peters sb654cSPRINGFIELD – In an effort to combat a decades-long decrease in time set aside for physical activity in school, State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago) is sponsoring a measure to require schools to provide students with daily time for play.

“Children have a right to play, period,” Peters said. “Physical activity is a crucial part of a child’s development, and since children spend most of their time at school, all schools should offer recess.”

Senate Bill 654 would require elementary schools to guarantee daily time for supervised, unstructured, child-directed play for all students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The play must not involve the use of electronic devices and would preferably take place outdoors, but if occurring indoors, schools are encouraged to do so in a space that promotes physical activity.

For school days lasting five hours or more, at least 60 minutes must be provided. If the school day is less than five hours, the play time must be at least one-fifth the length of attendance time. The legislation also prohibits schools from withholding play time as a form of punishment.

“The best way to keep the mind active is to keep the body active along with it, which I know from experience, because unstructured play helped me in my childhood and development,” Peters said.

The measure would make Illinois the ninth state to mandate a minimum amount of play time per day. It passed through the Senate Education committee and will now be sent to the full Senate for further consideration.