Elementary School Recess Times - Your Opinions??

Updated on February 11, 2015
M.M. asks from Chicago, IL
27 answers

I had posted yesterday about choosing a elementary school for my son. I have a piggyback question to that.

One of the schools I like has a 30 minute recess time. My son is a slow eater , he gets 30 mins to eat right now in preschool but still brings lunch home many times. A 30 minute recess - 10 mins for lunch and 20 min recess sounds ridiculous to M.. When I took the tour I mentioned about it not being enough time. And was told he can eat longer and skip playtime( hmm ..which kid would want to do that???) And my son is on the skinny side, so not eating his lunch at all will make him tired and I am worried about his weight too.

I am curious to know if any of you have kids in schools with 30 mins recess? How are they doing there , have they learnt to eat within 10 mins? How is it working for you?

The other schools I toured had 20 mins for lunch and 20 mins for recess. This particular school will be the closest to M.(easier drop off/pick up).

I am curious to know what you moms think about the 30 min lunch+recess schedule?

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J.B.

answers from Boston on

Research has shown that regardless of how long students have to eat, they are more likely to eat their complete lunch if they have recess first (work up an appetite running around) and then eat. So even if the day's schedule doesn't allow for more time - which I think is ridiculous - then perhaps they can switch things around so that the kids have recess first, then lunch.

Anyway...my kids' elementary school (grades 3-5) has 30 minutes of recess followed by 30 minutes of lunch. To have only 30 minutes total for both would not work for my kids.

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Y.M.

answers from Iowa City on

My 7 year old has at least two 20 minute recess times per day. They can earn more recess time by staying on task or if everyone in the class behaves exceptionally well. I think 4th and 5th grade students only have one recess per day because they also have band/choir. They have 25 minutes for lunch. My younger daughter is 4. She will start Kindergarten next year. Her doctor has already mentioned providing a 'medical' indication on her physical to give her additional time to eat as she is a slow eater and doesn't do well in crowded environments such as a cafeteria.

I think expecting children to eat their lunch (plus get through the lunch line if they buy instead of pack) in 10 minutes is ridiculous. I also think one 20 minute recess (IF lunch is finished in 10 minutes) per day is not enough for full time school.

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J.C.

answers from Anchorage on

My kids get about 15 minutes to eat and about 15-20 for recess. My slow eater does not always finish, but if he was hungry he would find a way to eat a little quicker. He is in 3rd now and so far has not passed out from hunger on the playground so I guess he is doing okay with it.

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T.F.

answers from Dallas on

In our elementary schools ( I have been subbing at the same one for 14 years).... the students have a 30 minute lunch (make that about 20-25 minutes from the time they enter the lunch line and line up) then they have a 30 minute recess.

Most of the children are well finished with lunches during that time period and are ready for clean up and line up.

Recess time is used for outdoor play and downtime. We don't let the children stay inside and play on computers just because they don't want to go outside. Recess time is also used for discipline time. If you get time out from class for whatever reason.... there is a special spot where you sit at outdoor recess for the time period you are assigned for time out. When that time is up, you come to the teacher and explain why you were in time out and how you will make sure you are not in time out again.

Recess time is also a time of work completion for those who did not finish the work they were supposed to finish. Those are the only children who stay inside UNLESS there is a medical note or some genuine reason for them to be inside.

After recess in most grade levels, there are 15-20 minutes call DEAR time... Drop Everything and Read.

The only grade level with s shortened outdoor recess time is 5th grade and that is to get them accustomed to the routine that will be changing when they go to middle school where there are no recesses.

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R..

answers from San Antonio on

Our school has a 30 minute lunch and a 15 minute recess.

30 minute lunch is no issue for one child...my slow eater/talker doesn't get as much eaten.

I have the problem with the 15 minute recess. I think kids need to run and swing and be active...and 15 minutes is not enough time to get all the wiggles out!!

Oh, and these are separate events lunch and recess are not back to back.

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T.S.

answers from Washington DC on

Are you sure lunch is eaten DURING recess time? I'm not saying you're wrong, just saying to check with them if this wasn't explicitly stated.
When I was growing up, "Lunch Recess" was a large block of time in which to eat and then play. When ever you finished eating you could get up and play... but I lived in California so we ate outside at picnic tables in elementary school and just around campus on benches or wherever in middle and high school... and the playground was right there.

We live in Maryland now. My son eats in a cafeteria. "Lunch" and "Recess" are separately scheduled times. They can't have the whole school in the cafeteria at the same time, and supervision can't accommodate kids going in and out on a whim. He has lunch first, then a 30 minute recess while some other grade is eating... last year he had recess first then lunch.

Worth checking.

Either way, you can make it work. The lunch schedule isn't the reason to chose a school.

T.

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V.S.

answers from Reading on

I think that schedule is ridiculous. my kids, even my middle schooler, have an hour - 30 for eating, 30 for recess. My kids refuse to buy hot lunch (which I can't blame them) in part because they would spend at least 10 minutes in line waiting for it. What do they do for kids who get hot lunch? How in the world does that give them enough time? Would YOU want to cram down your lunch in only 10 minutes?

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D.D.

answers from Pittsburgh on

Never heard of that. Our school has separate 30 min each for lunch and recess. How do they even get lunch served to the kids who buy lunch in 10 min?

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S.G.

answers from Grand Forks on

My kids have 15 minute morning and 15 minute afternoon recess and an hour lunch (20 minutes lunch and 40 minutes outdoor recess.) One son is a slow eater and can't finish lunch in the 20 minutes so he brings what is left outside to finish.

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M.R.

answers from Washington DC on

I really would go back to that school and clarify. I have never seen any school around us that had recess as part of lunch. There is no logistical way that kids who purchase school lunches can get in a line, get their lunches, get to a table, eat and dispose of food in 10 minutes. I would want to clarify that that is actually what the school does and that someone didn't misspeak to you. I don't mean to doubt you but I find that impossible -- parents whose kids purchased lunch would be up in arms revolting over it since some kids would not even get up to the counter to get food before 10 minutes was over, unless this is a very, very tiny school.

Grill the school: Do they actually mean 10 minutes for a cafeteria lunch? Or does every single kid bring lunch from home so they all go straight to tables and eat? That can't be the case!

I would go to the school at this time and observe to see what actually happens. It just does not seem tenable at all.

If it's really like that, well, I would not let lunch policies dictate whether my child went to a particular school, if everything else about the school was just fine. But I would absolutely pack my child's lunch every single day so he could go sit and start eating immediately and never wait in a line.

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D.B.

answers from Boston on

I think 10 minutes is too short a period of time, especially if some kids are going through a cafeteria line or getting milk, and even just to get the kids all into the lunchroom and settled. Little ones can't even open their containers sometimes so they need help and have to wait for the teachers or the "lunch ladies". That said, I think your child requiring 30 minutes means that he's not eating during that time - he's talking or distracted or doing something other than actually eating. Most kids need to eat a snack and a lunch, so they aren't consuming a huge meal at one seating. I'm assuming that you are packing a number of different foods (in case one thing doesn't appeal to him) and that they are in containers he can easily open by himself. If a kid has a yogurt container with a tricky lid and then drops his spoon 4 times, it's gonna take longer. Some ziploc bags and plastic reusable containers (especially the "lead proof" ones that are super tight) are hard for some kids too, depending on their fine motor skills.

I agree with Suz that recess and physical time has been cut back a lot - we cram so much classroom time into the child's day, and then we can't figure out why so many of them can't sit still in the room.

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S.T.

answers from Washington DC on

very few people can eat lunch in 10 minutes. so yeah, ridiculous.
but unfortunately free time is becoming a thing of the past in schools today. this is pretty common.
when i was a kid we had a 15 minute mid-morning recess, then a lunch period of an hour, half an hour to eat and half an hour to play. you never see that any more.
khairete
S.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

I would visit both schools to see how this actually works. Now you may know the formal school schedule but you don't know how it actually works.

The primary focus for M. when I assess schools is on the ambience of the school as long as the school has a good rating in academics. I want a school in which the general atmosphere is friendly and the needs of the individual student is a high priority within the school's structure. I want a school with a supportive environment. If they have supports in place the lunch time will work for most students and for those it doesn't work the school will help figure out how to help my child cope.

Spend time at the home school first if you'd prefer a shorter commute time. Feel the overall energy. Is it positive? Meet staff to see how they interact with student's and parents. I suggest that knowing the principal is important because they set the overall tenor for the school. Write a list of questions based on your concerns.

As a past volunteer playground supervisor I saw how the staff worked together. I don't remember specific times for lunch/playground times but I do know that if the times they set weren't working they would change them. My granddaughter had some special needs and her teachers and school counselor found a way to help her. The same happened with my daughter.

I suggest you really don't know how well the school will meet your and your child's needs until you spend time at that school. When my daughter moved she could've transfered her daughter to a closer school. She chose not to because of her satisfaction with the current school. My granddaughter could catch the bus for either school.

In our school district a child is required to be enrolled in the home school before the parent can petition for a change of school. The district has very few conditions that result in an automatic transfer. A move into the new school's catchment area is one. I think that once a child has attended in a specific area for a few years they can remain in that school even if the family moves out of the area. At least that was the case with my granddaughter.

I urge you to contact the district office to learn what can be done before spending more time focusing on this issue. You can get some information from the district's Web site. I suggest you need more information about the school's and the district before you can make an informed decision.

As to your question about lunch and recess times. Students had a combination lunch/recess around noon. There were two different lunch periods with the older students having different times. There were a 15 minute am recess and a 15 minute afternoon recess for younger grades. I volunteered for the lunch time recesses. I also volunteered in the library and for field trips. I felt a part of the team because I knew some of the teachers and staff and was aware of their attitudes toward education and how they fit with school policy. I knew that the majority of the staff were committed to helping students learn.

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H.W.

answers from Portland on

My son is seven and has about 40 minutes--- still, he will sometimes eat the 'fun stuff' (yogurt, cheese) and leave most of his sandwich because he wants to go out and play for the recess time.

Some of this is going to be fixed as he matures. If he's hungry before school is out then he learns he needs to eat more at lunch. I think being a little hungry at the end of the day doesn't hurt him and is instructive: Eat at lunch time.

30 minutes is cutting it too close for M.. Personally, I wish they had about an hour for lunch and recess but that would extend the school day. Recess matters to M.; his class has regular exercise/Go Noodle (in-class music and movement activities) breaks, too, and can move around the classroom as they choose most of the time.

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K.C.

answers from Los Angeles on

That sounds very short to M.. Most of the schools in our area have a 20 minute morning recess (many kids eat snack during this time but there isn't a designated eating time) and a 40 minute lunch (15 minutes of eating, 25 minutes of playing). Our school actually has 30 minutes in the morning and 50 at lunch (15 +35, but they can stay and eat longer than 15 if they want to).

I also know of some schools that put playtime first and then eat at the end of the lunch period. Check to see if the school does that.

If your son is truly hungry, does he eat? He might figure out how to move faster if he knows his body needs the food and his time is limited. If he doesn't finish eating because he's excited to go play, I wouldn't worry about it too much in advance. He'll probably be fine. Unless he's actually struggling in class after lunch, just assume he's getting enough calories at lunch and have a snack ready for him right after school.

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O.O.

answers from Los Angeles on

It stinks!
We are teaching our kids to SHOVE food down their throats without tasting, enjoying it OR listening to their bodies for feeling full.
Doubt you'll avoid it.
I've been at elem school during lunch.
It is a car study of ridiculous.
Ours had 30 min lunch/30 min recess which STILL boiled down to 10 minutes to eat, 10 minutes to play because it took EASILY 10 minutes to get the kids in, served, eat, clean up. THEN they would line up for 10 minutes to go outside, play for 10 minutes and start king up again to get inside. Dumbest thing I have ever seen.
Even prisoners get an hour per day outside!
All I can tell you is PACK lunch and expect 10 minutes of REAL play time.

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P.R.

answers from Cleveland on

That does seem short. Our kids get 45 min total. I'm not sure of the exact split but that's 15 min more. I think it's 20 min for lunch. Is there by chance a morning AND afternoon snack and recess?... Our school gives morning recess and snack too. I'd be concerned too about 10 min to eat. I didn't learn to eat quickly until I got to college. Now I can wolf things down but even for M., 10 min would be quick for certain meals. I'm not sure if I would let this be the deciding factor though. You could just really concentrate on making his snack something very nutritious and quick and same for lunch. Obviously fruit and veggies are very impt but maybe make his school food more high protein and save the other stuff for home when he has more time. My kids come home starving anyway and I did too as a kid. Is the school day maybe shorter bc of this quick lunch time? That would mean home earlier which helps the hunger. Can you talk to any parents? Or go an observe one day?

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S.S.

answers from Chicago on

This is a very normal lunch time. The kids also in most schools get a10 min snack time earlier in the day. So they can eat a part of the lunch then. Your son will get used to it.

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J.K.

answers from Wausau on

40 minutes for lunch/recess will work out just fine. Seriously, I've been there, done that. I've eaten lunch at the elementary school with various grade groups and it is more than enough time to eat your whole lunch and go play. When a school does lunch in shifts, they usually don't let the kids out to play until that 10-15 minutes is up. They dismiss by table. So minimally, your kid will have nothing better to do but eat during that time.

I know it seems short and/or rushed, and I worried about it too when I was a newbie mom, but all will be well.

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B.P.

answers from Cleveland on

I would go back and make sure that it's 30 for both. I know a lot of kids that couldn't eat in 10 minutes. At my daughters school it is 30 minutes for lunch and then later on its between 15 and 30 for recess I can't remember the exact length of time at the moment though.

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L.M.

answers from Chicago on

I will meet my kids at school for lunch on occasion. They both have 15 min lunch 15 min recess. I thought this was not enough before I joined them for lunch, but I realize now that this is plenty of time, if they choose to eat. If they choose to mess around and chat instead of eat then it's not enough time. If they sit down and eat their food, it's plenty. If they kids have a full 30 minutes to eat their food, they are spending the majority of that time messing around. I'm thinking the number of minutes for lunch should not be your priority in choosing a school. Your child will learn to adjust to whatever the school does and it will be an important lesson learned.

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C.T.

answers from Santa Fe on

My kid's school has 20 minutes lunch followed by 20 minutes recess. And they have gym twice a week. I really think it would be fine for your child...if he takes 20 minutes to eat he still has 20 minutes to play outside. I think it is a little silly that this school only allows 10 minutes for lunch though...why don't they do 20 and 20? Also, my son's teacher allows them to bring a healthy snack or two and they are welcome to eat them as needed in the classroom. They also are to bring a water bottle each day for at their desk.

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D.N.

answers from Chicago on

The school my 6 yr old goes to has 20 minute lunch and 15 minute recess. If it is nice out on days they have gym, they play outside. There is one school in our district that does not even have recess.

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P.K.

answers from New York on

He will adjust and figure things out quickly. If he wants to play he will finish. I am sure they have snack time too. So he can eat something then too. Kids adapt to the routine quickly. Don't underestimate him.

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D.K.

answers from Pittsburgh on

My son has 30 minutes for recess. He has 30 minutes for lunch and then 30 minutes for recess. He is in 3rd grade. What you are describing is completely inadequate. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and inactivity. Unless the kids are going outside twice a day or have gym every day instead of the usual 2x a week, I would not even consider the school.

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K.S.

answers from Denver on

I wouldn't stress too much about it. That does seem a little short, and I would have worried about it too. The main thing is he will adapt to what he is given, and will see that the climate around him is making due with that amount of time. I will say when my daughter was in elementary, they ended up switching things around and doing recess first, and then coming in to eat- made a HUGE difference. Because so many kids would throw away food to be able to go out and play. This way, they were hungry and not rushing to get outside. Also, the last few minutes, they turned off the lights (just the overhead- still plenty of outside light coming in) so the kids would know they just had a couple of minutes left and were expected to eat more, talk less.

But regardless, I think if you went and had lunch there, you would see that the kids adjust to the schedule given. You'll see, it will be fine!

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M.D.

answers from Washington DC on

My elementary kids get 30 minutes to eat and 30 minutes of recess. My middle school child gets 30 minutes to eat and 15 minutes of walk and talk time (or basketball, or whatever...basically recess).

Next question: ONLY 20 Mins for Lunch and Recess!!