It Takes a Village: Lessons on Developing the Whole Child

I know you’ve got a lot more on your plate than your next work deadline. You have to pick your kids up from swim practice; you are worried about that cough your dad had over the holidays; you are daydreaming about writing that novel. The same is true of your children—they also have more to worry about, and way more to contribute, than taking the next test.

As adults, we are able (most of the time) to strive for balance in our lives. But our children don’t have enough experience to be able to do that yet. In order for them to be successful, we have to be able to show them how to manage the stress that daily life brings.

That’s where social, emotional and academic development comes in. The Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development is spending two years talking to parents, teachers and students to explore how schools can develop the whole child. And on a site visit to Tacoma, Wash., last month, commissioners got some powerful answers.

I was there as a parent advisor to the Commission. Here are three strategies we saw in Tacoma that hold exciting potential for communities across the country:

  1. Leverage the Power of the Community

Schools have a pretty single-minded focus: educate our kids. But what leaders in Tacoma realized is that you don’t have to bend other organizations to your priorities in order to build a community effort around supporting students—you just have to let everyone play to their strengths.

Take Tacoma’s Science and Math Institute (SAMI) for example. This high school, set in the middle of Point Defiance Park, uses its working relationship with the city Parks Department to foster experiences that are truly hands on, and sometimes unexpected. My student tour guide at SAMI told me about a calculus test she recently took while seated by the aquarium’s shark tank. She said the dimness and serenity helped her focus. Students manage ongoing research projects, train to be docents at the zoo, and can work on internships that allow them to apply their learning in real-world settings.

  1. Listen to Students and Teachers

We all know teachers wear many hats. That’s why it’s critical to understand that focusing on students’ social, emotional and academic development doesn’t have to be burdensome. In fact, Tacoma teachers say the Whole Child Initiative has made them feel more supported and free to do their jobs. The initiative has slashed tardy arrivals and absences, boosted test scores and reduced discipline referrals across the district. During my visits to Tacoma’s public schools, I witnessed how teachers are valued as front-line experts and are given opportunities for leadership.

Tacoma also actively includes student voices. At each school I visited, it was clear that not only do students feel listened to, they feel empowered: empowered to resolve their own conflicts, to speak with authority and pride about their schools, and be active participants in shaping their schools’ cultures. For example, students at Jason Lee Middle School advise educators on improvements that can be made and are an active part of the rule-making process. The PTA motto of “every child, one voice” was truly on display in Tacoma.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Creative

Each child, classroom, school and district is different. What’s unique about your community? You may not have Point Defiance Park, but what about a creative partnership with that homeless shelter down the road?

Tacoma’s schools are flourishing under the Whole Child Initiative, but to replicate that success will mean stepping outside of our comfort zones of fall festivals and fun runs. It will mean focusing on how we, as parents and community members, can do that extra little bit to establish meaningful relationships with the world outside of the school walls.

Our children are complex. Let’s help make sure their educations develop all their potential.

Van Overton is the executive director of SpreadLoveABQ (an organization committed to developing creative fundraising solutions for child advocacy groups); the co-founder of Duke City Dream Lab (an organization that works to make the arts accessible to all children); a three-year member of the New Mexico PTA Board of Directors; and an active volunteer in Albuquerque schools. Van is a member of the National Commission’s Parent Advisory Panel.

Celebrate Take Your Family to School Week All Week Long

Take Your Family to School Week (Feb. 11-17) is more than just a one-night event, it is a weeklong celebration of family engagement and the great work PTAs have done to support the school community.

This year we came up with an easy way for every family to participate in celebrating PTA—Daily themes!

Maker Monday: Celebrate the arts in your school community.

  • Showcase the artwork of your 2018 Reflections participants by creating a display in the school entryway. Share pictures of students, teachers and parents enjoying the display using #PTAProud.

Try-It Tuesday: Help create healthy eating habits by encouraging families to try a new food or recipe.

  • Pick a fruit or vegetable to be an honored guest! Set-up tasting stations throughout the cafeteria where students can try your featured ingredient prepared in different ways. Share the recipes that you used with your school community.

Writer Crush Wednesday: Share your love of reading!

  • Set up an area before or after school for students to read classic love poems and to write their own. There is no better valentine then one that comes directly from the heart! Check out this list for some school appropriate poems.

Techie Thursday: Use this day to highlight the “T” in Stem

  • Share an interview with the school technology administrator or robotics coach and ask them what things they wish the greater school community new about the technology opportunities within your school. Even better, set-up an online chat where parents or families can ask the questions live!

Family Celebration Friday: Celebrate all the families in your school community!

  • Use this day to take the time to thank everyone for celebrating with us this year!

With these themes every PTA member and school can participate in Take Your Family to School Week. We cannot wait to celebrate the founding of National PTA with you all week long! Remember to use #PTAProud to show how you are celebrating Take Your Family to School Week on social media! And, Make sure to share your events with us!

Alyssa Montchal is a Programs & Partnerships Program Manager at National PTA.

4 Reasons to Attend the 2018 Legislative Conference

At our core, National PTA is an advocacy association working to improve the lives of children and families. Attending the National PTA Legislative Conference (LegCon) March 13-15 is a great way to enhance your advocacy skills to be more effective in your community. I have attended LegCon before, and each year I still find myself learning something new, or hearing a perspective I never would have encountered otherwise.

This year’s theme is “Get in the Game” to celebrate the Olympic spirit. We are excited to showcase how you can incorporate the spirit of sports, teamwork and sense of accomplishment into your advocacy work during this year’s conference.

LegCon will be bigger than ever this year! There are the top four reasons you should attend:

  1. Workshops that will help you influence education policy

At LegCon, participants will get a chance to learn from PTA leaders and experts who have used advocacy skills to improve public education in their communities, states and at the federal level. Participants will engage in interactive skills-building workshops to improve their own advocacy abilities and will go home with best practices to share within their PTA network.

  1. Discussions and networking to better understand how PTA advocates shape public policy

At last year’s LegCon, I was able to network with a lot of great PTA advocates from around the country from Alaska to Puerto Rico and even some from Europe who work with our military families. It was interesting to hear from them about their challenges in their communities and share ideas on how to improve our kids’ education. This year will be no different. I am excited to join other PTA members and learn how we can advocate more effectively in our school districts and states.

  1. Meetings on Capitol Hill with your Senators and Members of Congress

My favorite part of each LegCon is the opportunity to speak with federal policymakers about issues facing our schools and families during National PTA’s Capitol Hill Day. I was very excited to discuss these issues with members of Congress and their staff and to have them hear from us—America’s parents, teachers and community leaders—about ways to improve education. They want to hear directly from people like you who know their schools and communities best.

  1. Improved Capitol Hill Day Schedule

This year, Capitol Hill Day will be on Wednesday instead of Thursday. This new schedule will allow us to debrief and have follow-up workshops with each other on Thursday morning. The goal is for PTA advocates to walk away with even more skills and understanding on how to impact policies in their communities.

I can’t wait to “Get in the Game” and continue PTA’s legacy of advocating for every child to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. I hope you will join me and hundreds of other PTA advocates and me at this year’s LegCon.

Register here to attend the National PTA Legislative Conference.

Marques Ivey is the Vice President of Advocacy, Chair of the Legislation Committee, and member of the board of directors for the National PTA. He is married to Stacey, an educator for almost 19 years and together have three children.

It’s PTA in Pop Culture Week!

“I just saw PTA referenced in “American Housewife” on ABC!”
“Did you know that movie “Bad Moms” was about the PTA?”
The Simpsons” rerun about the PTA was so funny!”

Does any of this sound familiar? I bet you’ve heard similar coffee-talk at your PTA meetings or while chatting with other parents. PTA pops up in all sorts of places!

A few months ago, National PTA’s Executive Director, Nathan Monell, found a PTA reference in a movie. I mentioned it at a meeting and people quickly began sharing their own “PTA finds.” Before I knew it, I had a monster list of PTA references in movies, music and television shows. And thus, PTA in Pop Culture Week (Dec. 18-Dec. 22) was born.

Before we dive into our favorite clips, let’s be clear—most references are not accurate reflections of the Parent Teacher Association. (Can you tell I’m sugar-coating here.) Most dramatizations of nutty bake sales, controlling moms and iron-fisted PTA councils are purely for entertainment purposes. They’re trying to make us laugh. And sometimes, they might even be taking a tiny dig. In the end, we can take it. We’re thick-skinned here. And the PTA can totally roll with the jokes. We love a good laugh too!

Let’s begin by going back in time to the “Harper Valley PTA.” It’s probably the most notable PTA reference in Pop Culture because not only does it span a few decades but it also spans a few mediums. It first hit the radio airwaves as a song in 1968 by Jeannie C. Riley. This country megahit was re-recorded by artists like Dolly Parton (1969), Billy Ray Cyrus (1996) and Martina McBride (2004). It’s a song about scandal, miniskirts and a really tough PTA!

Not only did it make a good song, it made a good movie. In 1978 Barbara Eden (“I Dream of Jeannie”) starred in the motion picture version of “Harper Valley PTA.” (FYI, if you have 90 minutes, we found the entire movie on YouTube.) And it didn’t end there. The movie was spun off into a TV sitcom in 1981. So who thinks it’s time for a “Harper Valley PTA” reboot in 2018?

Television has definitely embraced PTA throughout the years. There was “Everybody Loves Raymond” in the ‘90s when Debra decided to reveal her updated, edgier style at a PTA meeting. (Forward 1:00 into this clip for the funniest part.) In 1974, Carol Burnett channeled a diva-tempered PTA mom as she battled for a spot in the Annual PTA Show auditions. And then in 1957—before most of us were born—Uncle Bentley juggles a PTA meeting and a date with a Hollywood starlet in a “Bachelor Father.” (Skip to 12:00 to catch the PTA part!) Can you believe that reference is 60 years old?

It’s been a real blast producing PTA in Pop Culture Week. We hope you enjoy all our finds and we encourage you to share your own using #PTAPop on social media. And while it’s fun to see PTA pop up in movies, music and television, it’s even more satisfying to know that it’s the good work PTAs around the world do that’s truly what puts us in the spotlight. Enjoy PTA in Pop Culture Week and have a wonderful holiday season!

Scott Meeks is the Communications Manager for National PTA.

Update from Florida PTA: All Children are Our Children

The following was shared by Cindy Gerhardt, President of Florida PTA.

Resilience.  That is our word for this year.  We are showing the capacity to not only recover quickly from the damage and chaos that Hurricane Irma brought to our communities, but we are being propelled back into the role of caregiver and advocate.  Only 10 days after Irma made landfall, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  While we know that many students from the Florida Keys, where schools have been extremely damaged, have been relocated to schools in Miami-Dade, we are now seeing hundreds of families from Puerto Rico migrating into areas in Central and South Florida.  We know that they are coming with very few possessions, scarce documentation and some with little mastery of English.

Here’s our call to action.  If your school is receiving these displaced families, please be mindful of what they have been and are still going through.  Most have lost everything.  If you can, put together a welcome package with basic toiletries, school supplies, spirit t-shirts, etc. – something that will help them feel some sense of normality.  Work alongside guidance counselors and other school staff to help meet other needs that may arise.  Some may be staying in short term housing, some in shelters, some with local family members.  If possible, let’s reach out and see how we can help with food, clothing and other necessities.

In the next phase, we will be working with district personnel and state decision makers to ensure that our schools are set up for success as they absorb these new families.  We’ll encourage common sense waivers and accommodations as we move forward to navigate the day-to-day curriculum and achievement expectations already in place for our schools.

Please stay tuned for more updates as we send them, and more importantly, please keep us posted on ways you and your volunteers are helping to provide a smooth and less distressing transition for these families and their children.  We will show them that our words are true, when we say ALL Children are OUR Children!

Cindy Gerhardt
Florida PTA

Becoming a National PTA School of Excellence

Have you ever wondered what PTAs have done to help their schools become nationally-recognized Schools of Excellence? Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2017-18 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at

Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA – FL

Through the School of Excellence program, the Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA created the Kindness Project with the mission to foster kindness and respect in our student body by engaging students, parents and faculty alike. All students worked together during their art classes to create art while focusing on 8 core values: Citizenship, Cooperation, Responsibility, Integrity, Fairness, Kindness, Respect and Honesty. Furthermore, families were encouraged to work one-on-one with their children at home by coming up with examples on how they could be kind at school.

The PTA communicated this program by reaching out to all faculty members via emails and educating the faculty at their Faculty Meetings. Parents and students were sent home “kindness contracts” to fill out and work on together. “Kindness Necklaces” were given out to all students “caught” being kind in the classroom and during lunch. Each week, winners were chosen by teachers and faculty members and children were asked to make a special appearance on the school’s television stations so that they could be recognized for their kind acts. At the close of school year, the classes with the most participation throughout the process were awarded with a cookie party. The Kindness Project was so successful that the pilot event will become a permanent program at the school.

Thomas B. Chinn PTA – MO

As a Title 1 school with 41% free and reduced families, Chinn Elementary PTA chose the goal of increasing access to the arts so that all of their students had access, regardless of their economic situation. The PTA met one of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, Collaborating with Community, by making connections with a local ballet school to host workshops for the students. The ballet school introduced the history of ballet and demonstrated ballet moves.  The students were then challenged to do moves themselves, gifting many of the students their very first dance class.  At the end of the week, the ballet studio performed the Nutcracker Ballet for the whole school community, including family members, again, bringing the arts to many whom may never see a ballet. One of the students summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve NEVER seen a ballet before…. and it was BEAUTIFUL!”

Floranada Elementary PTA – FL

The Floranada Elementary PTA worked to increase male role model participation by creating the Floranada Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program enlisting male family role models to volunteer at least one full school day during the year. The program was promoted by having the Watch D.O.G. and the students he represented wear designated t-shirts during the volunteer day and having their picture taken for a Wall of Fame. The Watch D.O.G. started the day by greeting families in the car line at drop off, then joining in on classroom activities, specials and even field trips, and closing out the day with the children at dismissal. Most importantly, the Watch D.O.G.s were encouraged to pay particular attention to children who demonstrate a need for male role model interaction and act as a mentor to those children. The program was so successful that it increased exponentially by mid-year through student recommendation.

Johns Creek High School PTSA – GA

Johns Creek High School supported student success through a College and Career Fair, with over 60 college representatives to provide hundreds of students information to assist them in their college and career planning.  They welcomed all of our diverse families by displaying a welcome banner created by the PTSA.  JCHS PTSA spoke up and advocated for every child by holding registration drives, attending PTA Advocacy Day at the Capitol and hosting a Voter Information Night and Candidate forum open to the entire community. JCHS PTSA collaborated with their community by bringing in community members to speak with students during the PTSA sponsored Red Ribbon Week (to address issues of drug and alcohol abuse) and for Wellness Week (to promote mindfulness and stress management).

Enroll now to start the process in becoming a School of Excellence! Visit our website at, contact or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.

Not Your Momma’s PTA

This is my first year in any kind of Parent Teacher Association (PTA). In years past I would see the slips come home to sign up for the PTA and they would get tossed in the trash. In my head I had this idea of what the PTA was and I definitely didn’t fit into that mold: I’m not a stay at home mom and able to go to every function. I’m BUSY!

As I went to register my son for 3rd grade this year as with the previous years I tried to avoid eye contact with the moms manning the PTA table. They, however, had a different idea. They were raffling off prizes for the people who signed up at registration, which caught my son’s eye. As he dragged me over to the PTA table, there was a woman sitting there with a huge smile on her face who greeted us and started talking about the “new” direction of Florence Community PTA. I listened and was interested but didn’t sign up. I knew that I wanted to help the kids of our community because I could see that not every child was as fortunate as my child.  Fast forward to the first PTA meeting of the year, on of my mom friends convinced me to attend my first PTA meeting…and I knew I had to go because she was much busier than me!  I walked into the meeting expecting the stereotypical PTA with the home baked cookies and 50s styled dresses, but what I got was the polar opposite.

That woman from the PTA table at registration was bouncing around the room greeting people as they walked in with that same huge smile she had during the raffle. As the meeting was called to order I quickly realized that that woman was the PTA president. She shared her passion to make the PTA a champion for the kids. There was something about her passion that helped inspire the group – myself included. There were a few topics being discussed that I chimed in on and after the meeting our president came and talked to me for a few minutes about a couple of projects. In those few minutes I learned more about what the PTA was really about than I could have ever have imagined. This group of individuals were some of the most genuine people I had ever met and were nothing like I had previously imagined the PTA to be. During that meeting, the changed how I saw the PTA. It was clear that they were kind, loving and supportive of one another.

As time went on I became more and more involved with PTA projects. Due to a situation that had happened with my son coming home without his coat several times, I organized a coat drive through my employer to donate all the coats through the PTA. A couple of weeks prior to the meeting where the coats would be presented to the PTA, the president and I ran into each other while volunteering at the school. She told me that there was a need for a new secretary as the current one would be resigning. She told me that she loved my passion for the kids and my desire to make sure no child went without care and attention. She also told me to think about throwing my hat in the ring. I went home and thought about how the PTA could change the lives of kids in our community and came to that next meeting with an overwhelming since of belonging. I knew that I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself and I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children.

I have now coined the phrase that Florence Community PTA is “Not your Momma’s PTA”. We do so much more than sit around, talk and bake cookies despite the stereotypes that exist. This group of men and women have done so much to bring the families and community together to rally around our children. I am now proud to say I am a member of Florence Community PTA.

This blog was submitted by Sarah Nunez, a local leader at Florence Community PTA.

Are You Engaged?

As PTA members, you know that family engagement is an important part of your child’s successful development and academic outcomes.  You participate on school advisory committees, lead parent advocacy, work with teachers in their classrooms, read all about ESSA and other regulations related to children’s health and education, and inspire your community to support all children.  Family engagement is evolving from “involvement” in the sense of families receiving a one-way stream of information and sponsoring endless fundraisers at school.  Instead, it’s the opportunity to build relationships between two crucial components of a child’s life together–families and school personnel–to further support their successful education, well-being and development.

As a parent, you have plenty of options, depending on availability, interests, skills, and personal constraints, to be engaged.  Many of you are finding ways such as these to do become a part of your child’s school community.

  • Establishing positive relationships with school administrators and teachers.
  • Meeting with teachers about academic and social development goals for your child. If you aren’t exactly sure what to ask your child’s teacher, check the Department of Education’s Parent Checklist to get started.
  • Attending PTA or school meetings to find out about the issues in your school.  Ask questions if other’s aren’t bringing up the things that matter to your child’s success or your community.
  • Volunteering on a committee that focuses on an activity or issue important to you, whether it’s school transportation, safe places to play after-school, teacher diversity, bullying or academics.
  • Voicing your opinion to local and state Boards of Education and local, state, and national elected officials on things that matter to your family.
  • Keeping up with and providing input on your state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan. Check your state’s education website to find out about your parent representative and the developing plans.

Being engaged in education doesn’t require endless free time or multiple degrees and in-depth knowledge about schools. You just need a concern for your child and a little bit of time to act on that concern.

We know you are engaged in your schools, supporting your community and the Department of Education wants to hear from you.  If you’ve been recognized for your involvement in education by your state, share your story.  What did you do to garner such recognition? What lessons have you learned through your involvement?  What tips do you have for other parents who want to be engaged in their schools?

The Department of Education’s Family Ambassador, Frances Frost, wants to feature you in an upcoming Family, School and Community Engagement Newsletter, distributed monthly by the Department.  Submit your story for consideration, in 400 words or less, with your contact information to, with the subject line “Parent Involvement for Newsletter.”

Frances Frost is the Family Ambassador at the U.S. Department of Education, serving as an advocate for family engagement in education and equitable opportunities for learning for all children. She brings the family voice to discussions at a national level and facilitates discussions between the Department, families and family engagement stakeholders.

Top things to do in Las Vegas | #PTACon17

I have lived in Las Vegas for over 20 years with my husband and four children.  I am very excited to have the 2017 National PTA Convention & Expo in my home town this year and to share a few ideas for things to do while you are here!

Las Vegas is a 24 hour a day, 7 days a week town.  There is something for everyone at all hours of the day and night.  Whether you are coming into town early before Convention, have a few spare hours in the evenings or staying a few extra days after, there is plenty of fun to be had.

If you love to shop, everything you could ever want is right here.  From high end designers to discount outlets, there are four malls within a 15 minute walk of the Paris Hotel and even more shopping experiences just a short drive away.  Several malls are even open until midnight, if you still have the energy to walk around a mall after the Convention day is over. See my full list of activities below.

Even though it will be hot here in June, there are still fun activities to be had in the great outdoors. You can choose from two water parks, if splashing in the hotel pool is not enough fun.  Hiking, rock climbing, bouldering and  scenic drives are just 30-40 minutes away at Red Rock Canyon Conservation area or a one hour drive to Mt. Charleston, where it can be 20 degrees cooler than the strip. Need more adventure?  Jump from a plane, kayak the Colorado river, four wheel through the desert, or ride in a hot air balloon. If there is an adventure to be had, you can probably do it here in Las Vegas.

Believe it or not we have many family friendly and fun activities that keep you inside with the air conditioner blowing.  If museums are your bag, we have everything from The Mob Museum, Natural History, Children’s, Atomic Testing, wax figures, old cars, old neon signs, pinball machines, and several quirky museums you could only find in a town like Las Vegas.  There is an indoor amusement park and many arcades on and off the strip to keep big and little kids entertained.

If you have little time and little money there are free activities up and down the strip.  Watch the Volcano show at the Mirage, the dancing waters at the Bellagio Fountains or stroll through the Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. You can check out all things candy at the M&Ms World or at the Hershey’s Chocolate World.

Las Vegas is known for the many shows available at venues all over town.  Singers, bands, magicians, comedians, impersonators, Cirque du Soliel shows, variety shows  and even the occasional Broadway show.  Make sure you make reservations ahead of time if possible as many shows sell out.

Last but not least is the food.  You could eat at a different restaurant for every meal, every day of your stay and you will not put a dent in the number of great restaurants in Las Vegas offering every kind of cuisine.  Buffets and four star restaurants can be found all along the strip and you can also find food being prepared by famous chefs in small shopping centers away from the strip.  Choose a cuisine, check out the reviews and enjoy amazing food from around the world.

A few tips as you are having fun.  Drink way more water than you usually do at home. It will be hot and the humidity is usually around 10%, so it is easy to get dehydrated here.  Wear comfortable walking shoes.  The hotel buildings are huge and much farther away than you realize.  Try not to pay full price for anything. Check the internet or your favorite coupon app for available discounts.

Have a great time at convention learning, networking, and sharing all things PTA and then in your free time, enjoy all of the things Las Vegas has to offer!

Linda Johnson is a national service representative at National PTA.

Grand Bazaar– just north of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel in front of Bally’s.
Miracle Mile Shops– just south of the Paris Las Vegas Hotel
Forum Shops at Caesars Palace– About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to Caesars Palace. Use the pedestrian bridge to cross the street.
Linq Promenade – About a 15 minute walk north on Las Vegas Blvd to the High Roller observation wheel located at the end of the promenade.
Las Vegas North-Premium Outlets–  13 min drive
Fashion Show Mall– 8 min drive

Sky Jump Las Vegas– Jump off the Stratosphere tower
Slotzilla Zipline through the Fremont Street Experience
Flight Linez Bootleg Canyon
Vegas Indoor Skydiving
Hiking at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area– this is best done first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  If you are not into hiking, you can just drive the 13 mile scenic loop.

Family Friendly Activities
WetnWild Las Vegas
Cowabunga Bay
Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay
Game Works at Town Square
Pinball Hall of Fame

Free things to do in Las Vegas
Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Bellagio Fountains
Take your Picture at the famous Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign
Hershey’s Chocolate World
M&M’s World Las Vegas
Volcano at the Mirage

Does Your Child Have Recess Daily?

The natural inclination of children is to explore their world through movement. When I visit my grandchildren, I wake up to an explosion of physical activity, rolling down the couch cushions, jumping off the toy box, or chasing games around the kitchen island. My oldest grandchild is now in all-day kindergarten. I can’t imagine him not having the opportunity to engage in both free and structured play throughout his school day. Research supports the notion that physical activity is associated with learning readiness and cognitive function (Hillman, Erickson, & Hatfield, 2017). Within the school environment, recess is the vehicle for providing children with opportunities for physical activity and is an essential component of a child’s school day.

Teachers, administrators and parents must realize that recess is more than just a break from the classroom. Recess contributes to your child’s normal growth and development and provides them with a well-rounded educational experience. Recess also helps your child by improving their:

  • Cocial skills and behaviors (e.g., cooperation, following rules, problem solving, negotiation, sharing and communication);
  • Classroom engagement (e.g., on-task and fewer discipline issues); and
  • Academic outcomes (e.g., attention, memory).

Recess is defined as a regularly scheduled period within the school day for physical activity and play that is monitored by trained staff or volunteers. It is also is a period of time when students are encouraged to be physically active and engaged with their peers in activities of their choice, at all grade levels, kindergarten through 12th grade.

Your child’s school should be offering a minimum of 20 minutes of recess daily. If this is not happening, learn about the current recess policies and practices at your child’s school and school district. You can also compare your child’s school practices with Strategies for Recess in Schools, a new resource developed CDC and SHAPE America. You can then see if there is an opportunity to get in involved in your child’s recess program and share with the school staff leading recess possible ways to enhance recess at your child’s school.

CDC and SHAPE America developed a set of resources for recess to help schools develop a written recess plan and implement strategies for recess to increase students’ physical activity and improve their academic achievement. These new resources for recess were developed for school staff or school groups (including parents) to provide guidance on recess.

You can help your child’s school enhance recess by using the

A great place to share the importance of recess and these new resources for recess is at a PTA meeting. We need parents to take a stand for creating healthy and active school environments for all students. Be an advocate within your PTA! Tell other parents about how the physical activity afforded by recess prepares children for learning and is a critical part of all children’s school day.

Fran Cleland is the president of SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators, and a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.  Prior to teaching at the college level, Cleland taught K-12 health and physical education in Indiana, Virginia and Oregon.  She is the lead author of the textbook, Developmental Physical Education for All Children-Theory into Practice.