Make your playground recess ready! Work with your Fuel Up to Play 60 team to see what students like about recess time — and what could make it even better.
Recess isn’t just play time — it’s your time. A good solid recess period can help students get their daily physical activity,i have some personal choice timeii and gear up for a positive, attentive afternoon for learning!iii
i Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day? 2013. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
ii The Crucial Role of Recess in School. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 1 January 1, 2013
pp. 183 -188.
iii Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day? 2013. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Huddle up with your school’s Program Advisor, P.E. teacher, and other teachers to help brainstorm ideas, build a schedule, and find equipment. Remember to include the whole team: your principal to give your plan a thumbs-up, parents to help supervise recess activities and students to lend their ideas (and muscle) to build your outdoor environment and activities.
Students! Here are some things you can do to get things going!
- Work with a group to take photos of your current playground and use the Internet to search for examples of what your team would consider a “better” playground. Use your photos (and get student feedback) to create a presentation for the principal and parent organization showing what is and what could be at your school.
- Survey your classmates to find out what their most and least favorite things about recess are. Use the information in your presentation to the principal and in your planning for action.
Gather a group of students to organize a Recess Review. Use the review to explore the conditions of the playground. Make a list that details how students currently use the space and think about how various parts of the playground area might be better used for new activities or equipment.
Using your Recess Review as reference, meet with your Program Advisor to brainstorm ways the playground, and recess time, can be better. Strategies for Recess in Schools, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and SHAPE America in January 2017, can help you organize your information and think about strategies that will work for your school. Remember: Studies have shown that students benefit from free time to choose their activities.iv They also benefit from structured time for physical activityvi when they can also interact positively with friends.
iv Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day? 2013. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
v The Crucial Role of Recess in School. Pediatrics Vol. 131 No. 1 January 1, 2013 pp. 183 -188.
vi Does Better Recess Equal a Better School Day? 2013. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Work with playground personnel (e.g., teachers, aides or volunteers) to make sure they feel comfortable with helping students find the balance between time for structured activities and time for activities that students choose themselves.
Talk with students about the kinds of games or sports they’d like to play at recess. Maybe create a survey or poll. Use these Fuel Up to Play 60 Survey Tools for ideas.
Plan a Recess Dress-Up Day. That’s the day you “dress up” your playground with new activities and play spaces. Ask volunteers to come to school on the weekend to help with clean-up, planting trees or grass, installing equipment and painting scenes and activity spaces on the paved areas. Fuel Up to Play 60 playground stencils have tons of designs for activity spaces. Encourage students to participate, too. The playground is their space to enjoy and take care of.
Make your space a place for everyone. Think about areas of the playground that can serve different purposes. This Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) Toolkit for Quality Recess provides lots of planning information, including step-by-step guidelines to help meet everyone’s needs. Have students work together, using the planning materials, to map out an ideal use of space for the playground and the rest of the school grounds. Use ideas from the AFHK toolkit as well as ideas from these resources:
- Inclusive Play: Projects of Distinction
- Map the Playground
- School Playground Design Ideas (Images)
- Shriners/NFL Play 60 All-Ability Guide
Note that many playground planning resources are commercial in nature. Even if your school is not ready for a complete playground overhaul, you can use the ideas in these resources to make meaningful changes without needing a ton of funding.
Build opportunities for student leadership. Encourage students to observe their peers on the playground and try to encourage everyone to join in. Some students just need something specific to do. Have students form a buddy system and be sure to invite others into their games.
Consider asking your principal about changing your recess schedule so kids can have recess before lunch. Create a talking points outline to help explain your ideas for this Play. A study by Montana Office of Public Instruction showed that kids who play before they eat seem to enjoy recess more, with fewer discipline problems, and anecdotally reported better overall recess and lunch atmospheres.vii They also noted students seem to eat a better lunch and drink more milk, and they reported that the students are more calm and ready to learn the rest of the day.viii
Think long term and sustainable. If you upgrade your playground, you’ll need to think about ongoing maintenance of the stenciling, the landscaping, equipment management, and so on. Work with the PTA to see if they can help you put together a volunteer committee that’s continued from year to year. Check with the Round-Up team to see if you can offer students service learning time to volunteer. Create a Recess Round-Up Team to do a monthly or quarterly assessment of the playground and make recommendations on what needs attention.
vii Recess Before Lunch: A Guide for Success. 2003. Montana Office of Public Instruction. Accessed March 2, 2017.
Spread the Word
Create promotional materials like posters and flyers to highlight new, exciting recess activities and announce the healthy changes you’ve made to your playground.Get the word out on your school’s website or blog, in your school eNewsletter (or newsletter) and on social media! Share student stories, videos and pics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram tagging FUTP 60 (FB: @FuelUpToPlay60; IG and TW: @FUTP60) and using #FuelGreatness!
Involve the community. Schedule a meeting with your school's parent organization and ask if they will volunteer time to help improve the playground or lead recess activities.
This section has ideas on ways to involve everyone in your school and community. Think about friendly competitions, ideas on how to include students and adults or ways to bring in the family connection.
Hold friendly competitions on the playground using the games and ideas you learn through the development of this Play. Have classes play each other in kickball, FLAG football, tag and other games. Look for ways to get everyone involved.
- Help design activity zones and activities
- Gather donations of equipment and materials
- Design activity-zone signs
- Help organize activities by using these ideas for how to make recess fun for all students
Homefield Advantage provides useful, practical ways for parents and family members to get involved in making this Play a success — in school and at home! Click here for a printout that is ideal for students to take home and share!
This Play may help you meet the goals of the USDA's HealthierUS School Challenge!
Just getting started? Here is something you can do without jumping right into the full Play. Let this idea get you warmed up so you’re ready to tackle the full Play!
Start with one element.
- On the physical side: See if you can get together a small team to do the Recess Dress Up — clean up the playground, do some stenciling or painting to create specific play areas, and start thinking about bigger-picture changes.
- On the social side: Poll students to see what types of activities they’d like to do that might go beyond their current experiences on the playground.
Edgewood El Sch
Bright Space Ramps Up Recess for Edgewood StudentsRead More
Anderson Elem School
Fox's Fun Time ClubRead More
Las Colinas El
Fuel Up to Play 60 Recess GamesRead More
NORTHWOOD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Fun Games, Fun FoodRead More
Sunset Terrace Elementary School
Fuel Up FridayRead More
Students are challenged to complete orienteering routes during their recessRead More
CHERRY CREEK ELEMENTARY SCHO
Disc Golf Coming to Cherry Creek Elementary SchoolRead More
SNOW HORSE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Fun with Activity Stations and Flag FootballRead More
MOUNTAIN VALLEY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Hungry Hungry HipposRead More
MOUNTAIN VALLEY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Ideas for PlayRead More
MOUNTAIN VALLEY ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
Kickoff AssemblyRead More
COHASSET ELEM SCHOOL
Many Inside Recess Days!
We are so thankful for our new climbing wall in the gym. We purchased the equipment with Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60 this winter. In Northern MN, we have many inside recess days, so this was a great way to keep those kids active!Read More
MADISON MIDDLE SCHOOL
NFL FLAG FootballRead More
Recess with EquipmentRead More
Run For Your Life
We were able to paint a running track and a walking labyrinth on our blacktop for students to use at recess. Our school has run well over 800 miles this year on the running track, which we call the Run For Your Life track.Read More
School-Wide Fitness WalkRead More
Daviess County Middle School
Mileage ClubRead More
Hefferan Elementary School
Hefferan Knight Hawk Walking Club
We are bringing together students, staff and community to achieve a goal of walking 100 miles around our school playground.Read More
Woonsocket Walking Club
We started a walking club in Woonsocket and walked once a weekRead More
Murdock Elementary School
The Golden ShoeRead More
Funding and Outfitting Your Play
What might help?
• Fuel Up to Play 60 stencils
• Various fitness/playground equipment (jump ropes, sports balls, nets and/or goals, flag football kits/footballs, cones)
• Recess carts/equipment carriers or racks
Funds for Fuel Up to Play 60
Up to $4,000 per year is available to qualified K-12 schools enrolled in Fuel Up to Play 60 to kick-start healthy changes!