On a cold, gray day last month, a group of people played hopscotch, jumped rope and drew with chalk—outdoors in Bakery Square. Bystanders looked on—then joined the fun—as the Playtime Foundation launched the inaugural Pittsburgh Plays, a recess break for adults.

Research has shown that taking breaks during the workday has enormous benefits, from increased productivity and creativity to stress reduction. Continuous work, ironically, detracts from the very goal of increased output.

But very few of us actually take breaks, to the point that we eat lunch at our desk while working.

Ketaki Desai and Todd Medema, co-founders of The Playtime Foundation, want to change that. The idea started during Desai’s sabbatical when she was traveling in Asia and noticed that many urban communities had playgrounds … for adults. She had an epiphany. “I was thinking about how exercise is always considered such a chore here. In those playgrounds, people—young and old—were just having a blast.”

She wrote about her observations and published them on LinkedIn, where Medema saw them. Shortly after, they founded The Playtime Foundation.

Medema and Desai are no strangers to the pressures of work. Desai is a community leader, writer and partner at a software development firm. Medema is active in the technology community and is CTO at a marketing agency. Both understand the value of taking a break.

“One of the things we realized is how we as adults have started thinking of our workday as a time that we need to be really serious,” Medema says. “I understand that. But engaging in some type of light activity—in the middle of stressful days—gives your brain a break.”

“Our vision is to create adult playgrounds, recess breaks and opportunities for adults to exercise and have fun while doing it. Initially, we thought maybe we should have a specific place—a regular playground, but for adults,” Desai says. The pair decided that the best way to go—taking a cue from current startup mindset—is to launch with an MVP (minimum viable play).

Minimum Viable Play took the form of the ad hoc Bakery Square playground. “Even though we had one of the coldest days so far, people came out to play.” Desai adds, “We plan to have more regular events in the spring.”

Desai and Medema are looking for support from the community. The group welcomes individuals interested in volunteering and workplaces interested n participating. The Playtime Foundation can be contacted via their website.

Leah Lizarondo

Leah Lizarondo is a food advocate, writer and speaker. She is also the co-founder of 412 Food Rescue, an organization that seeks to eliminate food waste to make an impact on hunger and the environment....