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


three people with Playworks shirts
three people with Playworks shirts

July 28, 2022

A year of social and emotional learning ›

“You can’t do SEL, trauma, or equity work without each other,” Jennette Claassen, Head of Evaluation, Playworks. As Playworks continued to progress on our equity journey, we explored a critical question: what are the intersections between play, social and emotional learning, physical activity, and trauma? A working group focused on this question decided, among other…

children holding hands in circle
children holding hands in circle

June 21, 2022

Playworks Pilot Program Spotlight: TagTeam ›

Playworks launched a pilot of TagTeam in partnership with Boys and Girls Club of America in cities across the country, beginning in 2019. This pilot expansion has been supported by The Allstate Foundation. Read about Playworks Indiana’s experience implementing TagTeam with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indianapolis and Liberty Park Elementary School in Metropolitan…

two kids holding kickballs
two kids holding kickballs

May 19, 2022

Playworks Welcomes New Members to National Board of Directors ›

Playworks is pleased to announce the appointment of three new members to the national Board of Directors. “I am thrilled to welcome our new board members,” said CEO Elizabeth Cushing. “The unique perspectives and leadership they bring will be vital to Playworks as we continue working to ensure that every child experiences safe and healthy…