2018 Conference on the Value of Play:
The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11, 2018

This annual conference brings together leading play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the country. The three-day event includes keynote and featured speakers, PLAYtalks, PLAYinstitutes, research symposium, educational sessions, roundtables, grant opportunities, networking, and opportunities for play.  Read on to learn about conference speakers, themes, CEUs and logistical details.

Steve Gross
Chief Playmaker and Founder
The Life is Good Kids Foundation 

Steve’s 2018 keynote presentation is titled “Spreading the Power of Optimism through Play.”

Steve is serious about play – and its tremendous benefits for all people. A recognized expert in utilizing, joyful play to promote resiliency in children, he has extended those insights to adults, reconnecting them to the passionate, joyful and playful selves that enable them to be their best in and out of the workplace.

Power PLAYer Panel

Tackling “The Many Faces of Play” with industry leaders from a variety of perspectives, this is a discussion NOT to be missed!

Fran Mainella – Co-Chair, US Play Coalition & Former National Park Service Director

Panelist details to come.


PLAYtalks are our version of TED Talks.  They are a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world.

Anthony DeBenedet, MD

DeBenedet is a practicing physician and behavioral-science enthusiast. He is also author of Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World (Santa Monica Press, 2018), a book about the hidden ways that playfulness influences adulthood, and co-authored The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It.

For his PLAYtalk, DeBenedet will discuss “Playful Intelligence,” exploring how playfulness impacts everyday life in profound and unexpected ways.

Featured Speakers

  • Jill Moore, Paralympian "Play on Player: Overcoming Disability with Play"
  • Harrison Pinckney (Clemson University), Corliss Outley (Texas A&M University), Myron Floyd (NC State University) and Rasul Mowatt (Indiana University Bloomington) "The State of Play for Black Youth"

Play Research Symposium, Educational Sessions & PLAYinstitutes

The Play Research Symposium provides opportunities for a scholarly exchange surrounding play.  Sessions will include several 15 minute presentations grouped by theme with a 15 minute Q&A to follow the series.

Educational Sessions are opportunities to share and discover innovative play strategies and play research. These 50-minute sessions are more interactive and aimed at practitioners.

PLAY Institutes are 3-hour topic-specific trainings that take place on Sunday morning.  These Pre-conference PLAY Institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option. Cost is just $25 for the institute of your choice. Pre-registration is required. Details coming soon.

Clemson University awards CEUs for participation in many of the sessions at the Conference on the Value of Play.  LA CES and AIA Learning Units will be awarded for select sessions too.  Paperwork required.


Session Themes

All our Research Symposium and Educational Sessions will be classified into the following themes to help attendees find the sessions that most interest them:

International/Global Play – Play looks very different around the world.  Share play practices, history, and culture from countries across the globe.

Multi/Intergenerational & Adults at Play – Promoting play throughout life is our mission.  Explore how adults (college-aged to retirees) play and how adults share and benefit from play with children.

Accessible & Inclusive Play – Play should be accessible, available, and open to all.  Advance the field for play for all abilities, all shapes, all sizes, all colors.

Health, Recreation & Play – Play is a building block for healthy living.  Examine health and physical activity trends related to play, healthy benefits of play, and the intersection of health and recreation to insure a healthy face of play.



Nature Based & Outdoor Play – The faces of play are often wet, muddy, and sun-glistened from hours spent outdoors.   Focus on play in nearby and far away nature–backyards, parks, creeks, lakes, trails, wetlands, and beyond.

Education & Play – Play is a vital part of the learning equation, both in and out of the classroom.  The faces of those learning while at play are some of the most engaging!  Consider play as a vehicle for learning through both traditional and nontraditional settings including schools, camps, afterschool programs, museums, zoos, aquariums, parks & recreation departments, faith-based spaces, and more.

Designing for Play – Landscape architects, architects, designers, city planners, and civic groups are invaluable experts, practitioners and resources for PLAY.  These sessions will be submitted for LACES and AIA CEU approval.

Emerging Trends in Play – Play is changing!  The Play movement is growing!  Explore the latest in play- technology, social media, politics, policies, and more.

Nuts & Bolts – From play basics to play essentials.  Share tips, trainings, techniques and tools for PLAY.

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Bronze Sponsors