October 9, 2018

#ReimagineRecess: Fostering Healthy Relationships

This blog is part of a series on fostering social and emotional development at recess, in support of our campaign, “Reimagine Recess”, presented in partnership with Red Nose Day in School and Laureus USA


Research shows that kids’ success in school and over the course of their lives is linked to healthy social and emotional development. Kids developing healthy relationships with peers and adults is a key protective factor in reducing risk for unhealthy behaviors.* 

One of the questions we hear often is: “How can I get staff to actually be physically active with kids?" 

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of California, Santa Cruz: “Dedicated, supported recess staff are critical. An adult at recess whose responsibility it is to establish relationships with students through play will support students’ social and emotional development. More specifically, this adult also can practice inclusion, use positive language, prepare equipment for use, organize games, and ensure students are engaged and conflicts are resolved safely and quickly.”  

Getting staff off the sidelines and moving with students has important benefits for their social and emotional health. We know that when staff lead and participate in games and activities, kids are more likely to participate. Shared leadership between kids and adults during play is important for cultivating social competence, encouraging relationship-building and teaching responsibility. 


Reimagine your recess to make healthy student-adult relationships a reality! Here’s how:


1. Invest in professional development for your teachers. 

Teachers who receive coaching on improving their quality of interactions with students lead to a significant increase in student achievement and are critical to supporting social-emotional development.   

2. Encourage teachers to participate in recess.

The Join the Game Checklist from Playworks’ Recess Lab has excellent tips and tricks for activating staff and building an environment that fosters healthy relationships.  


3. Start short by giving teachers and students the tools to move together for just two minutes! 

Healthier Generation Fitness Break Videos are simple (and free) tools to get everyone moving, particularly if you have recess indoors! They make it easy for staff to plug-and-play physical activities that everyone can do together. How could a round of “The Mirror Challenge” develop healthy relationships among peers?


4. Explore new ways to form teams.

Picking teams can be scary for students. Rather than students choosing teams by friends and skill levels, adults can form teams in a fun way – by shoe colors, birthday, or counting off “apples and oranges.” Forming groups so that kids are able to create new relationships with other kids they might not know can be a game-changer when it comes to making friends.   


Can you reimagine your recess so that it builds stronger and healthier relationships between students and your staff? Share a photo of your reimagined recess on social media using #ReimaingeRecess. Learn more at www.reimaginerecess.org 


Want to take your recess a step further? Visit RedNoseDayinSchool.org for additional resources to help foster social-emotional learning and empathy-building in the classroom.



*Am J Prev Med. 2017 Mar;52(3S3):S275-S278. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2016.07.037. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28215380