“I need help thinking of things that kids can do at recess. They can’t use the playground. They can’t share toys. They can’t touch each other or be within six feet of each other. How can I help them remain physically active and enjoy their recess time?”  

 We received this message from a teacher at Gateway Elementary and it is a problem that many teachers are currently grappling with. Common solutions, like watching movies during recess, bringing small toys from home, coloring, etc., may provide some play or relaxation opportunities but lack the physical activity aspect that is so important during this valuable recess time.   

The Wellbeing Partners is currently working with Gateway elementary, along with several other schools in the area, through Activate Youth—a collection of programs that help schools assess current wellness practices and make changes so that students have access to healthy choices throughout the day. Through our partnership, which is funded by grants from CHI Health and Maternal Child Health, we are able to support all kinds of wellness needs—including the current tricky situations brought about by COVID-19 restrictions.   

 We had the opportunity to brainstorm the recess challenges with this teacher at Gateway, as well as other members of the Gateway Wellness Committee, and partners at our other schools. We were able to come up with many ways that students can stay active during recess—some of which required no equipment at all, and some which did. We were also able, thanks to our generous funders, to help purchase items for Gateway and other schools that we are working with. We helped to develop a list of items that students could use independently on the playground, and that could then be sanitized so that another student could use it the next day. This will provide some variety while adhering to COVID regulations. Here are some of our ideas:

  • Take class walks around the school property. Take turns allowing children to be the leader by walking in different ways, balancing on benches or other items in the environment, etc. 
  • Play Simon Says. Allow different children the chance to be the leader. Incorporate yoga poses, animal actions, or other interesting ways to move your body. 
  • Have races. Encourage children to come up with interesting routes to run and have races. Use chalk to create finish lines, and have students take turns being the “judge” to see who crosses first. 
  • Bring a boom box or smart speakers outside to play music. Encourage children to interact with the music by dancing, drumming on their legs, clapping their hands, etc. 
  • Create recess kits. Each student gets one or two items a day that can be used outside without needing interaction with peers or sharing. Sanitize the items at the end of the day so that students can choose a new item the next day. 
  • – 4-wheel scooters 
  • – Balance Boards 
  • – Pogo Foam Bouncers 
  • – Steppingstone Kits 
  • – Skip Ball Game 
  • – Scoop Ball Game 
  • – Egg and Spoon Game 
  • – Balance Bean Sets 

 During challenging times, we are especially thankful to be able to support the children in the Omaha-metro community as we advocate for wellness for all people—including our students and their physical activity needs!