Legislation signed today mandates public schools to provide all elementary students with a minimum of 30 minutes of recess within the school day.

 Senate Bill 5257, sponsored by Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), is intended to provide students with safe, inclusive and high-quality play.

“We heard in testimony that some students are getting as little as 10 minutes in a school day for play,” said Nobles. “That is simply unacceptable, especially as we emerge from remote schooling being the norm. Students need the opportunity to have physical activity and be with their peers.”

State law requires a certain number of instructional hours each school year, which includes recess. However, current law does not specify how much time must be spent on recess — until now.

“We based this legislation on data that proves recess helps students,” Nobles said. “Play is critical for development, social-emotional learning and building problem solving skills. It also helps reduce stress and anxiety. All these aspects are so necessary to build a foundation where our youngest Washingtonians can thrive. And we need to ensure our whole state is providing that access to play sufficiently.”

Research shows recess improves physical health, memory, attention, concentration and time on task. It also reduces disruptive behavior while in the classroom.

More than 20 states have state recess or physical activity laws already in place, including Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and West Virginia.

The legislation goes into effect July 23.