Friday, January 25, 2019

recess today

Second-grade recess is hairy at this time of year.  For one thing, there's not as much outdoor recess, and sometimes it's "blacktop only" because of the snow or mud conditions.  For another, the Great 2nd Grade Shift is in full swing.  Here's a summary of what's going on cognitively and socially inside kids who are turning 8:

And I'm afraid it's true what you're hearing about the effect of 2D screentime on children's brains.  Kids are now generally less able to play with peers in ways that don't have external structure, less apt to improvise, less skilled in the collaborative negotiation that underpins pretend play.

I recently had to engineer an extra recess so that a complicated and loaded wedding scenario could be played out.  Once I got the important questions out in the open ("Do you want to be IN the wedding, watch the wedding, or ignore it?") I sat back and let it roll.  Very few kids wanted to be IN it in the end, but those who did discovered that they could get "married" and then go off and play house and car and pets and shopping and parties.  They were surprised and exhilarated to discover new collaborators and new identities. It was totally worth the "lost" 20 minutes of instructional time. 😏

The following poem was also influenced by a date night with my spouse at an Improvisational Comedy workshop.  Here's to "Yes, and..."! 

Recess Today

“I’m tired of basketball,” I said,
“and tag and running everywild.
Let’s play Families instead.”
My friend Benita stopped and smiled.

“Let’s make our house under the slide!
You be the mom; I’ll be the child.”
“Yes,” I said,” and let’s ask Clyde
to be our dog!” So then we piled

some woodchips up as best we could
and made a bed for Clyde the dog.
We played that we lived in the woods
and hunted berries in the fog.

Logan asked if she could play.
She helped us drag a heavy log
to make a couch, and then she stayed.
We read her Lego catalog.  

Our family grew again when Chance
knocked on the slide and said, “Hello.
I’m Grandpa visiting from France.”
“Come in,” we said. “We have to go

out to a wedding by the lake.”
The seesaw was a car we borrowed.
Of course the wedding all was fake.
I hope we play again tomorrow.

draft ©Heidi Mordhorst

Perhaps you'd now like to scroll down for my surprise midweek post, "Day of Service." The roundup today is hosted by Tara at Going to Walden. Borrow a seesaw and get on over to somewhere in the world!


  1. What fun, this poem! I love that it was borne of a date night. Yes, and... indeed! And THANK YOU for losing those 20 minutes with your students. xo

  2. Hi Heidi! Even before the screen time issue, about 20 or so years ago, parents began signing up their children for multiple activities in an effort to give them an educational headstart. One girl, typical of the others I had in story hours (ages 3-6), came to the library in her leotard so she could go from the library to dance class. She told me they ate lunch in car. All the activities were adult developed and led. The kids never got a chance to play. Sad.

  3. Your poem is a breath of fresh air. How wonderful that you invested time in supporting collaborative play. Yay!

  4. Your thoughts and this poem were truly one of the highlights of my week, Heidi. Dwindling play and choice time frustrations have been a constant with my Kindergarten team recently. Social/emotional skills are so critical for functioning humans and the dangerous pendulum swing towards academics is truly disheartening. I am thrilled to hear about this precious and productive 20 minutes. Yesterday I "gave up" the afternoon for a STEM challenge in my classroom. I had planned on 45 minutes, but 90 minutes later my students were engaged, animated, conversational, collaborative, and challenged. I wouldn't trade that 90 minutes for anything, especially after I heard one child claim, "Best day ever!" -- Christie @

  5. I love this playtime poem. The rhythm and rhyme are spot on! My favorite line is "Of course, the wedding all was fake." More playtime is needed.

  6. We all need more playtime! Thanks for this!

  7. Love plenty of playtime for kiddos, and I love your playful poem. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Sorry I haven't said anything yet, I was pondering what you said about "the effect of 2D screentime on children's brains." Ugh.
    I remember when my kids were younger how hard winter recesses could be. Glad this one warranted a poem! Hunting berries in the fog and making dog beds sounds like a good time.

  9. Upstairs in 5th grade, we are also struggling with these long stretches of indoor recess. Thank goodness for the marbleworks, Uno, Connect 4, Giant Spoons, and Jenga. And also for Heads Up Seven Up (they haven't figured out that I love it, too...for the moments of silence it provides!)

  10. I love this glimpse of play and pretend. I'm glad the art of pretend is not completely lost.

  11. I adore this poem, Heidi. Yes to seesaws that become cars and fake weddings by the lake! Yes to more pretend play!


Thanks for joining in the wild rumpus!