Traditionally, older children pass down games and take the lead in modeling a culture of play for younger children. Our experience is that diminishing opportunities for unsupervised play in our society have left kids with less knowledge of traditional recess games, less experience resolving conflicts independently, and fewer strategies for making play fun, inclusive, and safe enough to avoid trips to the Principal’s office. When grown-ups or older students in leadership positions introduce basic rules and set the tone, children are better equipped to make play work. Schools that may have previously banned running or tag, or discontinued recess altogether, are more comfortable letting kids be kids, knowing that they have the tools they need to take responsibility for their actions.
Playworks (originally Sports4Kids) was founded in 1996 by Jill Vialet, after a meeting with a principal in Oakland, California, who identified recess as a particularly challenging element of the school day. Playworks’ goal is to transform recess and the school day with safe and healthy play so teachers can teach and kids can learn. In 2016, Playworks is reaching 700,000 students in cities across the US.