Monday, March 14, 2011

More Schools Make the Move to
Recess Before Lunch

Has your school joined with others that are putting recess before lunch? Principals who have done this say kids are calmer when lunch comes after recess, they throw away less food, and they return to their classrooms more ready to learn.

A growing number of elementary schools in Colorado’s Douglas County School District have jumped on the bandwagon and are seeing good results.

“Our decisions are always driven by what is best for our kids,” Principal John Guitierrez told the Denver Post last week. A recess-before-lunch pilot program at his school, Cougar Run Elementary, has helped teachers get kids back on track after lunch. The practice is resulting in an average of 10 minutes additional teaching time each day. [read more ]

Katie Bark, a dietician who is director of Montana Team Nutrition Program, told Education World that her group devised a recess-before-lunch program that was piloted at four elementary schools in the spring of 2002-03. Baseline studies showed that when recess was held before lunch, plate waste -- the amount of discarded food -- went way down and milk consumption went way up.

The team also noted that when students came in from the playground, the noise level in the cafeteria was high. Then they settle down. "And if they had a dispute on the playground, they tend to forget about it when they get to class," Bark said. [read more]


Dr. Melinda Bossenmeyer, Ed.D., founder of Peaceful Playgrounds, is another fan of recess before lunch.

“The playground is an essential part of any school and every community,” Bossenmeyer says. “Children spend many hours of their day occupying themselves with what the playground has to offer.” To that end, Peaceful Playgrounds offers a kit that can be used to transform school, church, or park playgrounds into colorful arrangements of games kids love to play. [learn more about the program]

The benefits of recess-first are many, Bossenmeyer adds. Among them are the following:
• Improved cafeteria behavior
• Calmer, more relaxed students in the cafeteria
• Students return to the classroom calmer and ready to learn
• Students eat more, drink more milk, and throw away less food
• Fewer discipline problems are encountered
• Fewer visits to the school nurse are recorded


Recess Before Lunch Can Mean Happier, Healthier Kids
Recess follows lunch almost as predictably as four follows three, because it always has been that way. Principals who have put recess first, though, have noticed children eat more and behave better after lunch.

Peaceful Playgrounds: Recess Before Lunch
The Peaceful Playgrounds website shares what principals and the research have to say about recess before lunch. Included: Information about the organization’s Peaceful Playgrounds Program Kit.

Schools Say Recess Before Lunch Helps Kids Focus on Meals, Learning
This Denver Post article details how a growing number of elementary schools in the area are scheduling recess before lunch, a policy the district has been encouraging since 2006.

Recess Placement Prior to Lunch in Elementary Schools: What Are the Barriers?
A study published in The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management provides useful information for school personnel and parents to consider.

The Benefits of Recess Before Lunch
This printable brochure concisely describes the benefits of recess before lunch and offers tips for making it happen in your school.


Kansas Schools Try Separate Lunches for Sexes
Middle school lunch periods can be a free-for-all of teasing, rough-housing, and flirting among boys and girls trying to impress or intimidate. But what if schools had separate lunch periods for boys and girls? That is not a hypothetical in Wichita, Kansas, where three middle schools have gone to single-sex lunches. Principals say the new lunch system has reduced misbehavior and helped students focus on eating.


  1. This idea is big in British Columbia. Our school made the transition 2 years ago and would never go back. The most important thing is that kids actually finish their lunches. (most schools do not have cafeterias up here). Students who are slower eaters can nibble into the afternoon if they need. Parents love it!

    One suggestion is to have an additional snack break (in class) during the morning. This means at our school, kids are eating 3 smaller meals while at school - which is much healthier than one snack and a meal hours later.

    Here is the tool kit from BC if you need another resource:

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks 1,000,000 for taking time to share this nice resource. I also appreciate that handwashing has been worked into the PLAY FIRST plan. I have not heard of a single school that tried "recess first" and didn't find it a huge improvement over the old way of doing things.

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