Playworks’ vision is that one day, every child in America will have access to safe, healthy play every day. Play creates essential opportunities for children to explore their imaginations, to connect with other people and to stretch and grow physically, emotionally and socially.
Our experience is that diminishing opportunities for unsupervised play in our society have left kids with a very thin understanding of how to manage their own play and that it is important to have grown-ups introduce some basic rules to make play work.
Playworks builds the culture of play at a school so that kids feel safe and included. This means that soccer games aren't running through four-square games, for instance. We also introduce games that encourage kids themselves to take ever-increasing responsibility for the quality of play and for each other. Ultimately our unique brand of play fosters greater independence and leadership among children.
Our experience at Playworks shows us that play creates an important opportunity to teach kids conflict resolution skills. In particular, we are huge fans of rock-paper-scissors. Building a play culture that acknowledges the arbitrariness of most conflicts and provides a simple, playful tool for addressing them, ultimately makes it easier for kids to recognize and address more serious conflicts.
We also believe that there is value in having grown-ups play alongside of children. A grown-up standing on the sidelines barking instructions only serves to perpetuate the less-than-playful status quo. But when adults get in the game and actually play themselves, it introduces an important element of silliness and shared humanity, making the play more accessible, and helping children feel safer and more connected.
Playworks incorporates competitive activities into its programming, but strives to do it in a developmentally appropriate way. One amazing thing about play is this: kids’ desire to keep the activity going will motivate them to take actions that are actually in the best interest of the larger group. Most often this manifests as self-handicapping: switching players, adapting the rules, etc. to keep some balance and ensure that everyone is having enough fun to continue playing.
Our belief is that creating options for children to engage in healthy, inclusive play play represents an important opportunity for learning to deal with both winning and losing with grace.
Playworks’ philosophy is largely claiming the middle ground, in our experience the place where most people stand, but where the voices are most quiet. We believe in seeding opportunities for play so that the children themselves own them. We believe that grown-ups who work with kids should know how to play four-square, but ideally not be too good at it. We believe that rock-paper-scissors is a perfectly adequate problem-solving tool most of the time. We believe that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose, but the most important thing is getting to play because play works!