especially when everyone is dressed for it.

  8. Tracey Rollison December 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm #

    I went to a school in a small town in Indiana. We were kicked outdoors unless the weather was going to cause a major mess when all of us came back indoors–like if it had rained so hard half the playground was mud, or if the snow was so deep the school would have to call in the guy who plowed the parking lot (expensive) in order for us to play. I can remember only a handful of times being kept inside for recess. I can remember plenty of times being pretty cold, despite my parka, gloves, hat, boots and scarf!

  9. pinkhairedloli December 21, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Ideally there would be an OPTION to go outside or play in the gym, but that would require two sets of supervisors and few schools seem to have the funding for that. I always hated being forced to go outside when it’s super cold. My nose starts running and of course there are no tissues to be found anywhere.

  10. MattB December 21, 2009 at 10:18 pm #

    It’s probably because of that one kid that got frostbite. Like everything else, I feel bad for that one kid, but it’s an isolated incident. No reason every other kid in the country has to get fatter all winter because they can’t go outside.

  11. Michelle@GotchaBaby December 21, 2009 at 10:33 pm #

    That sounds extreme–I teach preschool in central Indiana and our policy is 10 degrees (by temp or windchill)–and kids are expected to be dressed for the weather. We also have a big bin of extras for those who forget. They need the exercise, AND the health benefit of getting some fresh air, especially in winter!

    What I don’t get is that it’s not like the class has to be outside the entire recess–if it’s 15 degrees, a good brisk walk and 10 minutes of free time may be just what they need.

  12. Dot Khan December 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    How do they plan on enforcing no playing outside when its cold?

  13. gramomster December 21, 2009 at 10:54 pm #

    We live in Michigan. I think it’s zero degrees before the kids stay in. At our grandson’s old daycare, though, we came to pick him up one summer day and all the kids were inside. It was deemed too hot outside, so they had 30 little kids inside with all the lights off. It was about 90. At his current, wonderful preschool, the kids bring swimsuits and towels in June, and if it’s really hot, they go run through the sprinklers all afternoon.
    Too hot. Too cold. Whatever. Northern California had a temperature range of about 40 to about 75. Boooooorrrrring. Never hot enough to run through sprinklers, never cold enough to build a snowman or go sledding. Not too hot or cold though. The rain, however, with its attendant craptons of mud, did keep kids inside.
    It’s always something.

  14. Sky December 21, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Our county school system doesn’t have a specific policy; the principal of each school decides and is supposed to use “common sense” considering both the temperature and the wind chill factor. In my duaghter’s school, though, it appears they do not go outside anytime it is under 40 degrees, which is most unfortunate.

  15. Mary-Frances Main December 21, 2009 at 11:00 pm #

    Oh we TOTALLY have this issue in Denver – not to mention if the playground equiptment is wet they can’t play (I think this is laziness on the part of the teachers not wanting wet students).
    I think what they’re missing is how important that “break” is during the day to go outside and run around. Instead on “inside days”, they have controlled activities in the gym/auditorium. I don’t think that’s any substitute!

  16. Laura December 21, 2009 at 11:02 pm #

    Ok, wait. What?

    They can’t go outside to play, but they CAN go outside to leave campus for lunch.


    Do they *only* get cold when they play outside, but not when they go outside to leave campus for lunch?

    That just doesn’t make any sense at all.

  17. Kimberly December 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    To me this is one of those situational type things. My kids don’t have more than sweaters and cloth hoodies. The days they need anything more substantial are rare here in subtropical Houston/Galveston, and for my parents a heaveir jacket means no food. As a normal course of events we don’t go outside on the rare days heavier clothes are required.

    Now it showed here a few weeks ago – and when it started every door (each grade is in a 4 classroom pod off a garden courtyard) opened and the kids poured out onto the playground. We let the kids play in the falling snow till they turned blue and were soaking wet. Then in the afternoon when it started to stick we went back outside again till the kids lips were blue. There was no way we were going to deprive the kids of that rare experience.

    I do think the poster that wants the kids to play outside in the rain at school is being ridiculous. That comes from two places. A gentle rain is something we don’t see here often. Rain = thunder and lightening for me. 2nd As a teacher I don’t want to stand outside even in a warm rain getting soaked to the bone, then have to go inside dripping wet with 30 some dripping wet kids slipping and sliding on the linoleum floors and teach. The fact my teaching is heavy on computers, Itouches, cameras, and other equipment that isn’t water friendly colors my view.

    Now I will happily play in a rainstorm without lightening with the kids from my family – provided I have something dry to change into afterward. It is just spending the day in wet clothes in an air conditioned building sounds very uncomfortable to me.

    I have never seen a person wearing goulashes in real life. I’ve rarely seen someone wearing a rain coat. Usually it is just an umbrella. I’m considered a little odd and geeky because I use a poncho to protect my backpack with laptop and other equipment.

    Also my sister was knocked out by a slide flash from a lightening strike, while carrying an umbrella with a metal rod – so I see a poncho as safer. Yes I know lightening strike are supposed to be rare but the tree outside my childhood bedroom was hit. The Tree outside my dorm room was hit at university. Sis got that side flash. A tree on our farm was hit while we sheltered in the house about 500 feet away. So they personally are a little to frequent around me.

  18. jim December 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Sure wish the Navy had had this policy in Jan/Feb ’77 when I was going through basic training at Great Lakes Training Center near Chicago. -75 wind chill and horizontal sleet and they had us out on the parking lot (“grinder”) trying to learn to march, which I still can’t do.

  19. Kristie December 21, 2009 at 11:14 pm #

    Okay, off topic, but how is it “lazy” of teachers not to want students who weren’t properly dressed for getting wet coming back inside and spending the next half-hour of class whining about being uncomfortable? It’s more the classroom distraction factor than anything.

  20. Joe December 21, 2009 at 11:25 pm #

    This is just silly. I grew up 40 mile north of Green Bay, Wis. If we had a policy like this we would have never seen the out of doors. As for the kids without the proper clothes – just don’t let them go outside if they are not properly dressed. I long for the days when we could make individualized distinctions based on particular facts instead of broad general policies that hurt the majority of students in an effort to prevent a single child from feeling bad.

  21. Ellen December 21, 2009 at 11:34 pm #

    As a native of Buffalo, I think all this winter fear is for the birds (the ones that fly south, not the hardy starlings and pigeons…but I digress). Let them PLAY! Let my children go! (Well, I do…) My son is in high school, and they pretty much have to go out for lunch (thank you, overcrowded NYC public schools) and why not? His elementary school was more of a problem, not seeming to know that although water freezes at 32, children do not.

    Has no one heard of this: there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.

  22. bonefishbjorn December 21, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

    I think the complaint on this one is not totally valid… one of those “when you’re a hammer” kinds of things.

  23. Lola December 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    Kimberly: Rain-lover ridiculous here 😉
    I understand perfectly about teachers not wanting to get wet. But it really isn’t an issue at my kids’ school. Playgrounds are enclosed and tiny (one for each age), and their policy is teachers are available for hurt children, but they don’t intervene in their games. So they can stand under the porch while they look the kids over.
    About children getting wet, well… That’s the thing. Parents keep bringing their children dressed as if they were about to compete in a beauty pageant. A good raincoat and rain boots are good enough for Madrid’s weather. Just take them off when you enter your classroom. I mean, how do Seattle kids manage?
    Sorry if I sound too aggressive, but I know my children’s teachers agree with me (I checked, of course), it’s just parents who think their kids can’t manage who annoy me.

  24. Amanda December 21, 2009 at 11:47 pm #

    My daughters school policy is to not let them go outside if the wind chill makes it feel like 15 degrees or if that is the temp. The teachers of course ensure that they are all bundled up. They are also not let outside if it is steadily raining, which was something that we weren’t allowed to do when I was a kid in the 80s in Stockton, California. However, I had to treck home in the rain from the bus stop, which wasn’t at my door step like I see school busses doing now (especially rural areas). My bus stop was a little over a mile away. Half the time I didn’t bother with an umbrella (100% of the time now; too much a pain), and rarely did I get sick. Although, I was glad that they didn’t make us go to recess while it was raining because that would have been extremely uncomfortable to have to sit through the day in class with damp clothes.

  25. Ben December 21, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    I don’t understand why freezing weather equals no recess. Put that gym or assembly hall to good use and let the kids have recess in there. It’s still inside, but it allows for plenty of room to run around once those no-fun school administrators relax the rules for a while.

  26. sylvia_rachel December 21, 2009 at 11:55 pm #

    That would’ve been my dream policy in elementary school, too ;). We were kicked out at recess (and lunch recess, which lasted an hour and a half including the actual-eating-lunch part) in subzero conditions ALL THE TIME. (I grew up in Calgary, where the first snow generally falls shortly after Yom Kippur and it can be -30°C for a couple of weeks at a time between chinooks.) But if it rained? Indoor recess. After all, you wouldn’t want the mudrooms to get all full of, well, mud ::rolls eyes::

    I think schools have a similar policy here (Toronto), but the magic temperature is decidedly not 0°C. That would mean nobody goes outside between November and March.

    There has always been the problem of kids who aren’t dressed warmly enough because their parents can’t afford it. In my day, the solution to that problem was raiding the school’s Lost & Found; I’m pretty sure my daughter’s school does the same thing. And after about Grade 4 there was also the problem of kids who own adequate winter clothing but refuse to wear it because it’s Not Cool (and I speak from experience, because I was one of those dumb-ass kids for a while around about Grade 6). There’s nothing to be done about those kids except wait for them to grow up and stop being so stupid 😛

    Now there’s also a new problem, though: little kids who aren’t dressed warmly enough because their parents drive them to school and drop them off wearing (for example) a ski jacket and boots but no snowpants, hat, or mitts — fine for going to and from the car, but definitely not adequate for spending 40 minutes outside at lunch recess when the temperature is, say, -15°C. I know this is a problem at my daughter’s school because every. single. newsletter. between October and April reminds us that the kids go outside every day and need to be dressed properly for the weather. Again, the short-term solution is to raid the Lost & Found, but if two-thirds of your kindergarten class didn’t bring mittens to school today …

  27. D'Arcy Norman December 22, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    I work with someone who used to teach elementary school in the North. They had recess even when it got to -50ËšC. The only time she remembers recess being cancelled was when polar bears were roaming the town.

  28. Donna December 22, 2009 at 12:16 am #

    This is apparently the regulation in my state as well, at least as it applies to daycare. My child is required to go outside every day unless it is under 32 degrees or raining (I don’t think there is an upper heat limit as it’s Georgia and they’d never go outside in the summer). While I can’t imagine the uber-protective, helicopter parents of most of the kids in my daughter’s daycare tolerating their kids going out in the cold, there is a covered bike area so the kids do often get to go out and play there when it is raining.

    I seem to recall 0 degrees being the cutoff for outside play at school when I was a kid growing up in NJ.

  29. Cathy December 22, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    In my Canadian town, we’ve never had a school closure for a “snow day” in the six years my kids have been attending, and they have indoor recess only if it’s below -4F (-20C). Imagine never being allowed out to build a snow fort! I guess it would prevent those “dangerous” snowball fights, though.

  30. Socialwrkr24/7 December 22, 2009 at 12:33 am #

    Back when I worked in a preschool our policy was anytime the temp dropped below zero – but even then, the older (3-5 yr olds) were given the choice to go out for a few minutes. Parents were allow to sign forms requesting that they NOT be given that choice – but I don’t think a single one ever signed it… Not one child froze or lost fingers to frostbite. They did, on the other hand, have a great time sledding and eating snow. (Which I’m sure would also be outlawed at this school!)

  31. Kashmir December 22, 2009 at 12:36 am #

    Judas priest….I remember (waaaay back in the day) when we girls weren’t allowed to wear pants to school and had to wait outside until the bell rang. It was the 1960s and oka, yeah, is was Florida (North Florida) but it was still cold! Try getting a big ol’ gust of wind up your mini skirt at 7:30 am. Talk about an eye opener!

  32. Kimberly December 22, 2009 at 12:42 am #

    That is what I meant by situational. I’ve never seen playgrounds like that outside of 2 preschools. Our playground is a large field – a couple of acres I would guess. There are 2 play areas, a blacktop basket ball court, soccer field, 1/4 mile track, and a gazebo. The gazebo is positioned so that teachers can’t use it for shelter and still see the whole space. There used to be a few trees with benches underneath them – but the trees are reaching the end of their life cycle.

    We don’t interfere with the kids games but we need to patrol. We have some unfortunate neighbors. So we don’t want the teachers huddled near the building, when a mentally disturbed person decides to cross the playground and yell at our kids. (We have it fenced but the neighbors cut holes in it. I wish they would get a proper not chain link fence, but the neighbors would probably tear it down). We have to deal with broken glass, trash, used condoms, and other hazards. The custodians check it each morning but unless we have 20 people forming a line to comb the playground they won’t find everything.

  33. Heather Q. December 22, 2009 at 12:55 am #

    Wait, some middle school students get RECESS? Not here, they don’t. You get gym class 2-3 days a week. No recess after fourth grade in some schools. When I taught fifth grade, we could only have PE, with directed games or laps.

  34. MMC December 22, 2009 at 1:20 am #

    Hmm. I don’t know. As a Canadian girl who grew up in northern BC, even in the 1970s I remember they let us stay inside whenever the temperature hit the freezing mark. And I think that was a fairly good thing, because skin can freeze pretty fast. I remember getting frost bite a few times and it wasn’t fun. 🙂

  35. Paul Turnbull December 22, 2009 at 1:28 am #

    From the school handbook at my girls elementary school here in Edmonton:

    Outside recess will also be cancelled when:
    – temperatures (with wind chill) drop below -23ËšC
    – it is raining heavily
    – blizzard conditions exist

  36. Maggie December 22, 2009 at 1:34 am #

    Our district has had a “no outside recess when it’s freezing/raining” for years. Instead, they turn them loose in the gymnasium, or give them the option to play board games in the classrooms if they’d rather.

    I see no problem with this.

    I should also note that such is only true up until 6th grade. No recess after 6th grade.

  37. tally December 22, 2009 at 1:38 am #

    When I was teaching the district chose the arbitrary number of 27 degrees Fahrenheit as the magic “too cold for recess” number. I was pregnant, and sixth graders haven’t quite gotten the hang of the “you need a shower every day now and you have to wear deodorant.” So, I ended up leaving the windows open on those days, mostly to give the smell a chance to escape if I couldn’t give the kids a chance. After about 3 days in a row I started to feel like we were torturing those kids so I started making up “learning activities” that had to be done outdoors. The kids were grateful and I retained my sanity. I soon learned that it really was the parents who were behind the bizarre requirements, not the district.

    How long would a person have to stay outside at 31 degrees with exposed skin before they got frost bite? I’m guessing longer than recess.

  38. sonya December 22, 2009 at 1:45 am #

    I have this problem with my younger daughter’s preschool. They don’t let the kids out if it’s cold, wet or even snow on the ground. It’s partly that many kids and teachers originally come from much warmer countries, and really don’t like cold. And it’s partly that teachers don’t want the problem of cleaning up after the snow. I’ve requested that all kids be required to bring in snow pants when there’s snow on the ground, but so far they’ve only done that for occasional special “class-snowman-building days”. The public schools by contrast seem to send the kids outside whatever the weather, unless it gets cold enough for a weather-service extreme cold warning (which is usually only a week or so a year). And rain keeps everyone in – even if everyone wore boots and raincoats, I know from my own kids that they would get their pants soaked etc, so I can understand that.

  39. Jenne December 22, 2009 at 1:55 am #

    “That’s before kids were fat!”… not as funny as you believe, Lenore.

  40. Teacher Tom December 22, 2009 at 2:02 am #

    The kids in our school play outside every day, no matter what the weather. And I don’t make them wear coats unless they want to.

  41. Li December 22, 2009 at 2:14 am #

    Kimberly, thanks for the reality check. I mostly enjoy Lenore’s writing but it’s good to remember that a lot of what she’s talking about applies to middle class and upper class kids, not kids who are poor or working class.

  42. Nancy December 22, 2009 at 2:26 am #

    since this is in Chicago, where it gets plenty danged cold, this is lame. Right now, in the Twin Cities, it’s 21 degrees. And people are talking about how WARM it is. Compared to -10, it IS warmer!!!! Kids are totally playing outside! The snow actually forms slush during the day, something it does not do when the temperature matches your shoe size.

    When i was a kid, it was 10 or 15… I can’t remember. That was in Milwaukee.. and if it was 16 degrees, our little butts were on that playground. The kids who wouldn’t wear the appropriate garments, or habitually forgot them like me figured out real quick. And there were loaners available for kids to use. I lived in a working class neighborhood, so it wasn’t altogether uncommon for a teacher to notice that a kid didn’t have adequate clothing and bring something from home, or even buy something for a kid.

    I could see if it was a southern state, where 30 is abnormally cold (people get acclimated to particular temperatures) but Chicago? C’mon!

  43. Risa December 22, 2009 at 2:46 am #

    Holy cow! I live in Calgary, and here they keep kids in at recess if it is below -25C (-13F), not the freezing mark! Is it a safety issue, that some kids aren’t coming to school with proper winter gear? Otherwise, it makes no sense to me at all.

  44. Ben December 22, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    No recess after 6th grade? Do you mean to say 6th graders and up are stuffed inside the building all day without so much as a break?

  45. Elizabeth December 22, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    I have no problem with this policy. My kids’ school has the same one and I’m glad for it.

    Let’s remember that during recess children are not allowed to go back inside by themselves. That means cold kids who don’t like the cold or aren’t dressed for it can’t go in and get warm. With all the parents who work and often have to send their kids to school with the sniffles I don’t see the harm in keeping kids warm in the winter.

    So they have to run around in the the gym. So what? They are still running around.

    I hate being out in the cold, which is one of the reasons I don’t live somewhere like Minnesota or Ottawa (although I have nothing against those places other than the cold temperatures). If I hate being in the cold I appreciate that my kids don’t have to be when they don’t want to be. This isn’t, in my book, over protection.

  46. ira December 22, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    My school district here in NJ does not allow outside play any time in the wineter period and in the fall and spring if it’s below 50F!!!

  47. Beth December 22, 2009 at 3:28 am #

    In my school district’s middle school only the 6th graders get recess. 7th and 8th grade…nope. Though they do get to go out after lunch if they gulp down their food fast enough.

  48. Nancy December 22, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Elizabeth, I think what makes this policy galling isn’t the temperature threshold… it’s the temperature threshold PLUS where it is. I would fully expect more southern climates to have kids less accustomed to cold temps. I imagine the cold thresholds are much different in places like Maryland, Kansas, Missouri than they are in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and North Dakota, to name a few.

    Chicago is 90 miles south of Milwaukee. It is not exactly news there when the temperature dips. They will cancel school if temps get really low, but we’re talking like -40.

    Also, it seems to me most schools do have something in place for kids who come to school unprepared. Many schools have policies that tell parents EXACTLY what their kids will need for the cold.

    Also, cold weather and colds is not a causal relationship.

  49. Helen December 22, 2009 at 4:05 am #

    Rain, though not drizzle, kept us in, but never the cold (though in the UK most places can’t really get that cold, especially in the day time). I always assumed this was because of the state the classrooms got into. We had to take our coats with us and hang them on the back of the chair. First thing in the morning when it was raining was a bit of a nightmare really, slippery wet floors, steamy classrooms and kids flicking water everywhere. I could see teachers not wanting to go through that every class.

    We stayed in the classrooms – our gym would not have been big enough for everyone. But we still ran around (at least whenever there wasn’t a teacher standing in the classroom threatening us with detention when we ran across the tables playing Off-Ground Tick).

    Once I got to high school we were allowed to stay in or go out as we saw fit and there was no active supervision. At that age I think the freedom was quite appropriate (we didn’t run across the tables most days!) but meant kids who weren’t involved in sports got very little actual exercise most days. Still almost everyone walked to school so it wasn’t as necessary as it probably is now.

  50. spacefall December 22, 2009 at 4:09 am #

    At my relatively small elementry school in freezing edmonton, we weren’t allowed out below a certain temperature — probably about -23 celcius, as another poster mentioned — but we’d usually have two teachers in the gym every recess whenever it was below about -10C for the students that didn’t like the cold or that came inadequetly dressed. The library was also open over the lunch break, since the librarian had to be in there anyway, and there was usually some club or other that you could join if you wanted to stay indoors. Like I said, we were quite a small school, although in a relatively safe area, so obviously such a policy doesn’t require too big a staff. I think it worked out for the best for everyone, because kids still got to choose what was best for them (and to learn if they made a stupid choice) but nobody had to freeze to death.

  51. Taking a Chance on Baby December 22, 2009 at 4:11 am #

    That’s always been the policy in MA and ME. Didn’t bother me as a kid, didn’t bother me as a teacher who had recess duty, doesn’t bother me as a parent.

    YES, when it’s freezing, why are you forcing children to go outside and freeze? Playground equipment can’t be used if there’s snow because it becomes hazardous (didn’t see a recess where a kid tried to climb on it anyways only to get hurt that didn’t end in tears) and all the kids over 8 do is stand around and complain.

  52. Michelle The Uber F*****n Haus Frau December 22, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    Not really against this, we do the same in Canada if it gets too cold. Winnipeg can get as cold as -40 to -50 Celsius, with wind and frost bite warnings. Not really the ideal weather for playtime outside.

    Here’s a fun experiment, and use it a test…take a cup of boiling hot water outside, splash it into the air, if the water evapourates before it hits the ground it’s too cold!

  53. Michelle The Uber F*****n Haus Frau December 22, 2009 at 4:55 am #

    haha, the experiment in question. =oP

  54. Sky December 22, 2009 at 5:08 am #

    “No recess after 6th grade? Do you mean to say 6th graders and up are stuffed inside the building all day without so much as a break?”

    When I went to school, there was no recess after 6th grade. In 7th-10th grade, we had P.E. every day for about 50 minutes a day (either inside or outside, depending on weather and what sport was being taught) . In 11th and 12th grade, P.E. was an elective and not a requirement, so you could take it, but you didn’t have to, and most college prep kids didn’t (unless they were also athletes).

    When I first started high school, in 9th grade, we also had a 15 minute “break” each day (they didn’t call it “recess”) when we could go outside in the courtyards or stay inside and hang out with friends, whichever we chose (and there were no regulations about when you couldn’t go out—you went out if you wanted, stayed in if you didn’t.). But in 10th grade, our county added an extra class period to the school day (up from 6 subjects a day to 7), which meant eliminating the break, shortening the hall between classes from 5 to 4 minutes, and lengthening the day by 30 minutes.

  55. Sky December 22, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    “So they have to run around in the the gym. So what? They are still running around.”

    Sure, if they actually ran them around in the gym! But not as many kids can fit in a gym (due to fire code regulations) as outside, and sometimes, the gym is in use for PE classes for some grades while other grades are having recess. At least, I’m GUESSING that’s why they DON’T do it, because I asked my daughter what she does for recess when they can’t go outside. I asked if they ran around in the gym. NO. They stay in their CLASSROOM and have the choice of either playing with the few toys there, using the computers, or coloring. There’s no running around allowed in the classroom. I wish they put them in the gym. But for some reason they don’t or can’t.

  56. Kara December 22, 2009 at 5:20 am #

    Our daycare and school district has similar policies, although not quite high as 32 oF. The daycare has been a little easier to reverse, because it’s a smaller group of kids and, therefore, parents. There are several of us who think the kids have a better time inside if they’ve ran outside in the cold, even if it is just for a few minutes. Plus, the daycare is supposed to hold up recreation for kids as one of its philosophies, so it was pretty easy to argue in favor more time outside.

    The school district will be a different story, and I think one of the issues with my local district is that many of the kids are not sent to school with winter-appropriate clothing and accessories. There’s a large range of economic backgrounds, and I suspect a significant number of families can’t afford to send kids to school with snow boots, hats, mittens (and kids lose these things, so there is cost to keep it up).

    So I wonder if part of the reason for this policy is due to economics? If I were a teacher, it’d be tough to support a recess policy that meant that certain kids would be pretty miserable.

  57. gramomster December 22, 2009 at 5:26 am #

    Kids over eight complaining that they’re out in the snow at 28 degrees? None of the 9-12 year olds I’ve known. They cannot wait to get out and roll around, build, slide, whatever in the snow. We have snow on the ground for pretty much 4 months, and we can go weeks without it going over 30. Everybody would go nuts if the kids couldn’t go out for 4 months.

  58. Kimberly December 22, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    How are your schools doing recess. It sounds like some of you or your kids had all school recess at the same time. (Setting aside the gym for those who can’t go outside)

    We have recess by grade level. Honestly there really wouldn’t be room for all 705 kids even on our large playground. We have about 100 4th graders and 100 Kinders outside when my group goes out. There are areas off limits to the kinders so the older kids don’t have to watch out for rugrats while playing their games.

    In the areas open to both groups the older kids look out for and teach the little ones.

    Typical schedule for our school has a block like this kinder is backwards. .

    Specials (45 min)
    Recess (30 min)
    Lunch (30 min)

    and 5th grade is completely different. They have specials at 8 am – 8:45 am, recess 12 – 12:30 lunch 12:30 -1:00. We decided to do this because brain research shows Tweens and Teens learn better later in the day. This gives them an additional 45 min to wake up

  59. Kimberly December 22, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    Michelle The Uber F*****n Haus Frau Thanks – I am so showing that to my subtropic kidos that complain that is cooooooooooooooooolllllllllllllld as soon as it gets below 75. We are doing states of matter – so it fits perfectly with science.

  60. Greg M December 22, 2009 at 7:33 am #

    Thank you for pointing out how insane things have become. We only had two days off during the blizzard of 78 in Ohio. We had to walk to school in below zero temperatures, and we couldn’t wait to get outside at lunch and play in the snow drifts and have snowball fights. Everybody is so scared of being sued that we are living in bubbles. If people would just start taking responsibility for their own actions we’d be O.K. As for the person who pointed out the poor folks can’t afford to dress their kids, I have this to say. We’ve always had poor folks, however our current poor folks have to have cell phones and other non necessities instead of purchasing their kids proper winter attire. I’m tired of all the excuses.

  61. shawn-hazel December 22, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    I live in Alaska, and policy at the school I attened was, and as far as I know still is, if its above -10 (this inclueded windchill), your outside. We were allowed to stand inside the doorway and warm up for a couple minutes but than it was back out for the remainder of recess.

  62. Diane December 22, 2009 at 7:56 am #

    When my daughter was in elementary school, the students played under the covered play area when it rained. Living north of Seattle it rained a lot. When it snowed, the kids were allowed to play on the snow just not with the snow. How crazy is that? A bunch of kids cooped indoors all morning weren’t permitted to burn off energy by throwing snowballs, or making snowmen because the teachers didn’t want to deal with wet, happy kids or someone possibly getting hit in the face with snow. The horror!

    My daughter defied the rules by making a tiny snowman when the playground teachers weren’t looking. Stealth snow play. Her best friend wasn’t so lucky. She had to go stand in line with a group of kids and shiver because a boy had the audacity to throw a snowball at no one in particular and since the playground teachers didn’t know who threw it everyone in the vicinity had to be punished.

    Now she’s in middle school. The rules for snow play are a lot more reasonable. During 6th grade orientation the principal presented a slide show of classes and after school activities. One of the slides was a group of kids having a snowball fight during recess.

  63. LM December 22, 2009 at 9:30 am #

    @ Mary Francis Main

    About “lazy teachers” – It’s not that we’re lazy, we just don’t want to listen to 23 second graders complaining that they’re wet and gross the rest of the day.

    If they don’t have snow suits and boots, they’re not allowed in the snow. If it’s raining enough to soak, they’re in.

  64. LM December 22, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    @ Ben – The gym is also the cafeteria for some schools. In our school, we have three, maybe four lunches scheduled for grades 1 – 8. So, indoor recess in the class.

  65. Stephanie December 22, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    My daughter’s school is another one that doesn’t let the kids play out in the rain. And after the most recent big storm they closed the grassy fields for a week. The mud was gone as near as I could tell long before then, but the fields stayed closed, as did the playground equipment.

  66. Jen C December 22, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    I was surprised to find out that my kindergartner doesn’t get to go outside at recess when it’s cold. Okay, no problem, I asked her if they played games in the gym instead. Oh no…..they watched movies. Are you kidding me? It’s Nebraska! It’s cold all winter long!! It drives her crazy too. She would rather be outside playing, even if it is only 20 degrees outside.

  67. Susan2 December 22, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Lenore – I think it’s awesome that your middle schoolers even get recess. I’ve never heard of this, even in the dark ages when I was a kid and elementary had much more time for recess than they do now.

    Our elementary school doesn’t have a strict recess policy, but they do seem to be inside on some days that don’t seem especially cold. I think it may be because the teachers don’t want to stand around outside. We are also an urban school with mainly just a blacktop for a “playground,” and it can get pretty treacherous at times like this where it’s snowed, then warmed a little, then frozen again. Also, lots of refugees in our school that barely have more than a couple of outfits, and it takes them a while to collect proper winter clothes.

    As someone else said, it’s situational, and given the situation at our school, it doesn’t bother me a lot that they often don’t have outdoor recess. What DOES bother me is that when they don’t have outdoor recess, they don’t have any recess at all. Recess is optional; the teachers decide whether or not the kids get it. When I was a kid, when we couldn’t go outside we would have indoor recess – board games, drawing on the chalk board, chatting, pleasure reading – basically whatever the kids want to do as long as it didn’t get too rowdy. At my kids’ school, if there’s no outdoor recess they usually just get more “on-task” time. I really think they need a break, whether it’s indoors or outdoors.

  68. Mae Mae December 22, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Oh Jim, Jim, Jim. Didn’t anyone tell you not to go to bootcamp at Great Lakes in the winter? You should have gone in the summer. That way when you had to stand outside in the rain all night like we did (because no one would admit to an infraction) at least it wasn’t freezing. Rookie mistake, lol.

    Susan 2 – I agree. I didn’t have recess after elementary school and we weren’t allowed to leave for lunch until 9th grade. I’d have loved to be allowed outside even if the cold days were restricted.

  69. Kevin December 22, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    My grade school had that policy when I was there back in the mid-late ’70’s. That’s been standard procedure for the city schools for decades and decades.

  70. Sabrina December 22, 2009 at 3:04 pm #

    I have Finnish kids (well, half Finnish anyhow) and it’s 10 F today and you can better believe that they have recess outside. Hell, we don’t even get snow days in this country. Finland closes down for NOTHING.

    (I think the limit here for outside recess is anywhere from -15 to -22 F, depending on age. It goes without saying that they are all wearing proper snow/cold gear here, of course.)

    Then again, in Finland my seven-year-old twins also *GASP* walk to and from school on their own! Just like all of the other kids in the neighborhood, who ride bikes and play around the neighborhood fairly unsupervised.

  71. Karl December 22, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    Reminds me of the “Yellow Snowbank Thermometer”. When it’s -20, it freezes when it hits the snowbank. When it’s -30, it freezes before it hits the snowbank. And when it’s -40? Well, you can wait until you get home.

  72. Character Education Assemblies December 22, 2009 at 7:22 pm #

    Thank you for this very informative article of yours. You have explained everything well. I appreciate that you shared this to us.

  73. montessorimatters December 22, 2009 at 9:41 pm #

    The children in the school were I work aren’t allowed to play outside after it stops raining, because they are not allowed to jump in puddles (might slip!) or go down the slide (might get their bum wet, which might make them catch cold, which might make them die, apparently…) 🙁

  74. Ben December 22, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    @Sky: Whatever made your school decide that it was a good idea to add a period and eliminate the 15 minute break completely? I’d have been surprised if someone could eat their lunch in that time. They might not have called it recess, but 15 min breaks to let loose are recess in my definition.

    Abolishing recess in 6th grade and allowing a break in ninth is even worse. It means the kids from 6-8th grade don’t have a break that everyone else has.

    Come on school administrators: they’re not percelain and they won’t break if you let them loose. Any scientist knows that your brain needs a break and can’t handle 7 hours of non-stop learning.

  75. Sky December 22, 2009 at 10:28 pm #

    “Whatever made your school decide that it was a good idea to add a period and eliminate the 15 minute break completely? I’d have been surprised if someone could eat their lunch in that time. They might not have called it recess, but 15 min breaks to let loose are recess in my definition.”

    This happened back in the early 90’s when I was in high school, and the 7-period school day (with no break) has continued as the norm in this area ever since. The break was not lunch. There is also a 25 minute lunch. The break was mid-day – just a break, just time to hang out with friends. Having expeirenced both (because I was in the midst of the change-over), I preferred the 6-period day. Do you really need more than 6 subjects a day? The day was a half hour shorter back then (more time for homework or free ranging), and we had that break (when I, admitedly, did homework!).

    The reasoning was that the kids needed more time for electives such as band, orchestra, drama, art, etc. – because they were dropping these in favor of academic subjects for college prep, and the extra period would enable them to do both. Well, with the 6 period day, I always had time for one elective period (journalism for me), so I didn’t see the argument. When they added the extra period, I just ended up taking two electives (journalism and literary magazine). Before, I still did the literary magazine, just as a club, not as a class (it wasn’t a class offering). We basically did nothing in our literary magazine “class,” because producing the literary magazine once a year does not take 50 minutes a day five days a week! And the REAL work still got done AFTER class, and only about 30% of the class ACTUALLY did the REAL work of the literary magazine. It was that way in journalism too. Better to have kept those both as extracurriculars than as classes. I understand the need for band/orchestra classes, but there was time for one of those in a 6-period day.

  76. Lola December 22, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Sky: maybe the whole idea was to cover the parents’ working hours, so that their children weren’t unsupervised for half an hour a day…

  77. Dave December 23, 2009 at 12:17 am #

    Outside is always good. Go Linore!

  78. J. December 23, 2009 at 12:31 am #

    Lenore, at least your middle schoolers get recess. My daughter stopped being allowed outside starting in 7th grade. Small wonder I chose to homeschool her for 8th.

    This recess policy is idiotic. I spent good money to send my daughter to private school K-4. In her third grade year, I found out the kids were NEVER taken outside, rain or shine, but were given some games to play indoors for twenty minutes after lunch. Lunch was ten minutes.

    I raised both these concerns at a parent/head of school coffee and one mom scoffed our kids were here to learn, not play. Never mind that very parent had a complete about face a year later and put her daughter in a Montessori school. Several of us complained about the aborted recess and they put it right back.

    It’s the teachers who don’t want to go outside when it’s cold, not the kids. I’m sorry for the shivering teachers. But please let’s make school be about what the children need, not always the adults. Children need to play, run, jump. End of story.

  79. J. December 23, 2009 at 12:34 am #

    Jenne wrote: ““That’s before kids were fat!”… not as funny as you believe, Lenore.”

    Actually, Jenne, very funny :). See the connection? Kids are sedentary, they get fat.

  80. edenwild December 23, 2009 at 4:48 am #

    People who live in mild climates are whimpy. When I lived in So. California, we had recess inside when it rained. I couldn’t imagine them doing that where I live now–Oregon. They are just perpetuating the whimpy factor, I think.

  81. Mrs Embers December 23, 2009 at 5:15 am #

    I think it’s reasonable to keep kids in at a certain temperature, but it’s not the temperature at which water freezes. That’s just crazy, unless you’re living somewhere that hardly ever gets that cold. I do like the idea of the school raiding the lost and found for hats/mittens for kids who came without, and I wish all schools could have enough people supervising the kids that they could stay in if they were sick or under-dressed.

    But 32 degrees? Our kids wouldn’t get recess between December and March!

  82. Lasivian December 23, 2009 at 6:29 am #

    I grew up in Phoenix, I don’t recall the school saying “It’s 110f outside today, so no recess”.

    While you might get hypothermia from the cold you can certainly get first-degree burns from touching hot metal.

    But of course, the school knows best, right? 😛

  83. LM December 23, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    I think I remember reading about a study being done about kids and recess. Don’t shoot the messenger, but I think it stated that removal of recess did not in any way change the amount of movement the children got in a day. For example, kids will move as much as they need in a day, so after school. I’ll see if I can find it. It wasn’t done in the US. I think kids are becoming fat because of fast food more than not getting recess.
    I used to be the shivering teacher who took her kids out no matter what. Now, I’m still shivering in my multiple layers and the admin has cut us down to one 20 minute recess and 20 minute lunch. We used to get 40 minutes lunch and recess. Then 15 minutes later in the day. According to the Principal, with an extra recess the kids were not getting the required 5.5 hours of direct instruction/learning in a day.

  84. LM December 23, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    I can’t find the article, but I’ll keep looking. The ones I have found all agree with no recess contributes.

  85. Michele December 23, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    Ahh, yes. The recess weather saga is immune to no school or state. Our children don’t go out for it either if it’s too cold. If it had been raining and stopped, then it’s “blacktop only” recess. Horrors if they step on or run through the wet mulch where all of the climbing equipment is! What is America coming to?

    Bill Cosby kickin’ it with a great free-range quote:

    “The essence of childhood, of course, is play, which my friends and I did endlessly on streets that we reluctantly shared with traffic.”
    -Bill Cosby

  86. Kimberly December 23, 2009 at 9:43 am #

    I do the blacktop only recess – but we have actually had ducks swimming on our playground. The water can be ankle to knee deep (there is a ditch that goes through the playground.

    While back my students and I spent a recess kneeling on the edge of the black top watching the water flow across the playground. We took video of the fire ants floating to the edge of the water. I was using my phone to look up answers to questions they had, or record them to look up later.

    We marked along the edge of the backtop with chalk to show us places that had swirls or eddies in the water. When the water receded, we looked at the topography and speculated about what could have cause the swirls or eddies.

  87. J. December 23, 2009 at 3:37 pm #

    LM wrote: “I think I remember reading about a study being done about kids and recess. Don’t shoot the messenger, but I think it stated that removal of recess did not in any way change the amount of movement the children got in a day. For example, kids will move as much as they need in a day, so after school.”

    LM, you’re kidding, right? Sorry, not trying to shoot the messenger. But my daughter arrives home to hours more school (homework) so no, she certainly does not get the required movement she needs, not even close. And it’s not her fault or ours. She wants to be out there, we want her out there, but she has too much homework. I do forced walks after dinner :(.

    “I think kids are becoming fat because of fast food more than not getting recess.”

    Perhaps. No question fast food is a contributor. But not getting recess doesn’t help.

    You know what’s funny? The amount of outdoor, fresh air and play time my daughter received during our lone homeschool year compared to what she got when she was in school. She was like a starved child at a buffet. We incorporated nature and the outdoors as much as possible. Math on a blanket under a tree where she paced when she needed to work through the problem. Nature walks dissecting the finer points of Shakespeare.

    I realize schools can’t take my kid on a hike while learning vocabulary. But here’s a story about weaving in the outdoors even during learning time. There is a local private school that does a lot of learning outside and I applied my daughter to it when she was in elementary (she wound up not going). They would do literature circles outside. So imagine my delight when I caught a teacher in public middle school taking her kids outside on a gorgeous day, sitting them all under a tree and discussing literature.

    I saw her in the hallway later and congratulated her on taking the kids out to learn. She smiled and said, yea, my learning disabled children really need to get outside and run around. Which begs the question — and all the other kids don’t?

  88. J. December 23, 2009 at 3:44 pm #

    “I do hate this policy BUT: many children in my sons’ public school come from poverty-level families. They come to school without coats, gloves, hats, sometimes even no sweater. Because they don’t have them. That is the real reason for this sort of policy.”

    This was not the case in my daughter’s private school. And they still didn’t take the kids out. There I was, paying tuition and had to fight for a lousy 20 minute recess break.

    As for lacking the winter wraps, that is very sad. I like the idea of school rifling through the lost and found to come up with some spares. Or hold a drive and keep them on hand.

    Do remember that as kids run, they got hot. The private school I detailed, the one that learns outside, has multiple recesses throughout the day, all through elementary. Even the middle schoolers get outside during the school day. On the day we visited, it was an icy 32 degrees. The children were running around without coats. They get warm. It takes so long to get dressed and many children just toss the stuff off anyway.

    I say, do. Just get out there. Don’t make a big production out of it, just go! And I still maintain it’s often the teachers who don’t want to go outside. I would have been happy to volunteer, had the teacher asked, just so the children could get some down time to run and be free for a few minutes.

  89. Helen December 23, 2009 at 9:34 pm #

    J. I saw a report on the BBC website a year or so ago that said something similar – basically they found little difference in average time spent exercising between kids who had PE etc. in school and those who didn’t. I can’t find it now – but as I recall it was younger kids they looked at (so overwhelming home presumably not an issue) and the researchers thought the reason was because our “default” activity level is set before we are 5. But it was just one study, and it doesn’t do anything to address the previously reported correlation between exercise at school and kids improved school performance and enjoyment.

  90. Paul Turnbull December 23, 2009 at 11:19 pm #

    Um, recess isn’t about the amount of physical activity it’s about having a recess. It’s coffee break for kids.

  91. Fern December 24, 2009 at 1:16 am #

    When I was that age, I would have killed for a policy like that. I used to do anything possible to get to stay inside at break – hell, I used to be a toilet monitor which meant spending the whole hour sitting in the loos checking that people weren’t messing about! I hated going outside in the cold and never liked running-around games and breaktimes spent outdoors were absolute hell for me. I’ve never been a fan of the great outdoors and I’m only prepared to venture out there if I’m going from A to B – never because I WANT to.

    ‘All kids love being outside’ is false. So is ‘all kids hate being outside’. For Chrissakes, give them a choice!

  92. Gail December 24, 2009 at 1:26 am #

    Holy cow! And here I was wondering why the kids had indoor recess last week when the temperature was a beautiful -15C!

  93. Gail December 24, 2009 at 1:43 am #

    @bushidoka – I think it’s up to the principal’s discretion, not a school board rule. My kids’ principal declared indoor recess one day last week and I’m sure it didn’t get below -15 that day. It was gorgeous and perfect play outside weather.

    @Elizabeth – LOL about choosing to live where it’s not cold. Whenever people here (in Ottawa) complain about the cold I think to myself that they should move to Florida or something. Personally I love it. I lived in Israel for a year when I was younger and the lack of a proper winter really got me down. You should know, though, that indoor recess doesn’t really mean running around in the gym. It means playing mostly quiet games in the gym or reading in the school library. I got the low-down on that last week when I happened to be in the school on the day they had indoor recess. That was also the day my son had a more major run-in than usual with the class bullies, something that probably wouldn’t have happened as badly if they’d been outside where they belonged.

  94. Vanessa December 24, 2009 at 9:57 am #

    Here in California it rarely gets below 50F or so in the daytime, so cold isn’t an issue. But, my fifth-grade daughter’s school does cancel recess when it’s raining (or when it rained earlier in the day and the blacktop is still wet), I think because of a fear that kids will slip and fall. I don’t remember ever slipping and falling in all the times I played in the rain as a kid, but there it is. They also cancel recess when there are severe brush fires, and that I do agree with — smoke and ash are miserable on the lungs.

  95. Phoebe December 24, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    No way!! Kids up here in AK play outside until…wait for it…until it’s -20! Yes, that’s right, you heard it–*negative* twenty degrees Farenheit!

  96. Kelly December 24, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    That kind of policy would make sense down here in Austin where we have summer 10 months out of the year and wear flip flops in winter. We don’t know how to drive in rain, much less in COLD! But in NYC? Really? [shakes head sadly] Ay mi dio!

  97. J. December 24, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    Fern, read Paul above. You don’t have to want to play or run. My daughter liked going to the library and reading, being by herself. It’s about getting a break. Adults take them, so should children.

  98. Karin S. December 28, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    Here’s a positive story about recess: I live in Oak Park, seven miles west of downtown Chicago, so it’s coooold here. A bunch of parents who were tired of our kids watching Disney movies during winter recesses banded together in the fall and persuaded our principal to hold recess outside as long as the temperature and windchill are at least 20 degrees. Thirty-two percent of our students are low income, so a school grandmother organized a coat drive to help out students who don’t have suitable winter gear. The kids aren’t thrilled about this new policy of course–but we parents are delighted!

  99. kittenpie December 29, 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    In Toronto, it usually follows the cold weather alerts, which start at -15 celsius. The rest of the time? Well, kids wear coats, snowpants, hats, scarves, mitts, and boots. And they run around. And just somehow don’t seem to feel the cold the same way. Our daycare usually has them out for a good long stretch in anything but cold alert weather.

    As to the issue of improper dress in less affluent neighbourhoods, not only can you get basic equipment for not too much if you shop sales or buy used (and it is a basic requirement if you live in a cold climate), but those schools tend to have clothes banks, keep extras, and push regular searchig of lost and founds to help those kids out – my husband has taught at more than one or two, and it works out.

    Fact is, in plenty of places, it’s cold from October to late April, so we can’t afford to just keep kids inside for that time. Think of all the fun they’d miss! (Even with snowball fights banned…)

  100. Janey January 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm #

    My daughter started Kindergarten in WI this year. The current rule is outdoor recess is required if temperature or windchill temp is 0. I don’t let my daughter play outside when home in that temperature. According to the National Weather Service windchill chart, there is a highlight noted that more precautions should be taken with children and elderly. There are no studies done on children as it is unethical. I have started a petition within my daughters school to try to get the rule changed to 10-15 degrees. I have spent a couple days at the school to observe the children ouside during recess only to find that many children were outside with their hats off, and a couple with coats unzipped. There were 3 teachers outside with me to observe their activities and only 3 minutes before they called recess to an end, they called over those students and had them put on their hats. No coincidence, I made my objection known to my daughters teacher, front office staff, and the district office a couple weeks prior to observing this. I have a long battle ahead of me. Anyone with suggestions please share.

  101. Stef January 27, 2010 at 5:03 am #

    Someone asked how the kids in Seattle manage with policies like this around recess. Short answer would be that they don’t. We are slightly north of Seattle and have an elementary school principal who cancels recess for cold weather. It only has to be 32 F. They can’t play on the field if it HAS been raining at some point so as to cause wet grass. Yes, the whole field goes unused in only the best of weather-here in Seattle! And if it’s even drizzling they must stay under cover. Most recess games are supervised and structured so the kids never work out their own problems. They are hovered over every single minute of their school day. Simply how it is.

  102. S February 4, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    I teach in a WINDOWLESS school in Brooklyn and am typing this because we have indoor recess today, even though the weather channel says its 36 degrees outside. I curse whoever invented the ‘windchill’ factor! In addition to no windows, we have an extended day (8:20 to 3:45) so our kids really need a break. In the winter, most of them go to school in the dark and get home in the dark. Because of the NYC windchill policy, many of them could go over a week without even seeing daylight, much less having a little outside time!
    I’m from MN and i don’t recall ever staying indoors for recess except in the rain. If it was too cold for recess, then it was dangerous to go outside and they would cancel school anyway. (BTW it is impossible to freeze or even get frostbite during a 10-15 minute recess unless the actual temp is more than -10F)
    My students play games and I have structured movement songs so they get some movement, but they really need the freedom of free play, to run and scream and be silly. In addition, it is often hot and stuffy in the classroom because we have no windows and kids bodies get warm when they exercise and then we all cook.
    I’ve been told this is a city-wide policy, and I’m currently trying to figure out who I can complain to next, since doing it at a school level isn’t working so far!

  103. car review September 9, 2010 at 5:26 pm #

    No recess after 6th grade? Do you mean to say 6th graders and up are stuffed inside the building all day without so much as a break?

  104. Sharon December 14, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Is there an actual law in NJ about not going outdoors at recess if it’s under 32 degrees windchill? That’s what the schools claim. It’s just ridiculous. Teach kids that they CAN go out in those temperatures, run around, have fun, get fresh air and sunshine. Do not coddle them, and give in to the first sound of “It’s cold out here!” Why don’t schools TEACH?
    I would be interested in seeing a citation for such a law.

  105. cycling March 25, 2011 at 3:40 am #

    this part makes no sense. to me and i dont have kids why would the school let the kids leave for lunch what if they live with in walking distance from the school go home to eat and dont come back for the rest of their classes. and during recess its good to let them run to burn off some energy. even though im single i get concerned when kids are not bundled up sometimes i think that people are afraid to zip a childs jacket or tellthem to zip up. for god sakes people. 1 the coat is not doing any good unzipped. 2 wearing a coat zipped is important. 3 tell the kids that if they are going to play outside in the cold there coats have to be zipped up no execptions. 32 is getting a little cold out yes i would still let them out just for a shorter time butt they would have to wear a hat gloves scarf and there coat would have to be ZIPPED UP.

  106. Shrek September 18, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Hello? Anyone thinking about anyone other than the kids? If the kids are outside, that mean 2 or 3 ADULTS have to be out there, freezing their arses off! I DO NOT enjoy being out there watching kids run around when I am getting FROSTBITE. I am not allowed to run around, and therefore stay warm. And don’t say “You just have to dress warmly.” Would you like to buy me the $800 full-lenth down coat that would be required? And how about the boots? It’s not just about the kids! Think about the poor teachers that have to be out there! Why don’t you volunteer as a mom and come supervise? Your view will change pretty darn quick, I’ll bet.

  107. Sharon September 19, 2011 at 1:39 am #

    i am a Mom who volunteered at my kids’ grade school for 8 years doing recess duty in NJ. I can tell you that adults too can go outside and enjoy the winter, and I was out for 75 minutes doing all recess periods, while the kids were out at the most for 30 minutes. I also did after-school child care there for 3 years, and kept the kids out until dark.They only came in then because the lighting was not good enough to keep games going. The students knew that if I was there that day, we were definitely going outside!

    Your outer clothes don’t have to be excessive or expensive to stand the cold or wind.You just have to know how to dress, and what materials work. Layer your clothes. Dress smart.

    There were very few days when I would have kept the kids in, but was voted down by when a new administration came in. Let kids and parents know the expectations and they will dress for the weather.

    By the way, the more you are outside the better you deal with the weather. I am an adult leader in my sons’ Boy Scout Troop and the adults and the Scouts manage to stay warm and active, and we are- outside all day and night, sometimes in very cold weather.

    Teach these kids how to dress and how to be outside, and you will be doing them a lifetime service. They will know that as adults they don’t have to sit inside all winter. They will learn to dress for the weather. They will learn to deal with each day as it comes, and they will learn to think ahead.

    I MISS DOING RECESS DUTY and getting the kids outside and my being outside so much too. I am thinking of volunteering again even though my kids have graduated from that school.

    It’s great to be outdoors!

  108. Kimberly Herbert September 19, 2011 at 3:08 am #

    I’m a teacher and I volunteer for recess duty over lunch duty. I need the outside time as much as the kids. I am planning on indoor recess for the first of the week. We have a 50% chance of rain YEA!!!!!!!! It rained yesterday, it is raining to day. It is supposed to rain the rest of the week. Swamp land isn’t supposed to have droughts Hopefully we will be going back to normal.

  109. JonD December 20, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    Wow… I went to school in Toronto, and I recall a few days of extreme bitter cold when we were ALLOWED to stay inside, but we generally went outside, threw snowballs, and dared each other to lick the jungle gym.

  110. JonD December 20, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    @Shrek: A jacket and snow pants, however ungainly to put on and take off, are far warmer than the longest coat. And a lot cheaper. If you’re really on a budget, long underwear, thick pants, and rain pants (always have a windproof outer shell!) will do the job nicely.

  111. Rachel June 26, 2013 at 2:21 am #

    The elementary school I grew up in was like that,as well as with rain. I live in Washington state so that meant missing a lot of recesses. No recesses where actually indoors though,just covered pavement. Unfortunately it was very crowded and most kids just stood their the whole time.

    I often walked to school in 20 degree weather, 32 is nothing.


  1. Top Posts — - December 23, 2009

    […] No Recess Under 32 Degrees? Because Kids Freeze Like Water? Hi Readers — Got a notice from our school last week: No more recess when it’s freezing outside — 32 […] […]