About Playworks Illinois | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Illinois

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. In 2011, it expanded to Illinois.

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.

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 that feeling of peace and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

This year, Playworks Illinois is serving more than 9,000 students with our direct programs and over 35,000 statewide including Playworks Pro services.

PLAYWORKS for teachers

Every year, Playworks Illinois surveys teachers, staff and principals at our partner schools to help us learn more about the impact of our program.  Here’s what they told us:

  • 83 percent reported a reduction in bullying
  • 96 percent reported an increase of students engaged in healthy play
  • 93 percent reported an increase level of cooperation between students during class
  • Respondents reported reclaiming an average of 20 hours of teaching time formerly lost to resolving recess issues over the year

Students demonstrate more independence in peer mediation and leadership. There is a lot less bullying. Also, students seem more comfortable and willing to interact and play with students outside of their usual playgroups.

- Staff member, Daniel Boone Elementary, Chicago


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout Illinois and the Chicagoland area. Contact Louis Marquis to learn more about the program that will work for your school.