"Welcome to Let Grow Play Club on ChangeX. We believe that children learn important skills and life lessons when adults don’t get involved every step of the way. By hosting a Let Grow Play Club at your school or organisation, you can help kids of all ages enjoy unstructured free play outside of regular school hours. We're looking forward to helping you get started!"
- Lenore Skenazy, President & Co-Founder of Let Grow
Who? Someone who...
Planning and preparation will take 3-4 hours. Once you get started, it's up to you how often you host your Play Club, it could be every day or it could be once a week!
Location: Your school’s playground or gymnasium is a great place for Play Club. Playground equipment isn’t necessary (in fact, loose parts are preferred), but an open area is essential so children have plenty of room to run around or play games, preferably outside in the fresh air, though you should have a contingency plan for inclement weather. For organizations that don’t have their own space, a local park, playground, or rec center are good options; just check with the parks and rec department or the homeowners’ association about any regulations, reservation policies, or costs that may apply.
Size:The more children that can take part in Play Club, the better, and an important component is letting kids of all ages play together. As Dr. Peter Gray, one
of Let Grow’s founders, notes, “Mixed play offers opportunities for learning and development not present in play among those close in age.” The size of your location, any occupancy regulations, and the number of supervisors all should be considered. Play Clubs tend to be very popular, and many schools have waiting lists or use creative scheduling in order to serve more kids.
Schedule: On school days, 30 minutes to an hour of Play Club before school can be helpful for parents who need to get to work, and students are better able to focus on academics when they’ve started their
day with fun physical activity. A couple hours of Play Club after school is an easy alternative to traditional childcare and allows kids to let loose after a full day of formal learning, rather than head home for isolated screen time. Play Club can also be held on a weekend or during school holidays. And having it during PTA meetings or school events is a great way to increase parent attendance.
Supervision: How many adults are needed will depend on the requirements in your state or district. A ratio for Play Club that is similar to the requirement during recess is common, which, in the example of California, is between a 1 to 45 and a 1 to 90 adult- to-child ratio for children aged 6–12, according to The Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs.Selecting Play Club supervisors may also require consideration of local regulations. Certified teachers may be required, but parents, grandparents, or high school volunteers may also be an option. Community organizations or churches may have their own guidelines, and in either case, be aware that charging a fee might result in different requirements.
Finances: The costs of providing a Play Club can vary widely, depending on factors like facility fees and staffing costs. Some schools provide a late bus for after-school activities, which may be another possible cost to consider.
Equipment: While free play is unstructured, some loose parts, like balls, Hula Hoops, traffic cones, and such, may be provided, and donated “junk,” like tires, lumber, and old boxes and blankets can be even more fun.
Insurance: To date, insurers haven’t made a distinction between Let Grow Play Club and recess, so no extra insurance has been required. Consult your insurance broker to confirm your policy terms.
It’s a good idea to introduce Let Grow Play Club to parents, teachers, and students strategically. While multiage, unstructured, and unsupervised play was a natural part of childhood for baby boomers
and Gen X parents, most millennial parents have had a very different experience, so it’s important to provide information early in your planning. For teachers or other staff who will be supervising, the philosophy of non-interference may run counter to traditional recess duty that focuses on enforcing rules and jumping in to avoid or solve playground conflicts. For students used to equipment rules, game instructions, and adults arbitrating every little issue, Play Club will take a bit of getting used to. As with any new program or curriculum, implementation of Play Club will go more smoothly if you apply change management techniques and communicate early with stakeholders.
Explaining the philosophy and benefits of Play Club‚—mixed-age, unstructured free play without adult direction or interference—can begin during the planning stage and could include sharing articles and videos with parents directly through a regular school blog, newsletter, or on social media. If your school has a PTA/PTO or a staff member responsible for parent engagement, invite them to be part of the planning and utilize your people and knowledge to tailor your approach.
The communication for parents will depend a great deal on how and when you’ve chosen to offer Play Club.
If it will be offered before school to all students who arrive early, replacing a current policy of sitting in class groups or lines until the bell rings, communication can be minimal and may be as simple as including it in your student handbook, provided at the beginning of the school year. For schools with the common problem of staggered bus arrivals, offering Play Club can make early arrival more acceptable to parents and students.
A Play Club that will be offered as an optional activity through a registration process will need more of a marketing approach to parents and students, especially if you will charge a fee. In this case, a flyer posted or sent home to generate interest, promote the benefits, and explain the registration process will be needed. Include specifics about fees and scholarships, how many children can join, and how you will handle excess demand.
Supervisors: Supervising Play Club is not a difficult job: A good analogy is lifeguarding —watching from afar. The task is to supervise in a way that doesn’t disrupt the natural experiences of the participants (frustrating though these may be to watch!), to be on hand for any actual emergencies, and to otherwise almost disappear from the children’s awareness. It is through unstructured free play that children learn to think for themselves, build relationships, and negotiate social situations, all for the sake of keeping the fun going. Familiarise your supervisors with any specific safety information such as location of the first aid kit, protocols for emergency weather events, etc., and provide the FAQ for Play Supervisors so they understand their role
Classroom teachers or school staff members that monitor traditional recess during the school day will need to keep in mind that Play Club is likely quite different from that experience. In fact, many standard playground supervision policies are contrary to the tenets of a Let Grow Play Club. We actually have only three rules for students:
Play respectfully: Do not deliberately hit or physically hurt another child.
Get permission to leave the grounds.
Listen to the adults, who will intervene only when they must.
Students shouldn’t really need training in how to play, but we recommend explaining the basic rules and that adults will not step in and solve things for them. They will adjust quickly to negotiating and compromising in order to keep the fun going, and schools that have implemented Play Club see positive changes in the dynamics of their student relationships and school culture.
Loose Parts: Items for creative play should be available, but adults don’t have to be the ones taking them out and cleaning everything up. Putting some students in charge is a great way to boost self- confidence and cooperation, especially if you simply tell them they have to do this in order to keep using the items.
Find the full Implementation Guide and some additional resources and guidance on the Let Grow Website