TitleObservations from the playground: Common problems and potential solutions for school-based recessObjective:Design:Setting:Method:Results:Conclusion:
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsMassey, WV, Perez, D, Neilson, L, Thalken, J, Szarabajko, A
JournalHealth Education Journal
Date Published11/2020


This study aimed to examine some common problems observed during school recess and translate findings to evidence-based, practical solutions that can be applied within schools on a more systematic level.


Observational study.


Elementary schools in the USA. Method: Data were collected from 112 school recess periods at 25 public elementary schools in three distinct geographical regions of the USA (Midwest, Northwest, Southwest). The Great Recess Framework–Observational Tool (GRF-OT) guided observations and field notes. The GRF-OT measures safety and structure, student behaviour, adult supervision and engagement, transitions, and physical activity. Following data collection, inductive and deductive content analysis examined patterns in the data.


Analyses revealed how poorly designed and inadequately maintained schoolyard spaces contribute to common safety issues. A combination of insufficient play space planning and maintenance, lack of play equipment and game availability, and limited adult involvement in the schoolyard reinforced social hierarchies, leading to exclusionary practices. While recess is often deemed a child-led portion of the school-day, results highlighted the important role that adults play in recess.


The following evidence-based solutions should be considered by school administrators and policy makers to mitigate problems observed during recess: (1) assess the schoolyard landscape, (2) assess patterns of play, (3) plan an intentional recess and (4) address the social climate. A high-quality recess promotes equitable access to play opportunities.

Short TitleHealth Education Journal