Elementary School Recess Healthy Peer Socialization or Danger Zone

Playground fun is an age-old school tradition. Children are wired for physical activity, and these brief daily breaks offer an essential opportunity for little bodies to run and jump and stretch and grow. Unstructured playtime allows kids the chance to burn calories, work out stress, and interact freely with friends.

Children learn by doing, and playtime can be invaluable self-teaching time. This may be the only time during the entire school day when kids can practice their socialization skills with one another.

Unfortunately, taunting and teasing and other hazards tend to go with the territory.

Today, the dangers may be even more serious. In some neighborhoods, school playgrounds may not be sufficiently secure from predators and violent criminals. Even the student population may produce those who would discriminate, harass, or harm other children.

How can recess be preserved without placing kids in physical, emotional, or social peril?

1) Playgrounds should be enclosed with a security fence or other safety boundary. Some newer schools have even been constructed with inner courtyards for private play.

2) Playground equipment must be well-maintained and inspected frequently to prevent accidents and injuries. Climbing equipment should have soft footing underneath it.

3) Adequate supervision must be provided. Each state offers acceptable teacher-to-student ratios for schools and day care providers. Ample staffing must be assigned to the playground, including personnel for escorting children to and from bathroom and water breaks.

4) Recess groupings should be organized by age. Younger and older kids should not be dismissed to the playground together. Bullying can be greatly minimized by this practice.

5) Shorter, more frequent recesses during the school day are better than fewer, longer ones. Abbreviated sessions are much simpler to manage, and kids are more likely to obey the rules and get along with one another.

Above all, recess should be recreation, not aggravation. Those who violate the rules must forfeit the privilege of participation.