Supporting Scheduled Recess

Supporting Scheduled Recess


Position Statement

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It is the position of the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) that regularly scheduled recess during the school day should be regarded as a childhood right that is necessary for the optimal health and educational growth of all students, and that recess should not be withheld for any student. The registered professional school nurse (hereinafter referred to as school nurse) bridges health and education and can apply leadership and collaborative skills to advocate for equitable policies that support scheduled recess and reject withholding recess (NASN, 2016, 2020). Safeguarding scheduled recess is important for promoting the physical, emotional, social, and cognitive development of all students.


Scheduled recess provides students with a supervised break from instruction during the school day. Opportunities for unstructured physical activity and peer interaction are essential for healthy physical and emotional growth and development for students at all grade levels (American Academy of Pediatrics [AAP], 2016; Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, 2022; London, 2019). Breaks from academic work during the school day serve to enhance cognitive processing for both younger children and adolescents (AAP, 2016). Ideally, recess should occur in a safe, well-equipped outdoor area that is intended for recreation (Action for Healthy Kids, 2023a). If weather is inclement or use of outdoor space is not feasible, alternative comparable recess activity time should take place indoors (Action for Healthy Kids, 2023b).

Recess not only contributes to positive physical, social, emotional gains, it also contributes significant academic benefits (London, 2019, Action for healthy kids, 2023a; Hodges et al., 2022; Carriedo & Cecchini, 2022). Given the importance to overall development of the whole child, recess should be regarded as a necessary, inherent right of all school-age youth, and not a conditional privilege or reward (Burson & Castelli, 2022; London, 2019). Therefore, recess should never be shortened or eliminated from the school day for any reason except for student safety.

A growing number of states have enacted legislation requiring daily recess. While specifications for recess frequency and duration vary between states, legislative support promotes greater equity in opportunities for scheduled recess for students in these states (Clevenger, et al., 2022; National Association of State Boards of Education, n.d.). However, in other states, recess time could be replaced with academic work time. Eliminating or minimizing recess could have a negative impact on student achievement (AAP, 2016). Evidence shows that time spent in recess does not detract from academic achievement (Burson & Castelli, 2022). In actuality, recess may have a positive impact on students’ attitudes, behaviors, and ability to remain on-task with academic tasks (Burson & Castelli, 2022). “Recess and academic time should not be viewed as competing priorities, but rather complementary to children’s overall development” (Thalken et al., 2022, p. 6).

In some school settings, recess could be withheld as a disciplinary consequence, though no published research justifies this practice (London, 2019). Many national organizations strongly advise that recess not be withheld from students as a behavior management strategy. Physical activity as a form of punishment and/or behavior management is ineffective and can create negative associations with physical activity (Advancing IDEAS for Health and RMC Health, n.d.). The Society of Health and Physical Educators has asserted that withholding recess “is inappropriate and constitutes an unsound education practice” (SHAPE America, 2021, p. 2). Further, students should not be excluded from participation in all or part of recess because of negative effects on health (Carriedo & Cecchini, 2022).

Robust policies can have a significant impact on promoting and implementing scheduled recess and preventing actions that revoke recess (Thalken et al., 2022). School nurses are uniquely positioned to apply leadership and collaboration skills to advocate for equitable school, district, and state-level policies that uphold and safeguard scheduled recess time. These school nursing actions are critical to supporting the right of all school age youth to have regular opportunities for scheduled recess that enhance student health and educational development.


Action for Healthy Kids. (2023a). Active outdoor recess.

Action for Healthy Kids. (2023b). Indoor recess.

Advancing IDEAS for Health and RMC Health (n.d.). Issue brief – physical activity.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2013, reaffirmed 2016). Policy statement: The crucial role of recess. Pediatrics, 131(1), 183-188.

Burson, S. & Castelli, D. (2022). How elementary in-school play opportunities relate to academic achievement and social-emotional well-being: Systematic review. The Journal of School Health, 92(10), 945-958. doi: 10.1111/josh.13217

Carriedo, A. & Cecchini, J. (2022). A longitudinal examination of withholding all or part of school recess on children’s physical activity and sedentary behavior: Evidence from a natural experiment. Early Childhood Education Journal.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). CDC healthy schools - recess.,kindergarten%20through%2012th%20grade.&text=Recess%20benefits%20students%20by%3A&text=Increasing%20their%20level%20of%20physical,memory%2C%20attention%2C%20and%20concentration.

Clevenger, K., Perna, F., Moser, R., & Berrigan, D. (2022). Associations between state laws governing recess policy with children's physical activity and health. Journal of School Health, 92(10), 976-986. doi: 10.1111/josh.13157

Hodges, V., Centeio, E., & Morgan, C. (2022). The benefits of school recess: A systematic review. Journal of School Health, 92(10), 959-967. doi: 10.1111/josh.13230. Epub 2022 Jul 24.PMID: 35871529

London, R. (2019). The right to play: Eliminating the opportunity gap in elementary school recess. Phi Delta Kappan, 101(3), 48–52.

National Association of School Nurses. (2016). Framework for 21st century school nursing practice. NASN School Nurse, 31(1). 46-53. doi: 10.1177/1942602X15618644

National Association of School Nurses. (2020). Framework for 21st century school nursing practice™: Clarifications and updated definitions. NASN School Nurse, 35(4), 225-233. doi: 10.1177/1942602x20928372

National Association of State Boards of Education. (n.d.). State policy database – Recess.

SHAPE America - Society of Health and Physical Educators. (2021). POSITION STATEMENT: Physical activity should not be used as punishment and/or behavior. Author.

Thalken, J., Massey, W., Szarabajko, A., Ozenbaugh, I., & Neilson, L. (2021). From policy to practice: Examining the role of recess in elementary school. Public Health Practice (Oxford, England), 5(2), 100091, pp. 1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.puhip.2021.100091

Acknowledgement of Authors:
Wendy Doremus, DNP, MS, RN
Kathy Schulz, MS, RN, LSN, NCSN
Ronda Hutchinson, BSN, RN
Suzanne Levasseur, MSN, APRN

Adopted: January 2019
Revised: January 2024

Suggested citation: National Association of School Nurses. (2024). Supporting Scheduled Recess (Position Statement). Author.

All position statements from the National Association of School Nurses will automatically expire five years after publication unless reaffirmed, revised, or retired at or before that time.