Let them have recess (even this winter!)


(It may be spring where you live, but not here. This post was inspired by this article in the Washington Post and my many friends who have had school and recess cancelled regularly this winter when the temperatures have been below 20 degrees.)

The wind stings my face. I squint to look out on many of my sixth grade students. They are playing snow soccer in at least a foot of snow. The ball is kicked, and quickly sinks into the snow as snow pant and boot clad kids chase after it. They fall all around, usually laughing, as they try to push the ball toward the goal. It is quite like watching bowling in slow motion only the kids are the pins, tumbling, in pursuit of the ball.

I turn the other direction. Students are eagerly building snow forts, patting down walls, rolling snow boulders for into position. Their cheeks are rosy, sudden bursts of smiles cross their determined faces. They are engaged in the high art of play.

It is 3 degrees. I adjust my scarf against the wind.

These are fifth and sixth grade students and this is exactly what they need.

My friends and family in DC and Maryland tell me if it is below 20 degrees they don’t have recess outside. This post describes how kids have to sit and play during inside recess often. The focus in this article is boys, but all kids benefit from outdoor play. It doesn’t have to be this way, and isn’t in other parts of the country (like Vermont).

Kids need unstructured, outside play for their emotional, social, and academic growth. Even my “older” fifth and sixth grade students. Schools that cancel recess because it is too cold need to rethink and layer up. Kids can wear hats, snow pants, mittens and boots and be perfectly safe outside up to zero degrees. Our school has extra layers the nurse has gathered for any student who might need then or when it is a financial hardship. Schools can help with supplying a few extra layers for those in need. Adults on recess duty need to toughen up, grab their winter gear, and give kids the chance to move their bodies during the school day. That way they will behave better in class, learn more, and have more physical activity that fights obesity and anxiety.

I know it’s been a long winter. But that is no excuse to lessen our kids’ opportunity to engage in healthy outdoor play. With more standardized testing, the Common Core, and other challenges, it is more important than ever. Now on to another article about the importance of movement in the classroom!

What are your thoughts? Has school been cancelled where you live? Have your kids  had outdoor recess this winter?

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