4-3 | The Outdoor Recess Activities of Children at an Urban School


The Outdoor Recess Activities of Children at an Urban School
Longitudinal and Intraperiod Patterns

Robyn M. Holmes


Based on a study of 149 parochial-school students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade, this article explores children’s outdoor recess activities in an urban setting—with a focus on how age, gender, and size of play group influence their outdoor play preferences—and examines changes in children’s activity preferences over a single recess period. The majority of the children in the study have African American and Hispanic ethnic heritages and lower-socioeconomic backgrounds. Both boys and girls spent most of recess socializing with their peers, though their play varied by gender and age. Most girls spent the majority of their recess talking and socializing. Older boys engaged in physical, competitive activities such as sports and in larger boy groups. Younger children spent more time chasing each other in boy-girl groupings and in informal activities. Girls interacted with their teachers more than boys. The author argues that these and other findings from the study have applied value, expanding our understanding of how cultural and historical factors have shaped the play of American children and indicating that urban school children of African American and Hispanic heritages are at a greater risk for obesity. Such findings would be useful in shaping school policy regarding the duration of recess breaks, the types of activities that should be encouraged, and the impact the policy might have on children’s overall health. Key words: age influ- ences on play activities; cultural influences on play activities; gender influences on play activities; outdoor recess; play references; school recess; time-sampling studies