Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hot topic: Public school recess

An SF K Files reader asked me to post the following:

My daughter starts kindergarten at a public school in August. She's so excited. But I'm a little bit worried about her dealing with recess. She's a sweet girl, a little shy. Not good at sticking up for herself. I have heard that the public school recess can be rough. I hear that there aren't enough teachers out on the yard. How can I prepare her for recess? What do you think schools can do to improve recess? I might want to get involved at my daughter's school. Also, do you think recess is bad as some parents make it out to be?


  1. Having been in and had kids in both public and private schools,I don't think recess difficulties are limited to public schools. I also think all schools, public and private, are better than they used to be about teaching respect and kindness and addressing bullying.

    Kindergarten will be new for all the kids. Some of them will jump right in and others will be more shy and take longer to adapt. It might take your child a little longer, but almost all kids find a place on the playground as well as in the classroom. Other than giving her an overview of what her day's schedule and activities will be like and keeping your own demeanor enthusiastic rather than anxious, I would not make too big of a deal out of it--let her find her way. If, however, she's been in school several weeks and is visibly upset about being left out at recess, you would want to get more involved at that point and possibly involve her teacher. Another clue that she's having trouble fitting in at school might be her acting out at home without any recognizable provocation. Our kid had a total meltdown this morning because he got muffins instead of toast for breakfast--even though he'd asked for muffins. A couple of things upset him at camp yesterday, so we suspect it was not really about the muffins but that he was still working those upsets out of his system.

  2. slate pubbed an interesting story on bullying just today:


  3. If its a worry, I'd try to arrange a few playdates before the start of school, so that in the first recess they know one or a few other kids. That'll increase their confidence the first day, and make it easier for them to socialize and make friends.

  4. Play dates are a good idea if you have made some contact with other families who will be attending the school. Some schools/PTAs seem to be better than others at creating opportunities for incoming parents to connect. I found the Slate article Kim mentioned quite interesting.

  5. At Starr King, and most elementary schools I think, the Kindergarteners have recess and lunch together. Some places they are also 1st graders in the mix. But it's all the littlest kids, which helps.