Senate Bill 654 in Illinois, known as the “Right to Play Every Day” bill, became law when Gov JB Pritzker signed it in August, and it took effect this school year in the state, requiring that all students in kindergarten through fifth grade be given 30 minutes of recess or unstructured play each and every day.
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning,” Fred Rogers once said. “But for children, play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.”
And the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a United Nations initiative, recognized play as a basic right for all chidren.
The law not only mandates that recess of at least 30 minutes be available every school day but also prohibits teachers from taking recess away as a punishment.
Furthermore, educators from top to bottom cry out that recess is needed more now than in the past, given the greater number of students who are being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and other psychopathology.
Recess requirements are rare.
According to the National Association of State Boards of Education, no recess requirement or recommendation can be found in the laws of 12 states: Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming. Some states have non-codified policies only, but at least there’s something.
An actual requirement for recess for elementary school students can be found in the laws of only about 10 states, according to the association’s database.