Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Roger Hart

Subject Categories

Elementary Education | Family, Life Course, and Society | Industrial and Organizational Psychology | Other Psychology | Urban Studies and Planning


school recess, play, education, work-life balance, New York City, children, parents


The policy, No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 in US public schools was designed to improve how children learn and test in schools, but it has resulted in the decline or removal of recess from most schools. This thesis examines two important issues. The first issue is to assess the play opportunities that public elementary schools offer to children, in terms of both the time available for recess and the quality of the spaces and resources for play during recess. The second issue is to learn, alongside the question of the quality of school recess, how parents’ work demands, particularly from low-income families, impact their ability to provide out-of-school play opportunities for their children. There are two segments to the literature review. The first literature review focuses on play, the importance of school recess for children’s growth, learning and development and the impacts of limited time and quality of recess in schools. The second literature review analyzes work-life balance policies and the relationship between working families, children, and the ability of parents to spend time with their children. Additionally, a small pilot study was conducted to explore the challenges for families to provide adequate play opportunities for their children by listening to the narratives from two groups that have been missing from the research: children and parents. Two areas were explored in the interviews: the quality and the time of play opportunities for children in public schools and the ability of parents to provide outdoor play opportunities at home and in their neighborhoods in relation to their time constraints and work demands. This pilot study utilized a convenience sample of 11 children and 11 parents from eight families in New York City. The thesis presents findings from the literature review, and the pilot study and is followed by recommendations for future research.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.