Why Recess is So Important (especially during 'Stay-at-Home') 

Bahar Youdai, OTR/L - April 6, 2020

While we are practicing social distancing and following stay-at-home orders, it is no surprise that our little ones are feeling a bit dysregulated. Being stuck at home can make kids feel bored, upset, frustrated, sad, mad, worried, and especially wiggly. As a result, our little ones are having a tough time responding appropriately to their environments. Kids are used to constant movement during the school day facilitated by transitions in environments (i.e. class to class, going outside), classroom activities, participation in sports and extracurriculars, physical education (P.E.), and recess time. As we try to create structure and routine in this new normal, we can’t forget how important recess is for our kids to stay regulated. 

Our little ones now have the same environment for schooltime, mealtime, play time, and family time. This can make daily expectations a bit confusing! We are learning that kids are not getting the movement their bodies especially need during this time. To help ensure physical activity, try to schedule at least three recess times into your child’s daily routine. Structuring a time for play, whether outdoors (preferred if available!) or indoors, will give our little ones a break to just move their bodies! It is important for your mental health as parents as well! Making family laps around the neighborhood a habit a few times a day will help keep everyone a bit more regulated!

Here are a few tips to help with recess at home: 

  • Schedule it in! Even though recess can just be free play, be sure to structure it into your child’s daily routine. Routines help our little one’s know what to expect and when their bodies will get the movement that they need! 
  • Don’t stop with just one recess! We recommend at least three 30-minute increments of recess everyday. If your kids are preschool age, they probably need even more than three.
  • Start your day with movement! Start the morning with some kind of physical activity, whether a walk in the neighborhood or a family dance party in the living room. I also like morning yoga and there are some great kids yoga videos available!

And here are some ideas for activities to do during recess:  

  • Go for a bike or scooter ride around the neighborhood!
  • Street chalk! Put some chalk outside and see what happens. Some easy chalk activities are hopscotch or creating a path on for relay races.
  • Use masking tape to create a fun design on the window or floor outside. Your little one can become the artist and fill in all the space with chalk or window paint. Peeling off the tape at the end will leave an awesome design!
  • Chores can be fun too especially with a little bit of imagination! Some ideas are working at the car wash or gardening and watering the plants.
  • Be a star! Put on a concert lip syncing with a hairbrush microphone, use pots and pans to release your inner rockstar, or boogie to your favorite songs with freeze dance.
  • Create a series of Olympic competitions right from your living room. Some easy ideas are a balance beam with rolled up towels, weight lifting with canned goods, and a long jump competition with a jump rope as your measuring marker.
  • Put a smile on the faces of your neighbors with a simple window craft! You can use construction paper, tissue paper, post its, or even color in a paper towel to make a rainbow or heart.
  • Create obstacle courses with everyday home items, such as pillows, food cans, cups, blankets, laundry baskets, stuffed animals. At school or the park kids have play structures, but you don’t need a play structure to provide more opportunities for movements. Stack those couch pillows up and balance on top, crash onto the bed or use a laundry basket as a basketball hoop. The opportunities are endless!

Play during recess does not have to be structured as long as your kids are using this time to get some movement and disconnect from screens. I think we can all agree that this has been a very challenging time and it is important to remember as parents you are doing an awesome job. We can all use the movement, silliness, and fun that comes with recess!