Recess Reform

April 26, 2019
LEWIS GEYER—BOULDER DAILY CAMERA/MEDIANEWS GROUP/GETTY IMAGES

“We only had one recess today!” Beatrice Dathan complained to her mother after coming home from school one day. That was four years ago. Beatrice’s family had moved from California to Connecticut. In California, Beatrice had 50 minutes of recess daily. In Connecticut, she had only 20 minutes.

Lucy Dathan is Beatrice’s mom. She wishes Beatrice had more recess time. It “helps kids build relationships and be creative thinkers,” she told TIME for Kids.

Dathan is now a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives. She is working to pass a state bill. It would require at least 50 minutes of recess each day. Dathan is one of a growing number of people nationwide trying to give kids more time for recess.

Clear Benefits

In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America published a report about recess: Playtime encourages kids to be active. This can build healthy bodies. Plus, physical activity can improve brain function. And recess helps kids form friendships.

PLAYTIME Recess gives students time to play. Experts say this is crucial for children's well-being.

MITCHELL FUNK/GETTY IMAGES

Chris Lineberry has seen the benefits of recess. He is the principal of Stanfield Elementary School, in Arizona. Last year, the state started requiring two recess periods for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Each school decides how long the periods will be. But since the change, Lineberry has noticed “a deeper level of student engagement.”

The CDC calls for at least 20 minutes of daily recess for elementary school students. The average U.S. school offers 27 minutes of recess. But some schools offer none at all.

Powerful Voices

Today, at least six states have laws that require elementary schools to provide daily recess. Other states are considering similar bills. Kids can help change recess laws too. In Arkansas, kids urged lawmakers to consider a bill that requires 40 minutes of recess.

Izzy Kopsky, 8, is one of those kids. His favorite part of recess? Playing with his friends. But Izzy felt like he didn’t have enough time to do that. So in February, he testified before lawmakers. He told them that more recess time allows students to use up extra energy. This could improve their focus in class. “Everyone would learn more,” he added.

Izzy Kopsky and Belle Irby talk on April 1 at the State Capitol in Arkansas.

DARREN IRBY

Asa Hutchinson is the governor of Arkansas. He signed the state’s recess reform bill into law on April 1. TFK Kid Reporter Belle Irby was on the scene at the State Capitol that day.

Hutchinson admires the kids’ efforts. “Young people can have a powerful voice,” he told Belle.

NEW LAW Kids and lawmakers celebrate at the Arkansas State Capitol on April 1. Governor Hutchinson (center) signed a bill requiring 40 minutes of recess daily.

RANDALL LEE

Sidebar: Test Case

There is pressure on schools to ensure students do well on state tests. That’s why some of them shorten recess. This makes more time for class. Some schools also take away recess as punishment for poor schoolwork.

JEFF CADGE—GETTY IMAGES

But cutting back on recess may not be the best way to improve test results. According to the 2017 CDC and SHAPE America report, recess can improve a child’s memory. It can also improve a child’s focus.

Stop & Think! What questions would you ask Izzy Kopsky and Governor Hutchinson if you were a TFK Kid Reporter? Who else would you have interviewed for this story?