A question you will want to ask your child and later the teacher is, “How is recess?” Listen to what the child says and notice what he does during recess. Notice whether or not he likes the experience. When you have an opportunity you might ask the teacher, “How does he/she do at recess? Does he/she play with other children appropriately? What problems do you see?” It is impossible to solve a problem you are not aware of.
There are children who try to stay in the bathroom if they can to avoid going outside. Others will misbehave in class so they lose the recess. Still others will sit outside by themselves.
As a parent it is important to know what games the children play at recess. Do the girls jump rope? Do the boys play tag or Wall Ball? Is soccer the game everyone gets included in? What about basketball? If your child doesn’t know the game or activity, now is a good time to play with him and help him learn how.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to work with a boy of about 8 who had grown up in a run-down trailer park with an incapacitated grandmother and a single mother who worked. The grandmother couldn’t get the boy to the park and the mother was tired when she returned home. The boy spent all of his time playing computer games.
I was amazed that he didn’t know how to pump when he was in a swing, so when recess came he didn’t play on the playground equipment. He was afraid to go up the ladder and down even a low slide, and he had no idea how to play tag with another child. In fact, he didn’t know how to play with another child his age. He copied what adults had done to him and that was just boss the situation. Children who played with him usually didn’t want to play again.
So how was he going to cope with recess? As it turned out he had a stepmother who cared. When she saw the problem during the summer, she took time to take him to the park and encourage him to swing, climb the ladder to the slide, etc. When he went “Zap, Zap” like the actions in a video game instead of running in a game of tag, she taught him about tag, and then played tag with him at her home, so she was certain that he understood.
His Dad enrolled him in a variety of sports so he could learn the games. That included mass doses of praise for just the fact that he tried because he was so far behind most other boys. The idea wasn’t to make him a professional ball player. It was to help him be comfortable at recess. Then as school started this mother followed through. When he came home she asked what he had done during recess, and she and both parents continued to hone in his skills at basketball and soccer.
Did it happen in a day? Of course not. This family worked hard for the entire year. Family home evening lessons were taught about sharing and avoiding bossing. Boys were invited to the house, and they played where the mother could watch. It was difficult to stay positive, but that was her daily effort. By the end of the year, the boy was fitting in and enjoying recess.
Social skills as well as intellectual skills have to be learned and parents can do a lot to help.