Benefits of Play

Summer Fun

Photo by Jordan Burns

While it is well-documented that homelessness causes physical, emotional, and developmental harm to children, the resources that serve them are shrinking and largely inaccessible. Children are often left to manage the trauma of homelessness on their own, and consequently, a disproportionate number of children in shelters suffer from emotional, behavioral, and learning problems.

These children generally enter school without the basic skills they need to succeed and are often lagging years behind. A Harvard Medical School study found that:

Almost half of school-age homeless children have emotional problems like anxiety and depression … They also experience four times the rate of developmental delays and double the learning disabilities, and they are twice as likely to be suspended from school or repeat a grade as other poor children.”


According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is essential for children’s cognitive, physical, and emotional well-being both at home and at school.

Park Road Hoops

Children are routinely denied the developmental opportunities and psychological support necessary for healthy child development as recreation is severely restricted in most shelters, making play even more critical as a healing force for children living in transition. Playtime staff and volunteers protect children’s right to learn and heal through play by creating trauma-informed playrooms and providing opportunities to enjoy play spaces and equipment. Playtime reduces potential trauma by engaging youth cognitively, physically, and emotionally, allowing children to build healthy relationships with caring adults and other children.

For more information on the benefits of Playtime, check out our updates or the following resources:

Learn More about Family Homelessness

Our advocacy page is full of resources to help you to understand more about family homelessness both nationally and in Washington, DC.

Statistic – Child Trends

54 percent of preschoolers experiencing homelessness have major developmental delays (e.g. language, gross motor, fine motor, social). Homeless children also have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems and are twice as likely to have learning disabilities.