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


Real Players Don't Bully
Real Players Don't Bully

October 2, 2019

Real Players Don’t Bully 2019 ›

It’s cool to be kind! In recognition of National Bullying Prevention Month, Playworks and it’s campaign, Real Players Don’t Bully has partnered with Google and it’s program, Be Internet Awesome to show kids the importance of practicing kindness and inclusion to prevent bullying.   This issue is important to kids and teachers alike. Teachers report that…

Safe and Healthy Recess at a Playworks school
Safe and Healthy Recess at a Playworks school

September 23, 2019

It’s Recess Checkup Week ›

It can be hard to understand the impact that your play space has on your school’s culture and your students’ experience, and while there are a lot of solutions worth trying, it’s tough to know what’s working and what’s not. Recess Lab is designed to help more principals, teachers, and students discover the power of…

September 17, 2019

Playworks Junior Coach Program named in DOJ’s ‘Promising Program’ ›

Recently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) reviewed evidence of the Playworks Coach program and found that the program met the criteria for a Promising Program intended to improve school attendance.  The DOJ invests in reviewing research that shows programs positively impact attendance because higher rates of kids attending school “prevents or reduce crime, delinquency, or…