Active Recess Game

4 Ways to Lay the Foundation for an Awesome Recess

Familial Play

Do you recall playing with your siblings when you were a child?  You would play a familiar game or act out a scenario.  My sisters and I played either school or restaurant quite a bit, we each had our roles to act out, and we had the props. There was a wooden yardstick, chalk and chalkboard slab (no idea where THAT came from) when we played school.  When playing restaurant, we had little a set of dishes, a cash box, and receipt books we used to take orders and give the customer the bill when they finished eating.  We had an area all set up in our unfinished basement and we’d be down there for hours when the weather wasn’t cooperating for outdoor play.   The piece de resistance was what we used for dress-up.  Our mom had these scarves that we confiscated to wear as long hair.  Mine was the best one - a cream coloured knit scarf with cables and tassels that made for beautiful, long hair.  Thank heavens we lived in a house that had very tiny basement windows.

Of course, we’d bicker and pout if things didn’t go our way, but we always came back to play.  There was a familiarity to it, and we learned how to ebb and flow with each other.  When we played, we practiced empathy, patience (maybe not as much as we could have), creativity, imagination, problem-solving and resiliency without even knowing it.

Your School Family

Many elementary students who are still in cohorts may recognize these familial feelings.  Your class is your daytime school family! When you are at school,  you work, eat, play, laugh, bicker and pout just like you would at home. 

While these conditions bind recess to small groups, now is the perfect opportunity to start changing your recess culture and laying the foundation for an awesome recess before we come out of cohorts.   

reading at recess

  1. Teach recess games. 

It is rather unfair of adults to expect a successful recess without demonstrating games and giving expectations to children. This generation is different from how my Street-Light generation grew up.  We watched and copied how the older children/siblings played.  If we are not providing an opportunity for unstructured play, how do children learn games that can be played during recess?

Practice a simple game as a warm-up to your physical education class (sorry, I can no longer call it Gym.  Gym is the location. PE, phys-ed, physical education is the curriculum taught).  You have a captive audience and can go over the rules altogether.

Take your brain breaks outside, and everyone can play one simple game. Something fun and repetitive makes it easy to remember and allows children to practice a fundamental movement skill or two.

If possible, bring 2-3 older students to demonstrate a game that can be played.  The younger ones can watch from a distance and then practice during recess.

  1. Go over conflict resolution strategies

Is everyone in the school familiar with the strategy your school uses to solve problems? It can be as simple as Rock, Paper, Scissors but whatever you use, make sure that one and all know how to use it. 

Providing different scenarios for children to role-play in the classroom will help them experience a variety of possibilities and practice solving those problems.

  1. Create Kindness Signs

Every class can create signs to hang around the school.  If we are constantly exposed to reminders, we are more likely to use them. 

Here are some examples of  messages for your signs:

    • Smile at someone
    • Greet someone you pass in the hallway
    • Holding a door for someone
    • Say Please and Thank you
    • Take the time to really LISTEN to someone
    • Give someone a genuine compliment
    • Celebrate differences!
    • Show respect
gardening at recess

 Recess doesn’t have to be active.

The only two three conditions of recess are:
  1. a child’s choice of play and
  2. a break from work.
  3. it must be mandatory! (I feel this one should be added)
Providing a variety of things to do during recess reduces boredom and scuffles over the same equipment; it opens up new learning possibilities and provides autonomous motivation which can impact positive behaviour.
 Keep in mind, you do not need to offer all new activities at every recess.  In fact, this could create more confusion and disappointment. Start small and perhaps provide the new recess activity once during the week.   Once you feel confident, add another.

If you follow Dr. Stuart Brown’s 7 Patterns of Play, your possibilities for new recess ideas are endless.  Click the link to make it bigger.

7 Patterns of Play Infographic