Playworks for every kid.

About Playworks

PLAYWORKS for every kid.

In 1995, Playworks Founder Jill Vialet got an earful from a principal she was visiting in Oakland, California. Rather than recess being a happy, playful time for the kids, the principal lamented that it had become the most chaotic period of the school day, with kids getting hurt, getting into trouble and getting left out. In that moment Jill saw an opportunity to change recess, to make it a positive and productive time for all kids. In 1996, Jill founded Playworks.  

Principals tell us that nearly all discipline-related problems in school occur during lunch and recess. Instead of going back to class energized and ready to learn, the kids return to class upset and unable to focus.

We can change this. Recess should be fun and energetic and safe and inclusive for everyone. Isn't that what we want for all kids in elementary school today?

When recess becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive experience with them beyond the playground.  

We are coaches, kids, teachers, parents and supporters who believe in the power of play to make kids, schools and communities stronger. On our playgrounds, everyone plays, everyone belongs, everyone contributes to the game. Coaches encourage kids to bring out the best in themselves and each other, and kids learn the value of fair play, compassion and respect.

On our playgrounds, kids become leaders. They run their own games and settle their disputes quickly (rock-paper-scissors is our problem solver) because getting along is more fun than fighting.

On our playgrounds, kids play hard, cheer loud and high five with joy. And they carry a feeling of empowerment and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods and out into the world.

PLAYWORKS for teachers and principals

Every year we survey the staff at our partner schools around the country to see Playworks through their eyes. Here’s what they reported this year:

  • A decrease in bullying
  • An improvement in overall school climate
  • A reduction in disciplinary incidents
  • More participation in academics
  • An increase in students’ abilities to focus on class activities

In addition, Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research spent time on our playgrounds studying our program. In a randomized control trial, considered the gold standard for reseach, they found that schools with Playworks experienced less bullying and exclusionary behavior, an increased perception of safety, easier transitions to learning, better behavior and more attention in class than schools without the program.


We’ve gone from kind of dreading teaching the period right after recess to it being a very productive academic time.

–Audra Philippon, principal


I believe the ‘cliques’ have been served notice. Inclusiveness is the operative word. there seems to be an increased sensitivity to try and draw the fringe students into whatever the activity. They are less content to leave their classmate behind.

Elaine Newhouse, teacher


By emphasizing responsibility, tolerance, conflict resolution and inclusive play students are better equipped to handle social situations. Moreover, the amount of time spent on discipline has been reduced and instructional time-increased!

Teacher, Los Angeles


This year, Playworks will bring the power of play to more than 380 schools in 23 cities, reaching more than 425,000 students directly and through training services in additional schools and community organizations.

With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and other investors, Playworks is fulfilling an ambitious national expansion effort with the goal of operating in 27 cities across the country by 2016, providing play and physical activity to more than 1 million students every day.