Promoting social and emotional health through play at recess: Playworks

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Playworks, founded by Jill Vialet in Oakland, CA, is a game-based, recess program designed to promote social and emotional skills, and build a healthy and safe school climate. The program engages students in safe, collaborative and fun play during recess for the duration of the year, with the aim of giving every child an opportunity to be active, feel included, and build social skills. Each Playworks session is facilitated by an adult, and includes activities that target cognition or social skills, such as icebreakers, readiness games, tag games, cooperative games, playground games and sports, and energizers.

Three models are offered by Playworks: 1) having a full-time, on-site Playworks Coach to orchestrate recess activities and classroom games (the Playworks Coach model), 2) having an on-site coordinator provide monthly guidance and model a sustainable recess program to the school’s recess team (the Playworks Team Up model) and 3) providing ongoing training to school staff to support fun play (the Playworks Pro).

Playworks has been evaluated and has shown gains in physical activity, positive recess behavior, and readiness for class, as well as reductions in bullying.