Recess Without Rules

I remember recess during my elementary years fondly. There was plenty of equipment to play on, and there were a few diehard rules.

  1. Don’t walk up the slide.

  2. Don’t get off the teeter-totters when someone else is on the other end.

  3. Stay out of the school forest.

Many schools have tougher rules today—rules that restrict students’ play and thus their imaginations. But what would happen if we got rid of playground rules altogether? Would there be chaos and bloodshed? One principal in New Zealand found out. He has revamped his school’s recess to include less direct monitoring of the children and absolutely no rules. And what he has done has made recess into what it should be! Check it out in this article.


How would you alter your school’s recess if you could?

5 thoughts on “Recess Without Rules

  1. This sounds wonderful in theory. However, in the USA many parents depend on schools and teachers to keep children safe and unharmed. When a child is injured during recess, the teacher is first questioned to see if there is a lack of supervision or if the school rules were followed. Many parents feel they should sue the school for the child’s injury. As a 4th grade teacher, I am responsible for the safety of all children during recess. I certainly wish I could let them play, settle their differences on their own, and watch them enjoy themselves. But I must play the role of safety officer and supervisor. Recess can be prime time for bullying, rough play, and exclusion of those students who are less athletic. It’s the teacher’s role to make sure everyone stays safe.

  2. Wow. Recess without rules. The article makes it sound so perfect. I’m not sure how that would work in our quick-to-file-a-lawsuit society.
    We had a 5-year-old at our school swing on his stomach 2 days ago. (Against the rules, of course.) He slipped forward and completely scraped the right side of his forehead. School pictures are this coming Tuesday, so his mother is NOT happy.

  3. Loved the article but I see a lawsuit in the US if we did this. Parents would hold the school and teacher responsible if their child got hurt.
    But man I would love to let my kiddos run with sheep. So very cool.

  4. We are in Ontario Canada and have decided to try this idea modelling the schools in New Zealand. We have a wooded area, two climbers and of course a mountain of snow. As a school we talked about what rules we actually needed to keep safe. Basically it was not use use sticks as weapons and not to destroy nature. We had hoped for an outcome of children being allowed to play creatively resulting in less school ground conflicts. It is still a project in process. He have not seen huge differences in behaviour but as a yard duty teacher I feel I have less complaints and arguements coming to me. I should mention this is just our one inner city school trying this. It is scary at first but definitely worth trying formthentemaondet of the year. As a side note our children stay outside for 40 minutes first break and 20 minutes for me second break.

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