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Tips to Help a Child Not Be Alone at Recess or in the Cafeteria

child playing alone at recess

If you are an educator and you see that a child is constantly alone at recess or lunch, call a meeting, come up with a plan, do something to help that child. Spend time with them at recess if no one else is.

What does research say about helping children socialize at recess?

According to research, there are strategies we can use to help children connect at recess, such as:

  • more structured play time
  • incorporating more specified activities where those with shared interests can join in
  • helping students initiate and maintain conversations

It can be difficult for a child to watch dozens of their peers play together or eat together while they are alone.

Why are some children alone at recess?

There are children who may genuinely want to do activities by themselves at recess and that is okay. However, sometimes children are alone because they do not know how to approach others, they are afraid due to past rejection, or they don’t feel accepted.

For instance, if others have told them they are not good at sports, or some other activity at school, they may be reluctant to join. Or if they have approached peers and felt ignored, they may be hesitant to approach them again.

Some children feel unsure about what to say in conversation or how to keep a conversation going.

Whatever the reason is that a child is alone, we need to notice this and step in. We are the protectors of our children. We are the ones that need to notice when there is a problem and try to do something to make it better.

We decided to go into the field of helping children for a reason and we need to take that beyond the classroom and do whatever we can to help our children feel like they matter and they have a place in this world.

Even if you are the only one talking to that child at recess, you are making a difference so that child is not alone.

If a child specifically tells you they want to be alone and they do not want to play with anyone at recess or talk to anyone, yes that needs to be respected, but then we still need to look into why this child is feeling a need to isolate themselves and determine if additional support is needed.

Some children lose recess as a punishment in school

Also, recess is frequently used as a threat to punish children when they don’t do work in the classroom. Research shows that this is actually counter-productive and is not recommended at all.

Furthermore, what do you think it is like for a child who has no one to play with at recess when you threaten to take recess away because they don’t complete their work?

Maybe they would rather stay inside with you and complete their work so they are not alone walking around in an open field unsure how to fit in.

To everyone out there who already tries to make a difference for kids, thank you for everything you do!!!

Video on the Importance of Recess

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Fourth-grader comes up with “buddy bench” plan to help students who are alone at recess.

What we see in the video below may not be the answer for all but at least this fourth grader tried. If he did, so can we!

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Education and Behavior, a free resource for parents, educators, and counselors.

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