Let Our Children Play!

Parents need to stand up and speak out to make recess mandatory in Florida elementary schools


At the beginning of the school year there was something I was very concerned about. And I wasn’t alone. Almost immediately, the members of my Jacksonville Moms Blog neighborhood group on Facebook began talking about it.

What had happened to recess?

Many parents were noticing their elementary school children had little or no recess time. When it did exist, it was limited. And often used as a disciplinary tool. If a class was, “bad” or did not accomplish enough academically, there was no recess. It was treated as a privilege, not a necessary part of the school day.

There is absolutely zero consistency on how recess is being handled, even within public school districts. It is currently managed on a school by school basis, and many schools are failing our children in this area.

Parents are not happy about these changes. There were robust discussions in our FB group, and beyond. Across the state, parents have expressed concern. In Polk County Mandy Barr Lipham, mother of a 5-year-old started a petition and is pushing for the school board to change its policies.

Now, parents across the state are urging the Florida Legislature to do something about this issue. A bill is currently being drafted for introduction to the Florida House of Representatives, as well as the Senate. It would require a minimum of 20 minutes of daily recess for all elementary school children, in addition to physical education (PE).

PE is a class, with Florida Standards attached to it, with benchmarks associated, and children are expected to show learning gains. Their teachers and schools are held accountable for those results. Kids are required to pay attention, they are directed as to what activities occur on any given day, they learn about proper nutrition and general principles of healthy lifestyles.

That is fantastic, and there is great value in it.

RecessRecess is totally different. Its unique benefits are found in its lack of structure. Children direct their own play and they benefit from that play. They learn leadership skills, social skills, use their imaginations, explore their interests, and when a recess period has taken place, research shows they return to the classroom better able to focus on the task at hand.

Daily recess is a necessary break from the rigor and curriculum of the classroom. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless early childhood development specialists recognize this. It is maddening it has even become an issue that requires attention.

The current draft of the Florida recess bill (subject to change) reads in part:

Separate and apart from the physical education requirement… each district school board shall provide 100 minutes of supervised, safe, unstructured free play recess per week for students in kindergarten through grade 5 and for students in grade 6 who are enrolled in a school that contains one or more elementary grades so that on every day that school is in session there are at least 20 consecutive minutes of recess per day. Such recess shall not be withheld for academic or punitive reasons.

The final version of this bill will not become a reality unless parents get involved and tell their representatives how important it is to them.

What can you do to help? Join the group of parents working to push this legislation through. This Facebook group started in Orange County but is now involved in a statewide effort to get the legislation passed in the Florida House of Representatives and Senate. You can stay up to date on the efforts and be involved through this group.

Most importantly, reach out to your legislators. They want to hear directly from their constituents about issues that matter to them.

Jacksonville Moms Blog reaches parents in several Northeast Florida counties. It is important you contact the right people. To find out who your specific elected officials are, simply click here and plug in your zip code. You will be directed to the name of your State Representative and Senator, be able to email each directly from the site, and find their phone numbers.

This is a state issue. You’ll want to contact your State House Member and your State Senate Member. Phone calls and emails are needed. As many as possible. Let your elected officials, whose job it is to represent YOU, know how you feel about this issue. Encourage them to support the recess bill.

For your child. For all our children.

Elizabeth grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. She moved to Jacksonville in 2012 after visiting during winter and falling in love with the climate, people and laid-back atmosphere. She never plans to leave! She lives in Mandarin with her Jacksonville native husband, their daughter, three cats, a dog and a fire-bellied toad. Elizabeth enjoys working from home as a freelance writer and family photographer. She has written for "The Huffington Post," "What To Expect" and been featured on top parenting sites across the web. Her photography appears in the National Geographic book, "Getting Your Shot: Stunning Photos, How-To Tips and Endless Inspiration From The Pros." Efloraross.com


  1. I am quite excited to see this proposed. Our children NEED open ended play everyday for development of many essential items. Please, strongly consider this for our kids.


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