What We Do
We believe that play is a human right that all children deserve, regardless of housing status. We seek to help create a city that provides every opportunity for children to succeed by advocating for affordable housing, safe shelters, and a strong safety net that helps families bounce back from housing instability.
Through weekly programs, our trained and screened volunteers provide activities, healthy snacks, and fun for children at emergency shelter and transitional housing sites throughout Washington, D.C. Our trauma-informed programs seek to restore normalcy by providing opportunities for children to learn and heal through play, and empowering them to make choices, express themselves, relate to others, and find support.
Staff and volunteers serve as role models for youth and allies to the entire family with parent support and referrals, clothing and school supply donations, and opportunities to celebrate with holiday parties throughout the year. We provide field trips so children and youth can experience the rich culture of Washington, DC and take a break from weekends in a shelter. Through advocacy, we lift up the voices of families to ensure that safe, supportive shelters and affordable housing remain priorities for city leaders.
In 2013, we launched the Preteen Program for children in grades 3-8 at the DC General Shelter to provide developmentally appropriate programming centered around social and emotional development, academic enrichment, and creative expression.
Volunteers run Playtime in a beautiful baby room for 6 months to 3 year olds, as well as a big kids’ room where children ages 3-11 can choose activities from a variety of colorful and exciting stations.
Playtime’s Preteen Program at D.C. General was founded in the fall 2013 to support the developmental needs of preteens. The program focuses on supporting children in grades 3-8 in active living, wellness and empowerment.
Teenagers living in temporary housing programs are often facing multiple stressors and are highly aware of the stigma of their families’ homeless status. It is difficult for teens, who are not allowed to hang out together at the shelter without parental supervision, to find the peer support that is essential for healthy youth development. Many teens in family shelters choose to wander the streets rather than sit in the small room they share with their entire family.
To meet the unique developmental needs of teenagers experiencing homelessness, we created our Teen Program at D.C. General in 2009. The program follows a positive youth development model and is designed to nurture a teen’s developmental task which centers around peer socialization and identify formation while also providing critical academic support.
During our three weekly programs, teens receive academic tutoring, help enrolling in school and work programs, and the opportunity to try out new activities like spray painting, martial arts, yoga, dancing, cooking, and more. Our volunteers serve as mentors, advocates, and facilitators of the time and space teens need to grow and develop with their peers.
FIELD TRIP PROGRAM
In addition to our onsite programs, we also facilitate field trips for teens and elementary-school-aged children to provide opportunities to get out of the shelter and explore the city.
Volunteers have led boat trips on the Potomac with Sierra Club Inner City Outings, visits to the zoo, trips to museum exhibits, and excursions to amusement parks. The Playtime Project has also brought teens from D.C. General, the largest family shelter in the District, on many “firsts” to the Washington Monument, ice skating on the mall, a tour of the West Wing of the White House, a dance class, a picnic in the National Arboretum, tours of local colleges and universities, baseball games and more.
Volunteers who lead field trips are long-term, trained members of our team. If you have an idea for a field trip or access to discounted/free tickets to an event, museum, or sports team, please contact us!
Statistic – The Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless
As of January 2012, there were 1,014 homeless families in DC, representing 54% of the total homeless population. Despite their growing numbers, homeless children are invisible to most of us; they have no voice and no constituency.