How long is recess? Why schools have recess? new for 2022

Recess is too short!

The average recess time in elementary schools is 12 minutes. That’s not enough time to play a full game of four square, or dodgeball, or even hopscotch. If kids have less than 15 minutes on the playground they don’t really get a chance to run around and burn off energy.

How long is recess? We wrote this blog that helps you figure out how much time your students will have on the playground during their next break at school.

Student calls for longer recess: “We act now or never!” | Playworks
Student calls for longer recess: “We act now or never!” | Playworks

How long is recess?

Recess can last from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the grade level and school. For many school districts in America, recess lasts between 20-30 minutes a day. At some schools, recess may be as short as 15 minutes a day.

What is recess and how does it work?

Recess is a short break from formal instruction or work. During recess, children can play and interact with one another to refresh themselves for the next round of learning.

Children usually go outside to play during recess. This varies by country and climate: for instance, in Canada and the United States, there may be snow on the ground, meaning the children would not go outside to play.

Instead, they’d stay inside and do something else (e.g., watch TV) or continue their work from class.

Recess benefits both young people and adults who need time to decompress after working or studying without interruptions.

For example, office employees may take a brief break to stand up and stretch their legs or chat with a coworker. By contrast, employees who do not get time away from work may experience symptoms such as headaches and fatigue.

Why schools have recess?

Longer Recess Pays Big Dividends | The East Hampton Star
Longer Recess Pays Big Dividends | The East Hampton Star

Recess is an opportunity for children to engage in physical activity.   Because recess offers children the chance to stretch their muscles, burn off extra energy and get away from the classroom, many feel that it should be part of every child’s school day.

Benefits of taking a break every day, including improved mood and energy levels

Benefits of taking a break every day, including improved mood and energy levels

So much work to be done, so little time. It’s easy to take on more activities than can even fit into the day. However, there are real benefits of taking a break once in a while. A study found that people who regularly took breaks were more productive and had a better mood than people who didn’t.

How to make the most out of your time outside on recess?

One of the most valuable benefits of attending a school is having recess breaks. During each course, our teachers give us an opportunity to take a break and play with friends, but oftentimes we leave it for later or just pass up on the chance. There is always something you can do outside at recess such as:

  • Play tag
  • Play kickball
  • Fly a kite
  • Play on the jungle gym
  • Pretend to be an animal and act like one (example- bark like a dog)
  • Kick or roll an empty can down the street
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Tips for parents who are concerned about their child’s safety at school during recess

Recess Matters - JSTOR Daily
Recess Matters – JSTOR Daily

How parents communicate to their children about safety at school during recess can either help or hinder them in this situation. Follow these tips for helping your child stay safe at school during recess:

Be clear and calm when communicating the rules of staying safe. Don’t scare children with words like “stranger danger” or “be careful.” Also, don’t assume children know safety rules because you assume they have been taught at home.

Give your child a say in their own safety. Ask your child to help make a plan for safe recesses by identifying places they can go and people who can help if something happens while they are alone, such as teachers’ aides or older classmates.

Let your child know that they can always come to you or another trusted adult if they feel unsafe. Remind them that it is okay to say “No” no matter what, even if someone says “it’s okay.”

Let your child know that hearing scary sounds during recess doesn’t necessarily mean something dangerous is wrong. You can remind children of fire drills at school, especially if they are on alert after hearing about fires at home or during the nightly news.

Let your child know that even though it’s okay to say “no” if they feel unsafe, violence is never okay. Talk about situations where violence was not an appropriate response and how people got help instead.

Encourage your child to explore their surroundings. Let them know that it’s okay to go beyond boundaries as long as they inform a trusted adult first and they don’t go alone.

Make sure they have a plan for what to do if a dangerous situation arises while exploring a new area, such as going to the front office or going around the school building instead of through it.

7 Things to Know About School Recess

Does Recess Need Coaching? - WSJ
Does Recess Need Coaching? – WSJ

Many U.S. Children Aren’t Active Enough

Physical activity aids in preventing obesity, but many American children are inactive.

A new study published Thursday found that among 1,000 children studied, about half were not active enough to protect against obesity.

The report said exercise after school was linked to lower body mass index for kids.

Structured Recess Can Improve a School’s Climate

For many students, playtime is a crucial part of the school day. The latest study from Stanford University finds that even a brief recess during a school class can boost learning and classroom behavior.

The findings, published in Psychological Science , a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, point to an inexpensive way to support children’s educational development.

The study was conducted by Victoria Talwar, a professor of developmental and educational psychology at McGill University in Montreal; Kang Lee, director of the Child Emotion Laboratory, also at McGill; and Marie-Pierre Gosselin from the University of Quebec in Montreal.

“In this study we had elementary school children play a computer game, just for a few minutes, either during their lunch break or immediately after lunch.

We found that students who played the game at lunchtime did better in a classroom test right after recess than those children who had a comparative quiet activity,” says Talwar.

Taking Away Recess as a Punishment Is on the Decline

It used to be that taking away recess as a punishment for bad behavior was an easy go-to strategy. But over the past few decades, schools have been moving away from the practice of docking students’ play time in favor of alternative consequences.

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Nowadays, educators have begun to see that taking recess away is usually just adding fuel to the fire, experts say. “It’s better to come up with a consequence that motivates the student to change their behavior,” says Silvia M. Duncan, PhD, an associate professor of school psychology at the University at Buffalo (SUNY).

Parents Fight for Recess

Parents of Kindergarteners in Wake County, North Carolina are fighting to give their children more time for recess during the school day.

Yvette Briggs and Miles Crawford told ABC11 that their children need more time for recess, which is a break from the classroom for play or physical activity.

They also say that there is a lot of evidence that shows a link between decreasing instances of “Fidgeting” during class and taking more time for recess, as well as better behavior in the classroom.

“When you hear ‘No recess,’ what do you hear?” ABC11 asked Briggs and Crawford. “I hear lunches getting bigger,” was Crawford’s joking response.

Recess is scheduled for twenty minutes during their children’s school day, but only ten minutes of that is actually spent playing on the playground.

The other ten minutes is spent waiting in line for the next activity. Briggs and Crawford say that because of this, their children are not getting enough time to play during recess.

“My son has been having a meltdown every day at school,” said Yvette Briggs. “He’s been going to bed crying.”

Finland is the Recess Champion

Finland is the winner of “The First Official International Day of PI(E) Day”, beating many other contending countries.

The competition, hosted by Finland, was held during recess on the playground of Lauttasaari Municipal Primary School in Helsinki, and consisted mostly of games that involved throwing pies at one another.

The Quality of Recess Counts

The early elementary grades are associated with an increasing emphasis on academic rigor in reading, writing, math, science, and other content areas. Teachers are under increasing pressure to increase test scores by implementing more rigorous learning experiences for students.

At the same time, however, there is a growing emphasis on providing serve play opportunities for children to provide them with alternatives to sedentary activities.

An assumption is that students are being provided more play opportunities in the form of recess and physical education (PE), but do we actually know how much time children spend engaged in these activities?

A Formula for Better Recess: More Time and More Adults Participating

Elementary school children need more time at recess to facilitate physical activity and play, as well as teacher guidance.

The article “A Formula for Better Recess: More Time and More Adults Participating” explores how recess can be a benefit to education and discusses the issue of whether schools should offer extended classroom time instead.


What is the average recess time?

One subject that students are interested in, but educators are not discussing is the average recess time. Some students feel that they don’t get enough time to play when they are in school.

A student conducting research over the summer might try to find out what the average recess time is for schools around the country.

Schools all have different policies with regard to recess, but many schools still do not give the students enough time to get off of their feet during the day.

There are no national guidelines for school recess. Each state sets its own requirements based on physical education requirements and any other needs they may have program-wise or otherwise (i.e., special need students that may need more time to rest).

An average recess time is highly unlikely because there are so many different policies that schools follow.

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The best an average student could do would be to find out the policy of their own school and then find out how much time they have for recess on a typical day, and compare it to other students’ experiences.

Do 6th graders have recess?

At an elementary school, students are required to have at least 20 minutes of recess per day. Most middle schools do not require students to have recess every day because it is considered unproductive and a waste of time.

However, there is no set structure for how much time should be spent on lunch and recess throughout the week. At our school, each class is given a certain amount of time to have lunch, another class might have longer recess, and another class might have less.

Now imagine being in 6th grade at an elementary school that requires students to have 20 minutes of recess every day. You get your lunch and then go out into the playground for about 10 minutes of playtime before going back inside to have class.

But at your middle school, students are not required to have any recess time during the day. How would you feel about not being able to go outside for 20 minutes? This drastic change in activity would certainly upset some students if it were to happen halfway through the school year.

Is a Homework illegal?

There is a huge debate about whether homework is necessary, useful or even harmful. Some argue that it’s needed to help students better understand the course material and improve upon their learning skills.

Others believe that it adds more stress on children and takes away from time they could spend with their friends/family.

In many countries around the world teachers will give homework to their students, but in many other countries it is not allowed. Some of these are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy and Sweden.

There are some exceptions. For example in France they have optional homework for children who are very motivated, but it is always checked by parents. In Germany there is no official homework, but teachers will often give exercises and things to be completed at home.

The debate around homework is one of the most controversial education topics across Europe. There are strong arguments in favour and against it, however if you ask a school child (in any European country) they will probably think that they should not have any.

One argument in favour of homework is that it helps children to learn things better. They can read and practice what they have learned at home, and when they go back to school the lessons will be much easier for them.

On the other side there are people who believe that too much homework can lead to stress and lack of sleep, especially in younger children. It can also make them feel isolated from their friends and family, which is why it’s banned in some countries.

Homework should be limited to no more than 30 minutes each day for primary school students. Secondary school students should not have to do any at all if they are doing well in class.


It’s been a long time since I was in school, but I remember being told that recess is 20 minutes. But does this have to be the case? Is there some kind of universal standard for how long children should play outside before they come back inside and learn more lessons about math or science?

Maybe not. This article explores why different schools might use different lengths of recess depending on what they want their students to accomplish during that period.

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