Volunteer: Become a Play Ranger


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

Get started by signing up for our next Info Session: Part One,

  • Monday, Oct. 7 | 6:30-7:30 PM at St. Stephen Episcopal Church, 1525 Newton Street NW
  • Wednesday, Oct. 16 | 6:30-7:30 PM at Woodridge Neighborhood Library, 1801 Hamlin Sreet NE

Please note: Registration is not required, but will put you on a list to receive a reminder and updates about the info session. 

After you attend Info Session: Part One, you’ll receive information to sign up for Play Ranger Orientation: Part Two.

Unless otherwise noted, volunteer trainings take place at our office in Columbia Heights at 1525 Newton Street N.W. To become a Play Ranger, you must attend both Info Session and Orientation Session.

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.

Find out what it’s like being a Playtime volunteer

Here are the steps for how to …  

We require that volunteers attend the Stewards of Children training at Safe Shores within 90 days of beginning to volunteer to further inform their interactions with children and to keep children safe.



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 Play Ranger Orientation 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?

All weekly Play Ranger volunteers are required to clear an FBI fingerprint and Children and Family Services Agency (CFSA) background check, as well as provide proof of no criminal record from the Metropolitan Police Department. You will receive more information about background checks, including suggested locations to get your checks completed, at the Volunteer Info Session. To help us keep administrative costs low, we ask volunteers to cover the background check costs, which total $32 ($20 fingerprints, $5 notary seal for CFSA check, $7 cash for MPD clearance). If you are experiencing financial hardship, please talk to our staff — we may be able to cover the cost for you.

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.