Back to School, Back to Recess

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Research suggests that playground social skills predict future success.

It’s time to welcome our students back to school.

"This time of year, so many schools are trying hard to improve their school climate," says Playworks Founder and CEO Jill Vialet. "They’re looking to boost grades and test scores, stop bullying and violent behavior, lower absenteeism and enhance kids’ attitudes towards school overall. What they may not realize is the impact that play and recess can make  in reaching those goals – or conversely, the role they play in making those outcomes more difficult to achieve."

You may have heard about a new 20-year study, which showed that children’s social skills in kindergarten could predict how well they would do by the time they became adults. Researchers at Penn State and Duke found that kindergarteners who were more “socially competent” (e.g. inclined to share, be helpful, or relate to their peers) were also more likely to graduate from high school, earn a college degree, and hold full-time jobs as adults, two decades later.

The researchers make a point of saying that this is good news because these skills can be learned in, and even after, kindergarten. It turns out that one of the best ways to teach those skills is not in the classroom but on the playground at recess.

One of the best examples of how to teach those positive social skills on the playground is Playworks, the leading national nonprofit leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. Playworks currently serves more than 900 schools in 23 U.S. cities, and reaches more than half of a million students directly and through professional training services. Our specialty is recess time, which is often one of the toughest times of the school day, when most behavioral problems occur. But on Playworks playgrounds, kids high-five each other and give shouts of encouragement. We ensure every child has the opportunity to play. And kids learn to instinctively resolve conflicts with each other using rock-paper-scissors.

Research conducted by Stanford University found that Playworks kids show more positive behavior on the playground and in the classroom compared to kids at similar schools.

Hoping that parents will take a good look at recess this year, we have developed a series of key questions to assess the quality of recess at your elementary school. How does your child's school measure up?

More Updates


June 1, 2020

An Open Letter to Our Communities ›

To our valued community members, partners, boards, and teams, Playworks is mourning and protesting the unjust killing of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota last week alongside all of you.  We all know this is only one in an untold number of black men and women who have suffered racist treatment by…

May 27, 2020

Play At Home: Week of June 1, 2020 ›

Social-Emotional Skill of the Week: Social Awareness & Perspective Taking Perspective-taking is the ability to see a situation from the viewpoint of another person–understanding their feelings, intentions, thoughts, or view of a particular situation. Resources for the Week of June 1, 2020 Game of the Day Challenge Are you ready to #PlayAtHome? We are challenging…

May 20, 2020

Play At Home: Week of May 25, 2020 ›

Social-Emotional Skill of the Week: Social Awareness Social awareness is the ability to empathize with and understand the perspective of someone else, even though their background and culture might be different from yours. Resources for the Week of May 25, 2020 Game of the Day Challenge Are you ready to #PlayAtHome? We are challenging students…