Wet Weather and Recess

Updated on February 27, 2013
M.G. asks from Fairfield, CA
18 answers

Perhaps this is a common occurrence but I do have to ask, since when is it right or even legal to keep children indoors for a rainy day recess? I recall it happened a few times when I was a kid but I also did not attend school in Washington either. Today it has been relatively nice and no rain but that is not the norm. My daughter has told me numerous times that the classes in her grade, there are 4, rotate on who gets to go outside for recess. Now, I've always wondered why this happens and yes I've asked but not one teacher in her 4 years of schooling can give me an answer other than that's how they have it set up. It baffles me because whether there is rain or not I would think that children need exercise of some sort. Oh, and just an FYI in my daughter's school she only has PE twice a week for 20 minutes. Also, this is a different issue but similar, but since when can an entire class lose recess because a teacher decided to only allow them to have 10 minutes of free time? My daughter has told me that last week alone she only got to go out and play once or twice. I honestly thought it was mandatory that students, provided the weather is safe, must be given recess but perhaps I've been under the wrong assumption? Anyone care to share their take on these issues?

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answers from Portland on

I've never known any legal precedent which states "come rain or shine, children must go out for recess in all weather".

What I can tell you is that some schools don't go out on cold/rainy days because the student population is not all able to afford coats and appropriate clothing for cold weather. Not because the parents don't bother, they just cannot afford it.

I agree; I'm not a huge fan of indoor recess myself. Or I wish it could be rotated so that some of the kids could use the gym for it. However, I wonder what the other side of the story is regarding the ten minutes of free time. Was the class acting up so that it took the teacher longer to provide instruction? Was there a 'special' that day (assembly, etc) which took over the recess time? Testing? I'd ask the teacher directly with an open-ended question. My guess, though, is that some of these decisions are made by the principal and handed down from there.

And if they are rotating as to sharing the playground, I would wonder what the problem was which led the staff to make this decision. It's almost always easier to have the kids outdoors than indoors. Is there only one covered area for the kids to play under? Just some questions which come to mind.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

if they don't have outside recess, where can they go?
i wouldn't want my kids outside in the rain, honestly. wet clothes all afternoon sounds like a recipe for discomfort and no learning.
but when i was in school, and when my kids went, wet recesses were spent in the gym. kids absolutely have to get their yeehaws out.

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from Dallas on

There are no laws about recess and gym. In fact, many districts are cutting gym due to budget. Recess is a perk, and not a mandated requirement. (Unfortunately. I think it should be.) I know kids around here miss out on recess if it's cold or too hot. Not a lot of people are prepared for cold here, and it can be above 100 degrees for the first two months of so of the school year.

The best way to address this would be to talk with the principle or district board, since teachers aren't being helpful. Make sure she has plenty of time outside, to offset what she isn't getting at school!!

**In defense of the rain thing, here we don't get a ton of rain. When we do it happens like a flash, with no time to prepare. It would be a MESS and a huge pain to let kids play in the rain. Parents wood be mad, for sure. (Along with the janitorial staff.) Places where rain is the norm and children are often seen with boots and coats, is completely different.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I am in Northern California. I not only volunteered but worked at my kids' school as well, and we sometimes had indoor recess, especially when it was really wet. The staff, teachers and kids WANT outdoor recess, believe me, but they had to make the call based on just how wet it was and how much water kids would track back inside the buildings. Wet, slick floors are dangerous and schools are paranoid about lawsuits from parents. Sad, but true. And remember for every parent complaining about missed outdoor recess there are probably two more complaining that their child had to be out in the rain/cold and why couldn't they play inside (lack of adequate staff/supervision would be my guess!)
Re your school recess policy, it should be in the student handbook, the parent's "right to information" thing you sign at the beginning of the year. You can probably find it on the school website, but if not call or email the office/principal and ASK.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

The teacher I have spoken to at my daughters's school really dislike indoor recess. The kids behave so much better when they are able to go outside and run around for a little bit during the day.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I have to disagree with Jo W. on the wet weather thing.
I live in Bothell, just north of you proudmama. My kids go out to recess EVERY single day. In the rain, in the wind, in the snow, in the sun. Unless there is thunder and lightning they are outside playing.
The teachers sent home a note at the beginning of the year warning us that the children go outside to play, no matter what. To make sure that they wear appropriate clothing.
We live where the weather is pretty mild. Meaning that we rarely go below 30 or above 85.
I highly doubt that there is a law about how much recess a child should get. The laws are about how much school they need to go to. If your daughter is not playing enough at school then make sure that she gets outside when she gets home (mine are playing at the park right now) or enroll her in some after school sports.
Added - Jo - nope. I don't know many kids over 4 that own rain coats or boots. They just throw on a sweatshirt or long sleeves. It really is the norm here to have a lot of rain. All of the playgrounds at the school usually have a basketball area that is under cover. Kids can play there if it's raining. But really? We are just used to it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

None of us will know why your school has arranged recess this way. If the teachers can't tell you ask the principal. We can make suggestions. THe one that comes first to my mind is that the playground isn't large enough for all the kids to be out at the same time. In my granddaughter's school they have different lunch times so that just a portion of the students are on the playground at one time.

Our schools have reduced PE time because the lack of money.

And teachers can use taking away or shortening recess for a variety of reasons. One is the class is behind and needs to finish something. Another would be as discipline for misbehavior.

I know of no state law that requires a certain amount of physical activity.

Again, the best way to find out why your daughter's school has this arrangement is to keep asking questions until you find someone who knows the answer. Ask with an open mind when the other person is not distracted with responsibilities.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

In Arizona kids don't go outside if its to hot. Here in Florida they don't go outside when it rains
And at my sons school they DON'T get any recess time, but do have PE everyday for 45-1 hour depending on the day

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

My sons last school (k) was
- 8 hour day
- 30 minutes for recess & lunch
- PE twice a week for 20 minutes


His current school
- 6 hour day
- 1.5 hours for recesses (plural) & lunch.
- PE every day

Same city
Same laws
Same ages (k-5)
2 different districts

This school is a much better fit for him, although not ideal in many regards, the shorter day & much longer time to be active makes a huge difference.

BOTH schools have indoor recess when its raining.
This school has a gym big enough for everyone (4 lunch times)
The old school had to do recess in class or library and would only get the gym for recess if it was their PE day.

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answers from Honolulu on

At my kids' school, there is one grade level that has to rotate for recess. Because... that grade level is SOOO large/many many kids.
And if they were ALL, out on the playground/recess at the same time... there would be not enough room and it would be a safety hazard.
It is due to the sheer volume, of kids in that grade level.
The parents know, and the kids, and its fine. They understand.
It is for safety. But, the kids have more than 1 recess per day.

Now, per rain, at my kids' school, it has been rainy lately. Thus, WHEN/if it rains, the kids are kept under the roof or indoors.
Why? Because, when wet, the ground and the jungle gym apparatuses... become, dangerous. Or areas of the playground will puddle up. Or there may be water runoff. Etc. It is, for safety etc.
When it rains, it can be hazardous. Even if there are adult staffing outside, to supervise.
And believe me, when it rains, the parents do NOT want their kids outside on the playground, anyway.
I work at my kids' school.

My kids school, has PE weekly, and it rotates among grade level. I mean, there are hundreds of kids... and 1 PE Teacher. One PE teacher because that is the funding the school has.

Per "free time".... at my kids school, it is not only 10 minutes a day. Because, they do have recess, and more than only 1 recess a day.
And the actual classroom.... the Teacher often has other activities. The kids do not just sit continuously for 6 hours straight.

If you question your daughter's school, simply ask the Principal.
Each school or State, is different.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Call the school district admin office and see what the written policy says.

Most of the time if they don't have a large enough playground so that each child out there has X sq ft of playspace per child then they have to share the playground and only go at designated times.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Augusta on

I wouldn't want my kid sitting around wet all afternoon. What are they supposed to do in the rain , all the equipment is soaked, field is muddy. so ya go two choices 1) kids get soaking wet and muddy ( a rain coat is not going to keep you totally dry if you run around in the rain and use wet playground equipment )and then come in and sit in a class room wet and muddy for the next several hrs ( unless they happen to have recess at the end of the day and most don't) may end up with a cold. 2) stand around outside doing nothing in the cold wet rain when you could stand around inside doing nothing in the warm school.

I pick stand around doing nothing in the warm school vs the possibility of them getting a cold and missing school cause they were forced to go out in the rain.

Now as for PE they rotate on days the rotation goes something like this PE, PE, PE , art , guidance , music. So they don't always have it the same days in the week but they have 3 school days in a row of PE. PE is 45 mins.

If the class is acting up then as a punishment they can take recess away. That's the only time I've seen recess taken from a whole class. Recess is a privilege.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

When it's raining or under 32 degrees, our daily recess is inside, in the gym, or kids have the option of a study hall to get started in homework.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Our kids go out in the rain unless it is pouring rain with thunder and lightning. In the spring (rainy season) kids are expected to have raincoats and rubber boots. Our kids go out in the cold unless it is colder than -29 celcius, then they stay indoors. Our kids have a 15 minute recess morning and afternoon, and 40 minute recess after lunch. They also get a 45 minute PE class four days a week. I can't imagine the kids having any less time. As it is the kids are a nightmare if they have a week of indoor recess due to extreme cold! Recess is the law here.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I don't know of any laws about it . I've been a regular substitute over 10 yrs in K-5 and that's not how it works in our district.

Most grades have 4-5 classes. We WANT the children to get out, run, burn energy. We have 2 teachers manage lunch duty for all classes along with parent volunteers and the other 2 teachers take all 4 classes outside for recess.

We ONLY do not have recess outside if it is raining, very wet, freezing temps or in August we deal with ozone levels. Even when it's wet, we still opt many times to just keep children on the concrete. They need the recess outlet. If we do stay in. They have free time... 1 room is set up for work completion, any kids in time out sit in the hallway until we deal with them, then other rooms are movie, art, and games.

1st grade has PE daily. Other grades are PE 3 days a week with the other 2 days having art and music

Your school sounds different. We encourage activity. It helps the classroom to more smoothly abd be more productive during class time.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I think it's silly and counterproductive for teachers to take away recess for the whole class due to the misbehavior of a few, but over the years we have run into a a couple of teachers who do it. I'm not aware of any laws requiring for there to be a recess, but kids SHOULD be able to run around and get some fresh air a few times during the school day. Kids need the chance to get out of their chairs and run off some steam.

When I was a kid, I remember that we would go outside for recess almost no matter what. I think the only time we stayed inside was when there was a thunderstorm. But rain? Heck yeah, we were outside playing in the puddles. But now, if there's even a little bit of drizzle, the kids have to stay in. I have no idea. Maybe they think the kids will melt. :-/

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answers from Portland on

Wow, really, I went to school all my life here in Vancouver either the Vancouver district, or the Evergreen district. we always had recess never on a rotation we had recess all the way til we hit the sixth grade. Rain or shine when it rained we we told to stay under the eves to stay dry or we were all taken to the gym for the 45 mins it was always said it gives us time to unwind which helped us to concentrate better when back to class also it then gave the teachers a break to as many of them then needed a smoke break, or time to run a errand for them selves or a bathroom break. Should they (the class) lose their recess time it would be more they lost ten mins or so of it but not the whole time. This rotate idea she and you speak of I would be contacting the school district office explaining you are not happy of who ever set those ways and that you believe the children need their recess time just as all have had in the past tell the person it needs to be looked into and changed or your seeking to find more information to a higher chairman. Good luck as from what I have not herad was what school your speaking of, as the ones I know of here they go out everyday matter of fact I will be making a call to check for a fact on it too, thank you S.,


answers from Austin on

Until recently in our school district, we did not have play areas that could accommodate rainy days.

The students would have tracked in mud and would have been sopping wet. Of course it does not rain down here very often.

Our elementary school only has one gymnasium and can only accommodate 1 class every 45 minutes.

We have heat advisories. and again no proper shade, since our schools are not surrounded by trees.

On the rainy days the kids go into the hallways and do stretches and a few calisthenics..

They typically have to run track every school day and then are given recess.. the amount of time depends on the grade level.

Then our state legislatures passed a bill that said all public schools must provide leader exercises each day for elementary students. Of course no money came along with this, so we local tax payers paid Millions to then build cement slabs with Covers for every elementary school.

I would find out what your local school district sets as the amount of recess.. If they do not have a set rule, contact other schools i the district and find out what they all do. Then you and the Parent Organization can offer a proposal.

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