Volunteer: Become a Play Ranger

Running our weekly programs at our sites simply wouldn’t be possible without the tremendous commitments of our Playtime Project volunteers, who interact firsthand with the incredible youth we are fortunate to serve. Volunteering as a Play Ranger is a perfect opportunity for those looking for a way to make a meaningful and sustained difference in your community and in the life of a child.

We’re taking a break over the summer, but stay tuned for our next Play Ranger volunteer training at the Playtime office.

Because of the need for consistency and relationship building in the lives of children in transition, Play Rangers are expected to make a two-hour weekly commitment for at least six months. Volunteers should come with experience working with children and an interest in learning about the special population we serve in order to support healthy child development. We look for individuals who will take initiative in planning and leading arts and crafts projects, ball games, reading, games, and imaginary play activities for children of various ages. Play Ranger volunteers should also be comfortable setting appropriate boundaries to maintain order, safety, structure and respect for Playtime rules.

Still not sure? Find out what it’s like being a Playtime volunteer

We require that volunteers attend the Stewards of Children training at Safe Shores within 30 days of beginning to volunteer to further inform their interactions with children and to keep children safe.

Our volunteer trainings take place on a monthly basis at our office in Columbia Heights, NW (1525 Newton Street, NW).



How old do I need to be to become a Playtime Volunteer?

Only those over the age of 18 are eligible to volunteer with Playtime Project’s evening programs that serve youth directly.

Teenagers aged 13-18 who can organize a group of 5-10 youth volunteers with at least one chaperone, can participate in our Adopt-a-Playroom project, which does not involve working directly with children. Visit the group volunteer page for more information.

We encourage those under 18  to coordinate a donation drive within their community to help fulfill our current needs. Visit the donate goods page for more information.

Can I bring my own children with me when I volunteer at Playtime? 

No. Because we have limited space in our playrooms and try to maintain a 3:1 kid-to-volunteer ratio, we can’t allow parent volunteers to bring their own little ones. Our kids require your full attention. However, visit our get involved page often to see the latest ways to get your family involved.

Donation drives are another terrific way to get your children involved in our work. Check out our list of goods we need and encourage your children to plan their own donation drive. Our Homelessness Fact Sheet for Children will help them understand family homelessness.

What should I bring to my Volunteer Training Session?

We will provide a small snack, training materials, and pens. Please bring a government-issued photo ID for sign-in, and a drink and extra snack if you think you’ll be hungry.

What is the background check requirement? What if I already have another background check from my job?

If you have a copy of a national background check that’s been conducted within a year or proof of such background check on appropriate letterhead, we may be able to waive the background check requirement. After you attend our initial volunteer training, please email us a copy for approval.

If you do not have proof of a background check, we will invite you to complete one online. After the initial volunteer training, Deborah will send you an invitation through Verified Volunteers specifically to complete our background check — please do not try to create your own account with Verified Volunteers beforehand. We ask volunteers to pay the background check fee of $30 to help us keep programmatic costs low. If you are experiencing financial hardship, please discuss with our staff and we may be able to waive the background check fee.

Are there opportunities to volunteer on the weekends?

At this time, we don’t offer any weekend opportunities working directly with children because our play programs occur on weekday evenings. However, our Adopt-a-Playroom program always needs small group volunteers on weekends.

Are there opportunities to volunteer just one-time or occasionally?

Yes. If you can’t make a long-term, weekly commitment, join or organize a volunteer group to adopt a playroom, or host a birthday or holiday party. Or, consider coordinating a donation drive.

If you have something special to offer the children and families we serve — such as monthly on-site yoga, dance lessons or music therapy — let’s talk. Previous visitors include puppeteers, firefighters, dental professionals, step dance instructors and an astronaut! Share your interest and availability with us here.

Please contact Nicolien Buholzer, Volunteer Program Manager at volunteer@playtimeproject.org with any questions about becoming a volunteer with our program.

Here’s information about our volunteer site locations.

Fact – The National Center on Family Homelessness

Many homeless individuals have experienced childhood abuse and neglect, as well as the stresses associated with poverty and the loss of their home, safety, and sense of security. Traumatic stresses are cumulative and increase the risk of developing health, behavioral, and social problems as adults. These experiences affect how children think, feel and behave, and can have long-term effects on their ability to form sustaining, supportive adult relationships.