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Friday, November 14, 2014

Interview with Playworks Founder Jill Vialet

Photo by Dan Harrelson (Flickr)

I am honored and delighted to share with you my interview with Playworks founder and CEO Jill Vialet. Playworks is a non-profit organization that strives to establish a playful culture where every child in America can explore, learn, connect, and have fun. Jill's passion for providing play opportunities for all children truly shines in her book Recess Rules. So without further ado, let's leap right into this conversation!

Kim: Let's start off with a big, golden question! In your TED talk, you mentioned a city worker named Clarence who encouraged you to participate in playful activities no matter what. Through Playworks, you've sought to invite a play-advocating "Clarence" into every child's life. Why does play matter so much to you?

Jill: Play matters because it creates an opportunity to bring out the best in every kid - and it's an opportunity for kids to really see the best in themselves. Not sure if you had a chance to watch it, but I gave a more recent talk at TEDMED that just came out a couple of weeks ago that's all about why play matters.

Kim: On the wonderful topic of Playworks, what would you say are the organization's three main goals?

Jill: To make it possible for every child in America to play every day. To fundamentally shift the education system to include an awareness of play as an essential developmental experience. And to make training universally available to grown-ups that work with kids to support them in infusing play into every interaction.

Kim: Once again drawing from your uplifting talk, you state that play-fortified learning can "solve the education crisis" and "raise a generation with the vision and collective will to make all the other changes we need." What do you think makes play so powerful?

Jill: There's a lot to play that makes it powerful, but one significant aspect is that it is an experiential way of teaching and learning empathy. The experience of playing together creates a very real opportunity to really see another person, and to be truly seen - and this, in turn, creates an opening for understanding other people - for authentically coming to believe that another person's inner life is as complex as one's own.

Kim: You also say that play is the "fundamental sign of our inner drive and ambition." What are 3 things we as parents and caregivers can do to help banish the stigma that play is frivolous and secondary?

Jill: As the grown-ups who care about kids, I think the first thing we can do is to be curious about the things our kids care about. The second thing is to play with them and spend time with them. And third, to create consistent boundaries - whether that's around sleep, homework or screen time.

Kim: If you wanted one message to reach every single child in the world, what would it be? What about every single adult?

Jill: Same message to both: I believe in the best in you and I know that, as a society, if we are to achieve all that we are capable of, we need you to tap into that part of you.

Kim: Let's wrap this up with a whimsical question! Please gift us with a haiku all about play!

Jill: OK, I'm going with more relaxed rules: 5-7-5, but no mandatory reference to the seasons...

Play is to the child

What oxygen is to life

You simply need it.

Wow, what an empowering interview! Jill truly conveys the power of play and why we should strive to build a more play-friendly world. To keep in touch with Jill, you can follow her on Twitter and Google+. You can also find Playworks on Twitter. See you on the playground!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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