About Playworks Texas | Playworks

Playworks for every kid

About Playworks Texas

PLAYWORKS for kids.

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 2010, it expanded to Texas.

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 it becomes a healthy, integral part of the school day, kids carry that positive recess 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 create and carry that feeling of peace and belonging with them into their classrooms, back to their neighborhoods, out into the world.

This year, Playworks Texas is serving 13,500  students in 14 low-income schools with our full-time program in the Houston area. We’re also reach thousands more students, teachers and youth workers across Texas through Playworks Pro.

PLAYWORKS for teachers and principals

Every year, Playworks 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 about Playworks in our Texas schools:

  • 92 percent reported an increase in the use of conflict resolution strategies;
  • 84 percent reported a decrease in bullying;
  • 97 percent reported in increase in the level of cooperation in the classroom;
  • 85 percent reported a decrease in the amount of time spent transitioning from recess to classroom activities. In fact, the respondents reported reclaiming an average of 18 hours of learning time formerly lost to resolving conflicts from recess.

Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research spent time on our playgrounds studying our program. They found that students in our schools experienced less bullying and exclusionary behavior. They also found that students had an increased perception of safety, easier transitions to learning, better behavior and more attention in class than those in schools without the program.


I believe too many of our students do not get the opportunity to play with their peers in an organized manner. The program has given children opportunities to develop leadership skills, problem solve and share.

Mary Sydow, Rees Elementary School, Houston


Playworks offers training and full-time services for schools and youth development organizations throughout Texas. Contact Lee Elliot, Program Director at lelliott@playworks.org to learn more about how Playworks can help your school.