Talking Recess

During my time in the pre-k classroom, I made many observations. One area of the classroom I have specifically focused on was classroom management, and even more specifically: punishments.

 When I was in field, I observed lots of different things going on at once. One moment that I was very curious about was a moment where the teachers disciplined a child after he wasn’t cleaning up his toys in the dramatic play area. When he didn’t comply, one of the teachers had him go sit on the rug while the other children lined up to go to the playroom. The child sat down on the rug and began crying. The teachers, noticing I was observing, informed me that he cries frequently and that I shouldn’t feel sorry for him. At this point, he was sobbing.  Eventually, the child was allowed to join the line at the very back. He continued to cry while the class walked to the playroom, so he had to sit out during their “indoor recess”. Because the school doesn’t have a playground outside, they have a playroom inside that contains slides, houses, cars, scooters, bikes, trampolines, balls, etc. That is what the child could not participate in. He continued sobbing the entire time, until he was allowed to play at the very end. Although I respect the teachers’ disciplinary actions, I thought that not allowing him to have recess until the very end seemed to be too big of a punishment for that situation.

After witnessing this scene, I formed a question in my mind pertaining to classroom management and punishment: is taking away recess ever an acceptable form of punishment for a young child? I had to further my research on this topic and I had great results. Using the education database, I came across an article entitled Withholding Recess as Discipline in Decline by Evie Blad. The article was mainly about how many schools are eliminating the traditional and famous punishment of taking away recess. Lots of research in the article confirmed what I thought may be true: withholding recess is rarely an appropriate use of punishment.

In the article, Sara Zimmerman, technical assistant-director of the Oakland-California based Safe Routes to School Partnership (which is an organization that advocates for children being physically active), shares this message:  “That physical activity and unstructured play, those things are not luxuries for kids. That’s a key part of how kids learn and grow.”

Researchers have found that recess benefits all domains of a child: physical, cognitive, social and emotional. Physically, recess is beneficial because children need exercise and movement. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggest that children should get at least 20 minutes of recess each school day. Cognitively, recess is beneficial because it gives children a time to clear their brain and get their energy out so they can be ready for the rest of the day. It also positively impacts the children’s academic abilities and in class concentration. Social-emotionally, recess is beneficial because they learn respect for one another and awareness of other’s feelings and needs. This is only a portion of all the wonderful benefits that recess provides for children. Blad shares a whole plethora of reasons why withholding recess is a poor choice of punishment.

After reading this article, and thinking of my own experiences in the classroom, I truly believe that taking away recess is an unnecessary and non-beneficial form of punishment. Although I intend no disrespect towards any teachers and their practices, I do not think that punishing children from recess will be something I implement into my future classroom. There are too many benefits and essential developmental milestones that are uncovered through recess and that raw, unstructured play environment. I realize that through making observations and researching a question based off of those observations, I came to find some wonderful information about a topic I am genuinely interested in. Now, I have some ideas for my future classroom. For example, I am going to use positive reinforcement more than negative reinforcement because I believe it is more beneficial to the students, and that they will behave better if they are rewarded for the times they behave well. Consequences will be had, but they will not leave the child out of activities or key parts of their school day. With that being said, a future question I have is “what are some alternative consequences to give children in the classroom that are not taking away fundamental activities like recess?”


Perhaps next time, I will dig deeper into that topic. There is always more research to be done!

Thank you for reading and see you next time!

-A future early childhood teacher




Blad, E. (2015). Withholding Recess as Discipline in Decline. (cover story). Education Week, 34(27), 1–14. Retrieved from direct=true&db=eue&AN=102117472&authtype=sso&custid=s3915890&site=ehost-live