At Playworks, we want every kid to belong.

When people label a Playworks recess “structured,” I cringe a little. I know that for many educators and parents, the word structure defines an environment with an agreed upon set of rules that makes the whole community safer and happier, but for some structure brings visions of robotic children following adults’ commands. And that’s just not the case.

At Playworks, our goal is to create an environment where safe, healthy play is accessible to everyone. To achieve this, we train adults to create fun, safe, and inclusive playgrounds through games and positive group management techniques. At a Playworks recess, children enjoy fun and interesting games playing alongside engaging adult role models and often student leaders.

In creating this recess, it’s not about eliminating free play or mandating structured play. It’s about helping schools create an environment where every child is empowered to be a contributing member of their community—including through free play and games/sports.

At a Playworks recess, every child self-selects the activity in which they participate. This may be a game that they initiate themselves, a game their peers already started, a game an adult invited kids to join, or not a game at all.

Recess staff and student leaders teach several games and introduce basic rules that all recess activities should follow—respect, safety, and inclusion. Together the community sets a foundation for all kids to explore what they know and allow them to create their own respectful and inclusive games.

We want kids to find joy on the playground. If a child is happiest engaging in imaginative play, this play is encouraged. All we ask is that these children include and invite others to play as well. We endeavor to avoid situations where students outside of a friend-group are routinely excluded from connecting with other students because they “don’t know the rules to our game.”

It’s not about structure or free play, it’s about empowering children to create a community in which every child belongs.

For more answers to your questions about a Playworks recess, see our FAQs from Parents/Guardians at Playworks Partner Schools.


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