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Seven things you can do to save recess

Rae Pica is a children's physical activity specialist and the author ofA Running Start: How Play, Physical Activity, and Free Time Create a Successful Child Great Games for Young Children. She has shared her expertise with such clients a...

I've discovered that my son's school is abusing the daily recess time and I want to do something about it"¦.His teachers are using recess to punish kids. For example, if they either forget to bring in homework or fail to do it, they miss recess. If they misbehave, they miss recess. Any of his teachers have the power to deny recess... Father of a 5th-grade student Today I was taken out of class and called before the principal and his assistant to be questioned about my practice of rewarding good behavior and hard work with "extra recess." I was told I am NO LONGER allowed to do this except as a very rare exception as our students have a short enough day as it is"¦.HELP!!! 3rd-grade teacher

At the beginning of every new school year, more and more parents discover that recess is disappearing from the landscape of their children's school days. If this is the case for you – and you've seen the impact it has on your child – following are seven steps you can take to fight this trend. 

  1. Do your homework. First, find out about recess at your child's school. Do they have it? How often does it occur? How long does it last? What happens on the playground? Find out from other parents what their children are experiencing. Are children ever kept from recess? Why? 
  2. Be sensitive. When talking with your child's classroom teacher, remember that most teachers today are under tremendous pressure to achieve nearly impossible objectives. They could use a break, too! 
  3. Don't go it alone. One concerned parent can be considered a rabble-rouser, but several concerned parents have influence. Recruit the parents of your children's friends and classmates. Contact the president of the schools' parent or parent/teacher organization to discuss your concerns. With the help of the association, set up a meeting with the school's principal. 
  4. Do some more homework. If you don't like the answers you're receiving and you want to bring about change, you'll need backup in the form of research and respected professionals. Go to the websites of the American Association for the Child's Right to Play (www.ipausa.org) and Rescuing Recess (www.rescuingrecess.com) and use the information they provide. If possible, find a local professional who feels strongly about the need for recess and play in early childhood and recruit him or her to address school administrators and/or the school board if necessary.  
  5. Educate! Make copies of the information you've accumulated, highlighting the important points, and distribute them among administrators, faculty, and other parents. Whenever possible, speak one-on-one with teachers, school board members, and parents. 
  6. Alert the media! Write letters to the editors of the local newspapers, submit an opinion piece, or just call and tell them your story. Contact local radio and television stations. Invite a television feature reporter to experience recess with your child. Or, if your child's school has no recess, invite the reporter to join your child's class for a day without breaks. 
  7. Thing big! Work with your elected officials and school board members to ensure recess is available for every child every day in every school. Ask your PTA to include, within its state resolutions, recess as a mandatory part of each school day. Become a recess advocate for your state. You can learn how at the website of the American Association for the Child's Right to Play. There you'll find a comprehensive packet – free – to anyone who asks!
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