Play Summit 2017 at Dodger Stadium

  1. Updates

On November 15, Playworks hosted its inaugural Play Summit, a gathering of community members and education leaders to discuss the importance of play.

In case you missed it, or if you want to relive the day, here’s what happened.

After a warm welcome from Nichol Whiteman, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, Playworks Founder and CEO Jill Vialet and I were joined for the discussion by Renata Simril, President and CEO of LA84 Foundation, and Becky Margiotta, President and CEO of the Billions Institute.

Our discussion focused on the social, structural, and economic barriers that prevent kids from getting to play every day, and what we can do to support them. Here are the takeaways:

  • Kids need and want to play – but not all kids get to experience safe and healthy play every day. There is a play equity gap.
  • The following factors create barriers to play:
    • Schools often lack the resources to hire or train staff to create a recess environment where kids are safe, active, and engaged.
    • Play is undervalued as a solution and pushed to the background, especially as schools feel pressured to focus on test scores and academic outcomes.
    • Sports leagues or after-school programs are often expensive and can be cost-prohibitive for many families.
    • Many parents have safety concerns and don’t feel comfortable letting their kids play freely in their neighborhood.

“Play equity is a social justice issue,” shared Renata Simril, President and CEO of LA84 Foundation. “It is an issue that we all need to harness our influence, power, and experience to make sure we are doing the best we can to provide an opportunity for every kid in America to experience the transformational power of sport regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how much money they have, or their ability.”

Panelists and audience members shared a number of innovative ways in which they are working with diverse stakeholders to open up opportunities and access for our kids.

At Playworks, we bring consistent, caring adults into the school community and train school staff to take on these roles. These adults establish safe and healthy play and create a positive school climate. They set expectations, model positive behavior, and help build trust and rapport so that kids feel safe and secure.

Panelists agreed that in order to build a movement for play, we need to engage new audiences to make the case for the benefits and importance of play.

As Simril says, “Putting play at the forefront is step one.”

If you are curious how Playworks is leveraging the power of play to bring out the best in every kid, and want to see our impact first-hand at a school, please email me. Let’s continue the conversation on social using #EveryKidPlays.

Laval Brewer is the Executive Director at Playworks Southern California. Get in touch at or follow him on Twitter @LaValB.

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