Don’t take our recess away



It’s spelled out on the board at school everyday. The “class” misbehaves or is too talkative and they get a letter marked off. If all of the letters are marked of, recess is taken away for the day.

Their measly 15-freaking-minute recess.


{Not the kindergartener. The two year old playing on the school playground on the weekend.}

The kindergartener? Her entire class has already lost recess once in less than three weeks. For talking too much.

The teacher in me gets it. Kids aren’t behaving and there should be consequences.

But, the momma in me? Not so much! We are talking about their only 15 minutes of pure free outdoor play time and replacing it with “practicing being quiet!” They are five years old. Some of them are in a classroom for the very first time!

So, not only are they losing their 15 minutes of almost anything goes play time, but they are sitting in a quiet classroom! Obesity problem? What obesity problem?

The second grader has told me a similar thing happens in her classroom. Misbehave and lose recess. 

My logic is this. I’m guessing that often, with little kids, they are misbehaving because they are bored or have extra energy. How is taking recess away going to help that kid? Make them sit still for another 15 minutes and all of a sudden they will behave better? I hardly think so.

Sure, recess is a privilege. Maybe that’s the argument. Maybe it’s the only thing the teachers can use as leverage anymore these days? But I sure wish they wouldn’t take recess away.

Before asking, no, I haven’t checked with the school. To be honest, I’m a little unsure how to handle it. Do I email each of the girls’ teachers individually and ask them about it? Is it likely a school thing and I should email the principle? Do I check with my neighbor/PTA president to see if this is standard? Do I need to have suggested alternatives? What are those suggested alternatives.

I’m asking for help, I guess. Help me get my kids and their classmates to recess every day (unless it’s actually unsafe). Help me keep their 15 minutes of play time with their friends. Help me keep their unseated time.

How do I handle this situation? How would you handle it? I’m at a loss and I’m not happy!

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  1. This happened in my daughter’s kindergarten class…a lot. I finally figured out I had to go in and advocate for her. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to do so I waited until the year was almost over. But I figured how to get her into the right class the next year and it’s been great. I haven’t heard this coming from my 2nd but I’m going to ask him! Keep recess!! I used to get 2 recess periods as a kid!

    1. So, it was the class itself, not the whole school? I wondered if it was county wide.

      I guess I should start drafting my email to them. I don’t want to be that parent, but…I know I have to advocate for them!!

  2. Kids need recess, some time to get the wiggles out. It shouldn’t be taken away as a punishment. Parents have to get together and voice their concerns as a group. Meetings with and letters to teachers and the principal may be in order, but the parents need to work together. A lone voice will be ignored.

    1. How do I even get in touch with other parents of kids in her class? Nobody in our neighborhood is in either of their classes (which is an entire issue in itself)…and teachers don’t give out contact info. I guess I’ll talk to my neighbor and PTA pres to see what she thinks?

  3. Outdoor recreation and a mental break are not a privilege. They are a vitally important right that should be respected for all people on planet earth, especially young children. I would immediately address the issue on the teacher level and move up the ranks of necessary. It is inappropriate for children of any age, or people for that matter, to be expected to slave away for hours and then be denied their right to spend a few moments soaking up vitally important sunshine and fresh air.

    Outdoor play protects childrens’ emotional development, protects children from future health problems and diseases, and has a significantly positive impact on student performance. More info:

    1. Thank you, Candy! The more people are commenting and talking, the more upset I’m getting and realizing that this isn’t right or good at all. I’m going to have to figure out how to correctly write my emails.

  4. Good for you for standing up for your kids!!

    I would start with the teachers (individually) and move up the ‘ladder’ if you need to. When you talk to them, I’d use your example above: ‘My logic is this. I’m guessing that often, with little kids, they are misbehaving because they are bored or have extra energy. How is taking recess away going to help that kid? Make them sit still for another 15 minutes and all of a sudden they will behave better? I hardly think so.’

    They need to know it’s not OK to take away the 15 minutes those kids get for exactly the reasons you’ve stated.

  5. The unseated time is absolutely essential at this age! Kids need to run and release energy. Or at least not be forced to think on task for fifteen minutes of the school day. I think I would start with a conversation with the teacher to see what the standard is and express your concerns.

  6. Christina says:

    Recess is an important part of their day. Were we live, every grade in elementary gets 2 recesses a 15 & 30 min and typically gets a third when it’s nice out. The only time recess is taken away is last resort, and idividually- not the class as a whole. I would definitely advocate for them. It’s hard when you label yourself as “that parent,” but if you don’t advocate, who will? In the end it won’t matter, because you know you did what was right for your child. I would Start by fact gathering and email or speak to each teacher individually and find out their policy specifically if it teacher specific or a school policy. I know at our school, a lot of things are teacher specific but they share ideas so a lot of those policies or classroom procedures you see throughout the school. Next, you should definitely gather some evidence based research to have handy when speaking to the principal. There is definitely some out there. Good luck

  7. Our teacher had two giant glass jars with marbles. One marked MARBLES and the other marked PARTY. There must have been at least 150 marbles in there. Every time we were awesome, a marble went into the party jar. Every time we talked, didn’t listen, etc, she took some party marbles back out of the party jar. If we got ALL the marbles into the party jar, we earned a cookie party in the afternoon for an hour. Board games and cookies. And it WORKED. Better than confining already ansty kids to chairs. I would offer her that idea, and heck, buy the marbles, too!

  8. I would try talking to the teacher first. If he/she seems to think it’s ok maybe talk to her team leader, then the principal. I would think it’s best to climb the chain of command on this one. We both know principal’s only come around when you’re doing something they don’t like, so I would suggest you find out first if the teacher is implementing this on their own or does the school/PTA/state encourage it. I am shocked this is even allowed. I think all your points need to be brought up…and the obestiy one is most important. This reminds me of the little syaing I had on my last blog post. They get to be kids for 15 minutes a day, don’t take that away.
    I am proud of you for not going in there and being a total mama bear at recess time and flinging the doors open and telling the kids to go run and play, becuase that seems more your style. In this situation, I say go for it! Alll while wearing B would be impressive!

  9. I just wrote about this same thing. I’m so mad about them doing this to our little ones. That’s why we had to improvise and get more activity after school with a dance class and a soccer net in the back yard. She’s wired when she comes home and gets in more trouble when they don’t have recess. I’d be happy if they added 30 minutes to our school to accompany recess!

  10. OMG. I would be losing it right now. Maybe the kids are talking too much because they need to run around outside! Maybe they would be quiet (ha, 5 yo being quiet? I have one by the way) if they could run and play. What next? Losing the measly once a week 10 minute art class? Time to talk to the other parents!

  11. I think kids at that age NEED to play it is a critical component of learning for a 5yo. One of many reasons we homeschool. In a classroom with xx amount of kids it is necessary to maintain control and they must learn how to sit and be quiet for 8 hours a day and I guess that starts with K 🙁

    I hope you do get it figured out. I’d push on the side of how kids this age NEED play time like you mentioned.
    One of the points in that article states:
    Play and exploration trigger the secretion of BDNF, a substance essential for the growth of brain cells

    Again, no one has figured out an ethical way to test this on humans, so the evidence comes from rats: After bouts of rough-and-tumble play, rats show increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in their brains (Gordon et al 2003). BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells. BDNF levels are also increased after rats are allowed to explore (Huber et al 2007).
    – See more at:

  12. So ridiculous any teacher who really understands kids understands that taking away recess will do nothing except encourage more problems in the classroom. I would talk to other parents and then the principal. Kids need their active time outside to learn. There should be a school-wide policy that no recess is not an appropriate consequence. There are 100s of other ways to manage a classroom.

  13. Our kids lose recess for “misbehaving” in our schools, too. Not in kindergarten, though. That practice doesn’t start until the kids get to elementary school (1st grade) and I think if it gets the kids to follow the rules – go for it. It would only take me one time to learn my lesson.

  14. This is horrible. So sorry you’re dealing with something that should be a non-issue. I would start with the parents. Do you have a student directory? Start a petition and reach out to the parents. Once you have many signatures showing parents on board approach the principal with a well prepared argument. I’m guessing you’ll need to go before the school board with your petition. Do some research and find out the procedure. You can do it!

  15. This is horrible. So sorry you’re dealing with something that should be a non-issue. I would start with the parents. Do you have a student directory? Start a petition and reach out to the parents. Once you have many signatures showing parents on board approach the principal with a well prepared argument. I’m guessing you’ll need to go before the school board with your petition. Do some research and find out the procedure. You can do it!

  16. UGH. The teacher in me gets this, too. However, whenever I tied consequences to recess -which was a measly 15 minutes for my 4th and 5th graders, too- it was either sit by the fence and complete your umpteenth missing HW assignment, or run laps around the field. Sit and learn to be quiet? Sounds like the teachers is setting them up to miss recess.

    I found when my kids were too chatty and wiggly, we’d all stand up at our desk and do something silly, like a quick round of “head shoulders knees and toes” or I’d say “ok. I’m going to set the timer for 30 seconds. I want everyone to wiggle and chatter. But when the timer goes off, we ALL sit back down and get ready to learn.” This would be followed by “brain gems” as they were called at the time, involving rubbing the ear lobes to stimulate their sense of listening, and taking calm deep breaths with eyes closed.

    We may have looked rather silly, but -hey- they got their recess and *I* got my lesson in for the day.

  17. Are you kidding me????
    That is ABSURD! If they want to do something, make them have a bit more homework (Is that wrong to think that way?)
    But I am in shock that they would take away recess… not only is it “play time” for the kids… but it is the time that they NEED to get that energy out of them… actually socialize without penalty … and you are right… obesity — yep, having them SIT and be quiet isn’t helping the issue….
    Wow — Now I wonder if that happens at our school too…

  18. I’ve heard of this going on in a lot of schools. I will be emailing Kay’s teacher about it, just politely asking if this is the case. If so, I’ll just be explaining as nicely as possible how utterly dumb that is. (I really will word it politely… I want to be friends with her teacher!!) Not sure what I will do if the situation doesn’t change… But I can’t let Kaylee lose her recess. There is no way she can sit still all day long with no outside play time. She’ll be climbing up things, getting aggressive, and running around screeching. They’ll be calling me to pick her up. There is just no way she can behave with no exercise.

  19. pat chance says:

    Wow you got some very very good advise. I am with you, kids need the time outside. I love Momma E’s comment – strap on B have E in tow and go fling open the doors “let them go, let them go” wearing a sparkly blue dress might help.

  20. I’ve had a thought… Maybe asking the PTA if they are on board with this, and possibly asking them to take the issue to the principal for you? Or maybe a petition with other parents. Good luck!!

  21. This happened in my son’s kindergarten class, too. And last year, his first grade class was the only one that had PE class once a week, while everyone had it twice a week, simply due to scheduling. Kids need to move! It’s very frustrating.

  22. This wouldn’t work for our active 4 year old. He craves outdoor time.
    In my opinion, 15 minutes a day is barely enough.
    Use this as an opportunity to learn HOW the teacher would like you to address issues or concerns.
    I’m not a pro in the elementary setting yet, so you’re giving me a glimpse of what to expect. Be sure to update us on what happens!

    1. I can give suggestions and work with my kids, but the problem is deeper. It’s the whole class that gets punished. This is regardless of the misbehavior.

  23. I am not a fan of penalizing the entire group because it very often is not everyone. I know I hated when my class lost recess growing up, but I’m not sure I have a better recommendation for changing the behavior,

  24. You are totally and completely right! I am 30 and I have a hard time sitting still for more than 5 minutes. I can’t imagine trying to get a room full of 5 year olds who are thrilled to be at school to sit still and listen. Maybe the teacher needs to move some kids around who have more energy than the others. Be strategic. How do you use the talking to your advantage in teaching?

    As far as what you should do… your kid has to live with that teacher all year, I might go to the teacher first and see what specific behaviors and actions are bringing her to mark the letters off the board. Ask the teacher what exactly is happening to bring her to this conclusion. I think if you go the principal and the principal shares that you did with the teacher that teacher may resent that you went over her head rather than just asking her straight up. It could make the year tough for your kid. Now, if you get a terrible answer from the teacher then it might be time to take it up a level. There is a side to every story and as a person who has worked with kids a good bit, the truth is sometimes they are outnumbered and don’t know what to do! At the same time, I don’t think recess is a privilege because if I were a full time teacher I would need recess myself.

  25. That is SO frustrating! There must be another way…

    My kids get a lot of outside time at their school and I am SO thankful for that!

  26. I would be really upset too. I understand your frustration. Honestly, I would have a conversation with the teacher. The best way to ensure that you have a “leg to stand on” is to go to the source first. If you have to take any actions from there, at least you addressed her beforehand. Good luck girl! Keep us posted!

  27. I sooooo agree with you that they should not lose the recess, in fact one 15 measly minutes is not enough IMO. There should be at least two of those and another that is 20-30 minutes. My son had a 15 minute one in his old school — when I questioned the teachers and the PTA on it, they just said there was more learning to be done than when we were in school. Umm… not an acceptable answer in my opinion. Kids need that time to release energy or they are not learning a darn thing anyway!

  28. I’m not sure what curriculum you guys use in Georgia, but here in Louisiana we use common core. I only taught kinder for one year, and I HATED it! It was so developmentally inappropriate for these babies to work so hard everyday with barely ANY free time. As a teacher I had students that desperately needed to move but the only consequence that would work was loss of recess time, just a few minutes not the whole time. I don’t believe in blanket punishment at all! I don’t think the whole class ever deserves no recess. I would email the teacher before you go to admin and just ask her the policy on this. As a teacher I think it’s important to ask the teacher before you go over her head, let her explain herself. If its not a good reason then I would go to admin.

  29. So, as a teacher and a mom I also struggle with this. Here is the deal… Recess is a SERIOUS incentive. Point blank. Kids want to play, and teachers want them to play. It get their energy out, it is good for them, and it is a break for the teacher. No teacher wants the kids to sit in the classroom during recess when they could be outside playing. Unfortunately, taking recess away is something that works. It is motivating. I do prefer to use recess as a last resort. 10 tallies on the board and my class earns silent lunch. 15 and they also lose recess. I will erase tallies if they are quiet and on task, but I add them when they are off task and/or chatty. While I will and have taken away recess, your point about movement is important. We take many movement breaks throughout the day and they are not taken away due to poor behavior. They are used to get the kids up and moving and out of their seat. Perhaps your child’s teacher is also allowing movement activities but is trying to make a point and get the class’s attention by taking away recess.

  30. How silly to take away the one thing they desperately need to help them sit still and listen the rest of the day. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face! I would march my behind up there and let them know how I felt about this were I you.

  31. I feel for you. The kids NEED recess to burn off energy and have a break from learning. ESPECIALLY the younger ones brand new to the school system. I have no advice but I do have hugs. Parenting sucks when we lose power and say to the school system.

  32. Ooh, that’s tough. Recess is so necessary! My son is still an infant, so I don’t have to deal with these issues yet. I’m interested to hear how you end up dealing with this!

  33. This sounds like a school-wide policy. They don’t have it here. I would start by politely asking that very question. Maybe call the school office and just ask. If it is, then you know it’s not the individual teacher responsible.

  34. I’m at such a loss over this. In some ways, I feel like teachers have very little control anymore because parents overstep at every turn, and I feel for them. The parent in me bristles at the thought of the whole class being punished this way though. Man, I’m glad my kids are out of school.

  35. OMGosh, my heart breaks. As a parent who had a school and teacher who went too overboard once upon a time, it breaks me to hear stuff like this. I’d switch classrooms immediately, but that’s just me.

  36. Kids need that time to let of steam and get some of that energy out. I can’t imagine taking away recess will help in the long run.

  37. It is sad that Recess is o short now. Half the time is lining up anyway. The way that misbehaving was dealt with was recess detention for the kids who misbehaved. the rest of the class could go out and play. the kids in recess detention stood against a fence . I’m sure that today that is making kids feel bad and singling them out and all that garbage. Apparently if a couple of kids screw around in class they screw it up for everyone. That is not fair.

  38. Studies have shown that getting outside and playing helps kids learn better – so I agree: taking away recess isn’t the right consequence. Isn’t there something else – like no dramatic play area or blocks?

  39. I don’t agree with blanket punishments like this. What about the children who ARE quiet most of the day?? Even if there are just 2 or 3, they should not have to suffer because of their classmates. This young in life, I also think that some 5 year olds may not be able to associate their behavior NOW with a punishment that will occur later in the day (assuming they are disruptive in the mornings/before lunch). There needs to an immediate consequence for their personal actions, not a reprimand for everyone at the end of the day!

  40. This is not a sensible way to discipline children of any age. They need their exercise, sunshine, and fresh air to refresh their minds. She needs to find some other way to punish them.

  41. I would be all fired up and angry if my child couldn’t get a measly 15 minutes of recess in a day. Kids need to move and stay active. It’s wrong to expect 5 and 6 year old children to sit still and be quite all day. They are kids. Very young kids. I’m sure it’s tough for teachers to keep order in the classroom, but this IS NOT the way to do it.

  42. In all honesty I would not get involved. I wouldn’t want her coming and telling me how to run my home and this is her classroom. I’m sure she would rather have a 15 minute break too. I know some use a 3 strikes policy, I like that at least she gives 6. Hopefully the kids will catch on quickly and not loose too many more.

  43. Our school has about 25 minutes. Sometimes kids lose a portion. Maybe a different consequence might be better. They need to be active to release energy.

  44. As a former teacher and parent of 2 elementary aged kids, I know how important it is to get kids outside for fresh air and moving to get the wiggles out! We know how healthy it is for kids to run and stretch their legs but doing so allows them to burn off energy so they can better concentrate when they return to the classroom. Has there been any explanation as to why they’re taking recess away? I understand that the school day is busy and there’s a lot to fit in but honestly, teachers will spend much more instructional time trying to manage behaviors that come from restless kids than the 15 minutes that would have been spent outside. When you have a chance to talk to the administration, LMK and I’m happy to help you draft a letter from a teacher and parent perspective advocating for recess! UGH!

    1. Thank you for that offer..I might take you up on it. I did first ask the teachers and they gave (in my opinion) crap answers. “they get 7 chances” and “I understand exercise is important” and then of course the big “BUT”….I’m trying to decide how/if I want to move forward with the admin. Meaning a) will I get anywhere as it seems like it might be school wide and b) am I going to cause huge problems for my children?

      1. I’m sure you aren’t the only parent who feels this way! Since many voices are always stronger than one, find the other parents who feel similarly and hopefully you’ll be able to work with the administration on some creative problem solving! And do feel free to let me know how I can help! BTW- I also have a background in school administration and supervision but decided not to pursue a principalship after I had kids! 🙂

  45. I am not okay with this at all! I do not think that taking away time for our kids to decompress it okay. They should figure out something else. Maybe a silent lunch?

  46. I have never understood why EVERYONE is punished or rewarded for the acts of one or a few.

    If that happened in the workplace, it would send me over the edge.

    Meaning, I do good work and show up on time and meet my deadlines. But because a few don’t, “I” lose some vacation time? Because of their lack of responsibility?

    Or…I do good work and show up on time and meet my deadlines. But because a few don’t, they get extra vacation time? Because of my success?

    Never have understood that.

  47. I am a parent in Georgia too.. We are dealing with this too.. And the entire class being punished for the few that are out of control. My son and this is no lie.. has NEVER EVER been in trouble for doing anything. He is one of those that turns red at the thought of misbehaving at school (home is another story) lol. But he came home with pages of “I will learn to have self control” and some other crazy lines that they are writing during class time as well as recess. It blows my mind.. I could go on and on.. It is so sad how things have changed.. I recently pulled my oldest out and am using K12 to school her now.. Have you talked to the teacher? Principal??

  48. dude. it’s just not ok. like i have so much to say about this but i am sure you have already handled it (ie talked to the teacher & the principal) bc truly this is not acceptable. not at all.

    anxious to hear how it went….

  49. I’m a retired DeKalb County teacher. We were not allowed to take away their PE time. I get it, and maybe it might take a few times for the kids to see the teacher means business and she might not get to that point in the future.

  50. Really though, should it be a “privilege” or something that is just built into their day like reading and math? I hate that they can have it taken away too. Way to make the kids love school administrators. Can’t they come up with something else?

  51. This makes me so angry! Our kids need this play time. And using it as a punishment only makes issues worse for the teacher because they need to play to get out their energy.

  52. At my girls’ school they have a “wisdom walk” where they walk laps around the playground for X number of minutes. This keeps the kids active. While they are walking they have to watch all the other kids at recess who are out playing, and not in in trouble. There are other ways to punish a class than to take away thier only fun, wiggle, active time!

  53. YUCK! I can’t believe they do this!

    It’s a state law that kids have to have 30 minutes of physical activity here. Kids NEED to move.

    I do get that there isn’t a whole lot teachers can do these days- taking away recess is a no (usually- can’t believe yours does it), not giving out extra assignments… what can they do? It gets frustrating.

    I’d definitely talk to the teachers about it. Recess shouldn’t be taken away and I’m dead set against whole class punishments because it’s rare that it’s truly the whole class who deserves it.

    My oldest’s teacher last year did a thing where she had a 15 minute free time at the end of her block and the kids could lose that for whole class misbehavior, but not their recess.

  54. Taking away recess from the class is a terrible idea, especially when kids are so young. Removing outdoor playtime certainly won’t make restless kids behave better. I’d email the teachers first, then the principal.

  55. First, please delete my previous comment. For some reason, I hit enter. *sigh*

    Second, contact the teacher. Let her know your concerns to give her the opportunity to change her approach. Regardless of school-wide, she still has a choice on how she goes about classroom management. Then, go to administration. But definitely advocate. This is not the right way to go about disciplining a classroom of wiggling 5 and 6 year-olds.

    I’m a prior elementary teacher, and I *may* have done this with my older kids as a last straw, but NEVER with the littlest of kids. And, we’re at the start of the year, has she tried all the strategies in her toolbox? Seriously. there are SO many other ways to encourage good behavior.

    1. Yes, I did contact the teacher. And wasn’t impressed with her answer. And then went to admin and need to have a plan for my next move. My grandma says I should leave it alone.

      The toolbox thing is my issue, too and this year it was the entire class. I just don’t even think it should be on the table as an option. It’s not a reward, you know?

  56. I wish I knew how to help. Maybe instead of playing outside they can do an indoor activity. Something that allows them to still get their energy out. They can shorten it. You know time out for every minute of their age. That way they won’t lose their entire recess. I couldn’t imagine being in a room with kids that are a bundle of energy. Wait I did do that when I was a daycare teacher. I used to have my class sit down and as they started to behave I would send them out to play.

  57. Email or talk with the principal. With both teachers doing it, it’s probably been oked by the principal. I hate that schools do this. Kids need to play so they can learn. Thankfully our school doesn’t allow recess to be taken away for any reason.

    1. I have emailed the principal. I tried to do it without too many details to get info. And, really only discovered that she isn’t a fan of group punishment. But, didn’t talk about the recess part. So, I have to send another one for sure!

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