In response to “New turf for consultants: playgrounds” (Oct. 4), I would like to provide some clarification around the mission of our organization.

Playworks is the leading nonprofit in our community leveraging the power of play to transform children’s social and emotional health. Playworks serves more than 17 schools in Minnesota and reaches 12,000 students directly and through professional training services.

We are supporting social-emotional learning by leveraging the power of safe, fun and healthy play at school every day. We create a place for every kid on the playground to feel included, be active, and build valuable social and emotional skills.

At a Playworks recess, you will see kids engaged in all manner of play: four square, tag, soccer, football, imaginative play, jumping, climbing, swinging or enjoying a good book if that’s what they want to do. You’ll see a lot of high-fives and hear a lot of “good job, nice try” when someone gets out.

We want all kids to have fun and find joy on the playground. We believe every child should be allowed to self-select the activity in which he or she participates. A Playworks recess isn’t a certain set of games in a certain area, but a methodology utilizing refined techniques and tools to bring out the best in every kid.

Playworks has found that the best way to get all kids in a game or in a variety of games is to create an environment where all participants share the same language, vocabulary, understanding and strategies that they can use to solve conflicts on their own.

If a child is happiest at recess while engaging in imaginative or free play, this play is encouraged. All we ask of kids who engage in imaginative and creative play is to consider including and inviting others to play as well.

In 2013, Stanford University and Mathematica Policy Research released results of a rigorous, randomized control trial of Playworks. The independent study found that as a result of Playworks programming, teachers had more time for teaching, and students behaved better and were more ready to learn, experienced less bullying, felt safer, and engaged in more vigorous physical activity.

In creating or supporting a great recess, it’s not about eliminating free play or mandating structured play. It’s about helping schools create an environment where every child has a supported choice and is empowered to be a contributing member of their community.


Shauna McDonald is executive director of Playworks Minnesota.