Position Statement

Recess for Rhode Island is a coalition of individuals and organizations that support the well being of children and families.  We are educators, pediatricians, psychologists, mental health advocates, social service workers, playworkers, parents and grandparents working together to promote a statewide recess policy that:

  • Recognizes that children’s self-directed free play is essential to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional health and well-being.
  • Provides at least 20 minutes of recess – optimally 30-40 minutes – every day for all elementary school students (active outdoor play as often as possible).
  • Allows children to freely engage with each other and determine their own play, within reasonable boundaries, during well-supervised recess.
  • Stipulates that physical education class and mandated participation in adult-led sports and games, while also beneficial, shall not replace recess.
  • Prohibits denying recess to an individual student or a class as a disciplinary measure. 
  • Requires accommodations during recess for children with mental and physical disabilities.
  • Recognizes that for some children a supervised school setting is the only safe place self-directed play is available.


The research shows that recess is necessary for optimum learning and development:

  • In a nationwide Gallup poll commissioned by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, more than 80 percent of elementary school principals reported that recess has a positive impact on academic achievement and two-thirds noted that students listen better after recess and are more focused in class.
  • A 2010 review of recess studies by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention concludes that: “School[s]... can feel confident that providing recess to students on a regular basis may benefit academic behaviors, while also facilitating social development and contributing to overall physical activity and its associated health benefits. There was no evidence that time spent in recess had a negative association with cognitive skills, attitudes, or academic behavior.”
  • A research brief published in January 2012 by Active Living Research at UC San Diego concludes that “Providing recess is an important strategy for increasing health-promoting (i.e., moderate-to-vigorous) physical activity and improving behavior and concentration among students,” but notes that children most at risk for obesity (i.e. poor children) are least likely to attend a school that provides recess.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics maintains that children’s self-directed free play is essential to their cognitive, physical, social and emotional health and well-being: “... [A]ctive play is so central to child development that it should be included in the very definition of childhood... Play helps children develop creativity and imagination... enhances physical health by building active, healthy bodies... contributes to healthy brain development... enhances children’s learning readiness, learning behaviors, and problem-solving skills... is essential to developing social and emotional ties...” They write that “play should be an integral component of school engagement” and point out that trends toward reduced playtime in schools disproportionately affect children living in poverty.
  • In its recently published paper, “A Research-Based Case for Recess,” the US Play Coalition calls for school teachers, principals, superintendents and policy makers to become familiar with the research on the value of recess and make research-based decisions on recess policy, noting that while recess policy and practice vary considerably among school districts and from school to school, “the probability of children having… at least 20 minutes a day of recess was more likely in states with laws requiring PE and encouraging recess.”

The evidence is indisputable: children need recess.

Please join us in urging Rhode Island legislators and school leaders to enact a statewide research-based recess policy that supports children’s healthy development.