Guest blogger Myla Marks shares how adults on the playground can get beyond “They don’t want to play with me.”

“They don’t want to play with me!” Jasmine says with frustration. “Every time I ask a group of kids to play a game with me, they run off. When I do get a chance to play, all I hear is, ‘that’s not how you play!’ I’m not even sure if they like me.” Jasmine isn’t a student, she’s a parent volunteer who helps each week on the playground. It’s common for adults on the playground to run into challenges when introducing new games – at first! We did some investigation on the playground, and here’s what kids want from Jasmine, and you!

  • Fourth grader Jerome says, “Adults are always trying to take me away from my soccer game. I like soccer. Why don’t the adults play the game I like?” Building rapport with students is a key component to your success on the playground. Start by joining their games! Make sure to give out plenty of high fives along the way. The kids will learn as you miss a goal, shake it off, and get back in the game.
  • Sixth grader Luis often says, “Uhg!!! That game is for babies!” Once you’ve built some rapport, start off with an age appropriate game you’re excited about. How about Switch with first graders? Or Band Aid Tag with energetic third graders? You can teach sixth graders to act as leaders in the game by helping younger kids learn how to play.
  • Monica from third grade got really excited when she found out adults were going to be playing with her at recess. When she heard Jasmine had already been on the playground for a month, Monica responded, “How come nobody told me?” Have your school make an announcement letting everyone know that the adults will be setting up games and playing. Let students know where on the playground the games will happen. You can even make a poster that shows a map of the playground. On the playground, mark off the boundaries of the game with cones or chalk so kids see where a fun game will be played. Before starting, have the kids recruit more students to play. Monica guarantees that if adults did that, she would join in.
  • First grader Jacob loves playing Sharks and Minnows. At the end of recess he often says to the adult leading the game “Will you be here tomorrow?” End the game on a high note with a cheer (such as "I got eaten by a shark!" for Sharks and Minnows). Then, let the group know when and where to find you the next time.


Before you can believe it, you'll have kids seeking you out as you create a more inclusive recess!

Need help transforming your recess? Read more about our professional development workshops and schedule a Playworks trainer to come to your school.

Myla Marks loves playing wall ball at recess. Recently, a fifth grader taught her how to rebound a challenging waterfall, where the ball goes high up and close to the wall. When she’s not playing, she’s supporting Playworks trainers as they lead workshops that promote healthy communities on playgrounds across the country.

More Resources

kids playing duck duck goose
kids playing duck duck goose

April 29, 2021

Leveraging Play to Address Learning Loss ›

In order to help kids recover from learning loss, we must ensure their emotional needs are met. We need to prioritize every child’s wellbeing, and that starts with acknowledging that many kids are healing from traumas caused by the pandemic, including social, emotional, and physical impacts of COVID-19.  “When children experience stress and trauma, it…

woman smiling at laptop
woman smiling at laptop

January 5, 2021

Top 6 Games to Play Virtually ›

Many educators have risen to the challenge of transitioning their lessons to accommodate virtual education, and Playworks has been helping educators ensure play remains in every child’s day, even online. Kids prioritize play, and with our support educators are leveraging play when teaching virtually in order to keep kids engaged, active, and to build community.…

kids and adult doing yoga
kids and adult doing yoga

October 6, 2020

Using Play to Foster Social Connections and Physical Activity ›

Play isn’t just fun and games – it’s a vital aspect of our health and well-being. When we play, we engage our bodies, minds, and senses, creating opportunities for increased physical activity, learning, and connection with others. Play can even help relieve stress and support the development of important social-emotional skills, including communication and cooperation.…