Protecting Recess and Free Play Time

The good news is that there is a law in Rhode Island says that every student in elementary school in Rhode Island must get 2o consecutive minutes of recess, and that as we began the 2016/2017 school year, many schools have already done this or were already doing this, so we are making a difference for many young Rhode Island children.

There have been a few hiccups.

  • After parents spoke up, the RI Chapter of the ACLU weighed in on an issue in Little Compton in September 2016, which ended positively for kids.
  • One teacher who reached out to us told us that her principal said that he didn’t have the necessary staff to comply with the law.

How has the recess law impacted your child? Please share your recess experiences with us .


Teacher’s Union Weighs In on Recess Legislation

This is a letter sent to Senate Education Committee Chair Hanna Gallo from the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, which was not submitted as testimony in the hearings on the proposed legislation.


On June 27, 2016 the legislation ensuring all elementary school students have 20 consecutive minutes of free play recess went into effect.

Prior to this, there was no law or regulation that ensured free play recess for Rhode Island’s youngest learners. Because parents like you spoke up and told our legislators your stories about recess being denied, about having less than 20 minutes of time, of high pressure because of testing and rigor imposed on young children, we have made history.


With the pressure our children have to achieve academically, we need to ensure that they are getting the bare minimum recommended by , the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control : twenty minutes every day of free play recess in grades K-5 without the risk of losing it for punishment.

Thanks to the many voices of parents in Rhode Island, there was proposed legislation in the house and senate that would ensure all k-5 students get 20 minutes of recess per day and that those 20 minutes could not be taken away for disciplinary reasons.  This is consistent with all the research that shows that recess is critical to our youngest learners.

On June 14, 2016 the Senate Education Committee voted to approve a revised recess bill, which you can read here: 2669A .   This revised bill:

– Recognizes recess as a right for our youngest learners
– Requires 20 consecutive minutes of free play for all elementary school students each day.
– Requires teachers make a good faith effort to not withhold recess for punitive reasons
– Allows recess to be considered instructional time for schools that would have to extend the day to meet the requirements of the law.

The bill is scheduled to be voted on the Senate Floor on June 15, 2016.  If this bill passes the Senate it will need to be approved by the House HEW and then the full House before it goes to the governor.

You can help these bills pass by writing to your legislators and asking them to support this bill.   Click here to figure out who your legislators are.

House Vote on Recess – Original Bill

On May 10, 2016, the House voted to approve a bill that would ensure recess for all K-5 students.  Watch the debate here starting at the 7-minute mark:

What Can You Do?

You can let the General Assembly and the Governor know you support this legislation by signing

Some things you should know:

Why Not Just Have Regulation?

At the suggestion of the RI School Committee Association and the RI Association of Superintendents, the Senate Committee asked the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education to add recess to regulations rather than ensure recess through legislation.

During the Senate hearing, we were asked, “Why do we need legislation for this?”  The answer is simple – the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education said it would not include recess in its regulations (see here ). We gathered more than 1,000 signatures_from all over the state and comments with personal experiences .  They asked the Council on Elementary and Secondary Ed to ensure recess.   The council said no.

.  Nonetheless, the Senate wanted to ask again for recess to get into the regulations.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Recess is already part of the Basic Education Program.  Why should it be a state wide law?

While mention of recess is made in the Basic Education Program , as parents we know that the amount of time kids have for recess has been declining as focus on academic rigor has been increasing.  Since recess time is not part of a school day regulation , its availability and implementation varies greatly from school to school, district to district, and grade to grade.

conducted by the group Recess for Rhode Island ,  revealed that 84 percent of principals indicated that recess was cancelled due to weather, 70 percent indicated recess is denied as a disciplinary strategy, and 72 percent indicated that kids only get 10-20 minutes of recess per day.

If legislation ensuring recess were passed, RIDE would be required to include this on its Annual School Health Report , ensuring that recess is included in every elementary school child’s day. Including recess in legislation creates accountability for districts and for RIDE to make sure recess is protected for our children.

The Commissioner and RIDE and the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education have all indicated they will not take steps to make sure that every child has recess, despite the scientific evidence that supports this.

What do others say about recess?

Recess for Rhode Island is a coalition of individuals and organizations that support the well being of children and families. As they say, “ .” The American Academy of Pediatrics and Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the public all agree that recess is critical to a child’s development.  And the thing is, no one disputes this fact.  Therefore the state policy should be clear – recess needs to be a required part of the elementary school day, with measures to ensure compliance .

I am just one person.  What can I do?

If you haven’t already, sign and share this petition:


1.  Get informed. Read the proposed legislation and reach out to your legislators on this issue.

2.  Talk to your child and your child’s school about recess. Visit the Rhode Island Healthy School’s Coalition website to see your district’s policies regarding recess and free play time and then get involved.   How much time do kids in your school get?  Is recess ever cancelled, and if so, for what reason?

2.  Attend your local school committee meetings, PTO meetings and state education council meetings. You have to speak up if you want to be heard.

3.  Talk to other parents about this issue.  Know that you are not alone in being concerned and help shape the dialogue away from high test scores and toward what is best for your kids (the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive!)

4.  Stay in touch with Parents Across RI on this issue!  We will not stop until every child in the state has adequate recess!

4 thoughts on “ Protecting Recess and Free Play Time

  1. I agree with recess for children in elementary schools, that is the only time children can be children and play


    • Naama Gidron,

      Thank you for sharing pediatric Occupational Therapist Angela Hanscom’s article “Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today.”
      Excellent read! As Hanscom has reminded us way too many children, espicially boys have ADHD. Her insights are very interesting and it has brought better awareness why children have challenges staying focus in school. Apparently, recess “free play” alone won’t help to release kids energy, they need more physical education classes, and frequent mini-breaks in the classroom! Relaxed children will become improved and engaged learners in the classroom.


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