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The Power of Play

You probably ask your child what they learned at school or how they did on a particular test, but when was the last time you asked about recess? You may be surprised to learn that, until last year, they may not have had recess every day. That’s why state lawmakers passed a bill in 2016 requiring at least 20 minutes of recess per day in all Rhode Island elementary schools.

Helping keep kids healthy

According to Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, nearly one in three children ages 2-19 is obese (17%) or overweight (15%), in part because of inactivity. So as part of an ongoing effort to reduce childhood obesity, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has teamed up with Playworks and the Rhode Island Healthy Schools Coalition (RIHSC). This partnership, called #RecessRocksinRI, is made possible by a grant from BCBSRI and demonstrates the power of safe, fun, and healthy play at school.

The program started with 18 schools and has now doubled due to its success. At a two-day recess training, school staff map out their play spaces and review how they use equipment. They explore new twists on old games and new strategies to avoid conflict—like using rock, paper, scissors to help students solve their own disagreements. They also are encouraged to play with students during recess. Each school receives free equipment and manuals, funded by BCBSRI. Find out if your child’s school participates in #RecessRocksinRI.

Why recess rocks

“The program has been transformative in both urban and suburban schools,” said RIHSC's Karin Wetherill. “The strategies that students learn to help solve minor conflicts find their way back into the school as well, promoting a more cooperative classroom.” Principal Debra Malcolm of Cumberland Hill Elementary noted, “We received training on how to make recess universal—and that’s where we are seeing the biggest impact. The top athletes are now encouraging students with disabilities to join them on the playground. I see them all playing together and high-fiving—it’s really quite incredible.”

“A frequent question the program receives is, ‘Why do children need to be taught how to play?’” Karin said. “Because many children spend so much time in organized activities or in front of screens, they sometimes don’t know what to do with their free time.” Cumberland Hill focuses on giving students choices, like providing a “yak track” where students can walk and talk instead of sitting on the grass. Courtney Blood, a parent at Cumberland Hill, has seen the power of Playworks firsthand. “My older son (now in middle school) is in special education and had a difficult time asking friends to play, so he didn’t participate. Because the program was so inclusive, he didn’t have to worry about approaching anyone and could just enjoy himself—it really boosted his confidence. And my younger son also enjoys making friends in different grades.”

Get in the (recess) game

Playworks has created a terrific Game Library that can be searched by age, equipment, group size, and length of time. Plus, they have fun names like Alligator Swamp and Drop the Cookie. Search the library.

How Playworks makes a difference in schools

Here’s what schools say about the impact of Playworks.

  • 95% report increased level of participation in classroom activities
  • 98% report an increase in students who are physically active
  • 89% report a decrease in bullying

Results from a 2016 survey of administrators, teachers, and other staff at schools that received Playworks Pro Services