Refreshing Recess is a program designed to promote student mental health by ensuring all kids enjoy school recess to the fullest

Refreshing Recess is one of several model programs developed as a part of Every Moment Counts. The focus is on embedding strategies to help all children and youth participate in and enjoy playing and socializing with friends and adults during school recess.

Time spent during school recess is an important part of the day for all students to take a break from classroom work, engage in active play, make friends, and have fun. When the recess environment promotes enjoyable participation, students return to their classrooms ready to learn, have fewer behavioral problems, and feel more connected to their school.

The purpose of this 6-week program is to create a positive school recess experience for all students (with and without disabilities) by providing the school recess supervisors and students with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources needed to sustain a positive recess environment. Specifically, Refreshing Recess was designed to support school personnel during recess and to give them strategies for fostering play and friendships, resolving conflicts, and promoting positive behavior.

Use the resources provided on this page to help you:

  • Learn about the Refreshing Recess program
  • Hear what staff and students say about it (video clips)
  • Learn how to implement the program - Just do it! Weekly Lesson Plans
  • Download power point presentations, bookmarks, posters, newsletters, and other materials
  • Read about the research outcomes

Download and share a copy of the Refreshing Recess Information Brief.

Program developed by: Rebecca Mohler, MA, OTR/L, Shannon Kerns, OTR/L and Susan Bazyk, PhD, OTR/L (2014)
Refreshing Recess aims to promote positive student mental health by encouraging full participation & enjoyment of school recess by all kids

About this School Recess Program

School recess is an important part of a child's day. Refreshing Recess is a program aimed at promoting positive mental health that works to ensure all kids - with & without disabilities - get the most from it.

This school recess program was developed by occupational therapists (OT) to be embedded during recess with the purpose of creating a positive recess experience so that all students can enjoy playing and socializing with friends.

Based on an outcome study of implementation in several school districts, significant positive changes in student perceptions of their recess experience after just 6 weeks have been noted, including improvements in:

  • enjoying school recess
  • making friends
  • having fun play activities
  • positive & knowledgeable supervisors

Sustain it! Maintain a positive recess culture!

Following the 6-week program, it is our hope that school staff and students will commit to sustaining a positive school recess environment by using the resources provided on this website. Check out the Refreshing Recess Expansion programfor an additional 6 weeks of learning materials and activities geared toward mental health promotion.
1Zastrow, L. (2020). Refreshing Recess Expansion.

School recess is a great time to promote positive mental health among students
Refreshing Recess fosters
  • friendship and fun
  • positive social interaction
  • respecting differences & inclusion
  • active play, healthy hobbies
  • support for recess supervisors

10 Steps to Success for School Recess

The 10 Steps described below help you gear up for and provide this school recess program from start to finish.

Based on our experience, there are 3 major phases involved in providing this program:
1) Gearing up to start the program (Steps 1 through 6; should take 2-4 weeks). These steps are not necessarily sequential - they are often pursued simultaneously. This phase involves the program facilitator(s) and other committed staff reading about recess best practices, meeting relevant stakeholders (recess supervisors), developing a plan of action (e.g. beginning with one grade level), obtaining principal support, and selling/marketing the program to the school.
2) Doing it (Steps 7 and 8). Each of the 6 weeks has themed activities and instructions for implementation outlined in a lesson plan.
3) Sustaining the results and expanding to other grades in the school (Steps 9 and10).

Let’s get started! Click each step below for specific instructions and downloadable materials.

Just do it! 6 Week Lesson Plans

After you've reviewed the 'Ten steps to success' and oriented recess supervisors, you're ready to begin the program! For each week of the program, in the section below, you will obtain:

1) The weekly theme and goals
2) Weekly Lesson Plan and detailed instructions for what to do before and during the session
3) Free downloadable materials (bookmarks, posters, newsletters) and resources from reputable websites

Note: This program is geared for primary students, grades K through 4. You can use it as a guide for older students, but we suggest making the materials and activities developmentally appropriate for older students.

Suggestions: Feel free to be creative and implement the program in a way that uniquely 'fits' your setting and the age group. Modify activities as needed to make them developmentally appropriate. Also, refer to the Refreshing Recess Expansion for more ideas!

Have FUN implementing the program! Spread the joy!

School recess time should invigorate, nurture, and connect students - ultimately promoting positive mental health. Refreshing Recess helps schools maximize recess breaks

Refreshing Recess Expansion!

What? The Refreshing Recess Expansion program was developed by Lauren Zastrow, OTD, OTR/L as a part of her Capstone Dissemination Project for the University of Toledo’s Occupational Therapy Doctorate program. This program was developed and implemented during the 2019-2020 school year under the supervision of her faculty and clinical site mentors.1
Purpose: The expansion materials were developed to add onto the original Refreshing Recess program in order to expand students’ understanding and application of mental health promotion and prevention strategies. While the program expansion was developed to be implemented with fourth graders, the materials and activities can be adapted and used with any grade level from K - 8.
The expansion materials include: weekly lesson plans, newsletters, outcome measures, and user-friendly resources.
How to access the Expansion toolkit? You can download the entire Refreshing Recess Expansion booklet here, OR, read a summary of the weekly materials and download separate documents in the section below.

The Every Moment Counts team is grateful to Lauren for her hard work and generosity in sharing these creative materials!

Suggested citation:
Zastrow, L. (2020). Refreshing Recess Expansion. Every Moment Counts.

1 Faculty mentor: Alexia Metz, PhD, OTR/L; clinical site mentor: Julie Pommeranz, MOT, OTR/L.

Research Outcomes

A pretest post-test outcome study was used to obtain supervisor and student perceptions of their recess experiences following implementation of the Refreshing Recess program.