#WePlayChat A Rousing Success

twitterchat1Last month we held our first ever #WePlayChat on Twitter around the topic, “Why We Play”? Hosted by our executive director Stephanie Garst and our Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey, the Twitter chat was a huge success and was the first of its kind on social media!  #WePlayChat-ers included teachers, playground organizations, play advocates and other play enthusiasts from coast to coast as well as from Canada and the UK – all tuning in to connect around why #WePlay through a series of open-ended questions.

A Twitter chat is a public Twitter conversation around one unique hashtag (#). This hashtag allows you to follow the discussion and participate in it. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with similar interests.

Here are some snapshots of conversations that happened during our groundbreaking #WePlayChat:

Jan chat Q3                             Jan chat Q1


Since then we had another thrilling Twitter Chat with THREE COUNTRIES represented – Australia and Canada joined our American Twitter-ers in a discussion on PLAY in the Community.

Over the next few months we will continue to share the voice of play on Twitter through these #WePlayChats.  We are trying them at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them!  Tune in and to join in the conversation around the value of play. This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from the across the globe from the comfort of your own environs.

Our next #WePlayChat will be held on March 15th at 9:30am EST. We will be discussing different types of PLAY.  In April our chat will highlight lessons learned from The Play Conference.  And in May we will begin inviting guest moderators to  the chat – Genius of Play will be our first.

Find us on Twitter @USPlayCoalition

DANCEPL3Y For Life: Tracy Lockwood

This is the second in a series that our Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey is doing to highlight people and businesses doing what we love…PLAY!  Since Ryan lives in Canada, many of his features will be on our neighbors to the north, broadening the global reach of our Play Coalition. Recently, Ryan sat down with DANCEPL3Y Educator Tracy Lockwood from Alberta, Canada to discuss what fuels her passion as an Educator and play expert. Here is what Tracy had to say:

 Outdoor Bio Pic1-TL 2015DANCEPL3Y Bio Pic-Tracy

1. Why do you think Play is so important?
Play is vital for so many reasons and it’s not just for children’s sake.  When people play, they use their creativity and at the same time develop their physical, emotional, social and cognitive capabilities. Specifically, play improves learning, communication skills, and allows for self-expression. Most of all, play is fun!
2. You are an educator and play advocate, what made you decide to get in to DANCEPL3Y?
My first DANCEPL3Y experience was extremely memorable.  I remember feeling so happy, energized and full of joy and confidence after just one DANCEPL3Y session.  Afterwards, I just knew that I had to bring this program to schools, athletic teams and recreation centres. In fact, in my first year with the program, I became an Instructor, then a Master Trainer!  I’ve never had any dance training as a kid, but I did play team sports my entire life. As a physical education teacher, exposing my students to a variety of activities is very important for not only a well-rounded program, but to make sure they were learning skills in many areas and dance is one of those important activities.  DANCEPL3Y is truly the best way I have taught dance in my 20+ years being a teacher. 
3. As a DANCEPL3Y Instructor and Master Trainer, what things do you like the most when teaching to others?
In my DANCEPL3Y instruction with kids and teens, I love seeing the change in their attitude from the beginning of class to the end.  I feel like I leave them better than when we started.  They are smiling and sweating and it feels great to have played a part in that.  In DANCEPL3Y, participants feel comfortable and confident in their abilities.  This is true for children, teens and adults.  As a Master Trainer, I have the opportunity to host DANCEPL3Y Kids Instructor Courses.  I find that even when I work with adults, the feelings that come from participating in DANCEPL3Y are the same. The comments are always overwhelmingly positive and that motivates me to continue. 
4. What forms of Play do you include in your day to day life? Why? (ex: creative play, water play, etc..)
I was drawn to and grew up playing every team sport in school.  To this day, I still enjoy “social/team play”.  I love going to fitness classes at my local gym.  In this way, being in a group setting is very motivating and I am able to challenge myself (while secretly competing with others 🙂 ).  Outdoor/nature play is a part of my life.  Hiking in the mountains, for example, is one way I enjoy the outdoors.  Lastly, I am so fortunate to be a DANCEPL3Y Instructor and Trainer where I can practice my play skills (creativity, social and physical play) at the same time that I’m “working”.  
5. If you could change one thing in the world that was Play related, what would you change and why?
Changing one thing is tough 🙂  My first “world changer” would be that I would expose and introduce every child and adult to DANCEPL3Y!  It has added so much to my life and those around me that I want everyone to participate in it.  My other “world changer” would be that every child has equal opportunities to play with access to nature play activities and safe outdoor play structures/experiences that will improve their creativity, socialization and overall physical, emotional, and cognitive development.
Thank you Tracy! You continue to do so much to add value to play in Canada and around the world. Your passion for movement and play in contagious. Keep up the good work!

#WePlay Twitter Chat Series Kicks Off January 22

twitterchat1#WePlayChat is a professional development opportunity from the US Play Coalition for Play Ambassadors, Play Advocates and Play Enthusiasts across the world who are seeking to gain knowledge around play. #WePlayChat also serves as a platform for you to engage and network with other organizations and individuals in a professional setting from the comfort of your own environment. We are bringing the play content to you completely free of charge.

#WePlayChat will be held monthly. Our first chat will be Friday, January 22nd from 2:00-3:00pm EST.

Our first topic will be:

Understanding why we play
1.Why do we think play is so important?
2.Why do we play?
3.What happens if we don’t include play in our daily lives?

Feel free to join the conversation on Twitter with @usplaycoalition and @wellnessrf by using the #WePlayChat on January 22nd. We look forward to connecting, sharing and networking with you as we reboot play in 2016!


Here are tips for how to be a great Twitter Chat participant from crememag.com

1) Do not wait too long to join the conversation. Sometimes we follow a Twitter Chat from afar without daring to integrate into the conversation. But don’t be afraid. Participants in Twitter Chats are often very welcoming, I recommend that you choose a topic that really challenges you to feel more comfortable to participate.

2) Once you have decided to get started, tell your subscribers that a big wave of tweets will be coming their ways because you are joining a Twitter Chat. In general, we do not like to see 20 tweets in a row from the same person, so it is best to prevent Plus, you can also share a trick that allows your users to hide the tweets that contain a particular hashtag.

3) Introduce yourself to the other participants with a short sentence so that other participants know who they’re talking to. Example: Hi, I’m Justine. I am a blogger and I look forward to talking with you! #WePlayChat.

4) When answering a question, do not forget the A1 for answer 1. The number changes depending on the question number (A1 – correspond to Q1). And if you decide to interact with just one person, do not forget the point before the @. This way the tweet will still appear in your feed and others can join the Chat. Unless of course you do not want your subscribers to follow your conversation!

5) Do not forget the hashtag at the end of each of your tweets (#WePlayChat)! This is one of the most important rules. It allows you to be a part of the big conversation. Plus, other participants will find you easily and will be able to read answers to your questions.

6) Respect the community by staying polite and positive in every situation!

7) You want to show that you agree with the tweet of a participant, a RT (retweet!) is simple enough. If you want to add a comment but you do not have space for it, retweet the tweet and answer it after, remembering to put the point before the @.

8) Do not hesitate to ask questions to the host of the Chat if you do not understand a question.

9) The Twitter Chat is not the time for self-promotion and sharing links to your platforms. The objective is to help each other, discuss and exchange while remaining on topic.

10) You will probably receive advices or tips. Consider having a notebook to take notes and to not forget anything that have been said.

11) You want to continue the discussion? Add the people you want to interact with via Twitter. It is also a good way to stay in touch and build relationships.

Have a great Chat ! See you on Friday, January 22 at 2pm EST for our #WePlayChat.

PAW Prints and Beyond: Mary Ann Rintoul

This is the first in a series that our Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey
is doing to highlight people and businesses doing what we love…PLAY!  Since Ryan lives in Canada, many of his features will be on our neighbors to the north, broadening the global reach of our Play Coalition.

Recently I sat down with Professor Rintoul from the University of Alberta to discuss why she places such a high value on play. Rintoul goes beyond being passionate for play as she currently runs the PAW campaign and is heavily involved with IPA. Along with these accomplishments, we are glad to have Professor Rintoul involved with the US Play Coalition as a Play Ambassador as she continues to promote the value of play!MaryAnn Rintoul

  1. What is your favourite thing to do that is playful? Why do you think play is so impor

This is a tricky question….as I believe play is not always defined as an activity (thing to do) but as a state of mind. We can be playful all the time! If I were to pick a couple of my top playful things to do, I would say dancing and exploring ocean shores (I love rocks). 

  1. What is “Play Around The World”?

Play Around the World (PAW) is a credit course that is designed to provide University of Alberta students with a 3-month cross-cultural volunteer experience either internationally or in Canada. Offered by the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation at the University of Alberta, Canada, students from diverse educational backgrounds form learning communities which are structured to provide a holistic and interdisciplinary approach to learning, leadership, and programming. The main purpose of Play Around the World is to provide students with an opportunity to develop a sense of global awareness and citizenry through a service-learning course focused on Play Provision (United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child). This is achieved through collaboration with various schools, government agencies, and community-based organizations where students work with staff members to provide opportunities for play, sport, and physical activity to children and youth of all abilities. Play is viewed as a vehicle to enliven the human spirit and to promote optimal development.  By working with international and/or Canadian partners, students undergo a meaningful learning experience that enhances their global education in a variety of areas (somewhat dependent on site location) including: culture; the cultural dimensions of play, sport, recreation, and physical activity; issues of child poverty; globalization; the effects of tourism and sex tourism; and the rights of the child as well as the rights of persons with a disability. Play Around the World began in 2001. 

  1. What first got you interested in “Play Around The World” and why?

The former Director and Founder, Jane Vallentyne was a colleague and friend. From the start of the program (2001) I was a supporter and always attended student fundraising events along with the public presentations. There was always something about the program that not only resonated with my work in the Faculty teaching children’s movement activities, but also aligned with many of my values regarding global citizenship and service learning. 

  1. What has been your greatest highlight since being involved with “Play Around The World”?

Perhaps the greatest highlight, among many, would be the expansion to our Cambodia placement site in 2009 – 2010. Personal connections to this country make the work we have established there especially rewarding. 

  1. What do you think the future of play looks like? How does “Play Around The World” support what that looks like?

It is very encouraging to see the profile of play in Canada beginning to rise to the platform it deserves. The Child’s Right to Play as outlined in the UN Convention on the Right of the Child is starting to catch the attention of many provincial and national organizations and small pockets of play advocates are spreading the declaration of the importance of play in the lives of children and adults alike. Play Around the World, as a not-for-profit organization, supports local initiatives by planning and implementing Playdays with agencies such as the YMCA or City of Edmonton as well as special events such as National Child Day celebrations. Alumni of the program are often called upon as ‘play leaders’ to facilitate sessions with children and families. Our main contribution to supporting the future of play is in the form of ‘time and talents’. 

Thank you for all that you do to promote the value of play Mary Ann!

Playgrounds: Hazardous or Risky?

Adolescent Girls Riding Slide ca. 2000Play is play. It has elements of being self initiated and process oriented, and it should be fun! However, what happens when play becomes ‘dangerous’ and we suddenly stop playing and remove our kids from that immediate danger? Do we panic? Do we scream? What do we do?

The first thing we need to understand is that there is a difference between hazards and risks in the play environment. Hazards can easily lead to a dangerous situation whereas risks in a risky environment may not necessarily lead to a dangerous situation.

Hazardous = As unsafe as possible (it is clearly dangerous, and the chances of injury are high)

Risky = As safe as possible: Given the situation and the possibilities, there is an element of risk, but it is not hazardous.

Think about it as a stop light:

Green light: unstructured play on a brand new play space, with a mixture of natural and artificial play parts that are all safe and usable by all children. Within that space there are no hazards and children are playing naturally, jumping off small objects, running in various directions, and having fun.

Yellow light: the same as above except there are more opportunities for children to take risks. For example, the rocks they are jumping off may be higher, there may be a few logs they can walk and balance along, or they may have opportunities to play going from high to low objects. There may be some dirt, rust and or bugs present. However, these opportunities to take risks in this environment are present but are not hazardous.

Red light: Here the play space would have rusted, jagged artificial structures, old boards would allow for a child’s foot to easily poke through, and nuts/bolts would be exposed in multiple areas of movement. This environment would be a hazardous environment where it would no longer be risky to use this play space, but in fact hazardous.

Ultimately, it is up to you as a caregiver, parent, or playground supervisor as to what you choose to expose your children to. However, it is important to always ask yourself before allowing your child to play, “Is this play environment risky or hazardous to my child?”


Ryan & RioBy: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition. He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.

The Habit of Play

Often times our days are filled with busy calendars. Our routines and commitments keep us so busy that we forget what is actually important. Play is often overlooked and replaced by other “productive” habits which are usually outcome driven.

However, if you are reading this you probably are already bought into the idea that play can invigorate your day, enrich your week, and if done frequently can change your life for the better. In a book I just read called The Power of Habit, the author describes this well. He claims that, “Our lives are nothing more than a series of habits”. He is right. Our lives are really just a series of habits and decisions we choose to create and sustain. When we move or change jobs we often replace old habits with new ones. If this is true, it is also true that we need to be mindful in incorporating play into our daily lives as we become adults of habits. Our habits become more engrained as we age and become harder to change. However, if you are going to increase the prevalence of play in your life you need to start slowly placing it into your life by replacing existing habits that are tightly established. This intentional change can happen to allow you to have time in your schedule dedicated to “Play.”

Whatever that form of play looks like is totally up to you! You could incorporate any form of play you want ONCE you have made a habit of allowing time for it to happen each day.

I know that in my own life I have to be very intentional about including play into my daily routine. For me, working out is a form of active play! I literally think of the gym as a giant playground. If you were to see me in a gym working out you would totally see that I am clearly playing and enjoying the process more than the outcome.

I have also made a conscious effort to set aside 15-20 min per day just for unstructured play time. That could be for walking in the park, writing poetry (creative play) or singing when I am cooking a nice meal.. Some days I find it challenging to include play into my schedule but once I know I have that 15-20 min I choose to make the most of it!

The important thing to remember from this blog is that you are totally in control of including play in your daily routines, and you are fully capable of including play in your lifelong habits. It is up to you. I choose to enjoy and enriching life filled with play each day. Will you choose playful habits?


Ryan & RioBy: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition. He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.

#Playful Kids

monkeybars2Recently we sat down with Evie Houtz, Program Specialist for Be Active Kids in Raleigh, NC. Evie is a mother of two playful kids. She is a role model for living an active, healthy lifestyle! Here is what Evie had to say when we chatted with her about Play!

“As Play Ambassadors, it is our job teach our children how to be playful and physically active just as much as it is our job to teach them morals, values, social skills, and educational concepts.   Physical activity is any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure.   Physically active children will develop gross motor skills that later help them to take part in games and sports with their peers.  Physical activity helps children build strong hearts, muscles and bones, improve thinking skills, develop positive self-esteem and confidence and just have fun.

Kids of all ages need both structured and unstructured physically active play throughout the day.   Structured activities are adult led and have a specific learning objective.  This type of physical activity includes games like Simon Says or Red Light, Green Light and organized sports like t-ball or soccer.  Young children should get between 60-90 minutes of structured physical activity throughout the day.  Many of these structured activities help the child to learn a motor skill or increase competency in movement.  In addition children should take part in at least 60 minutes of unstructured physical activity or free play.  This type of physical activity is child centered, child led and child initiated.  Unstructured physical activity includes things like fort building, climbing trees, running around pretending to be magical beings or super heroes, or creating a city out of boxes.  Unstructured free play helps a child to be more creative, learn to experiment, to work cooperatively, and to think more critically.  Both types of physical activity should be spread throughout the day.

In helping a child to play more, know that you have many items you around you each day that can be used for active play.  We all have milk jugs that can turn in to targets or balls, sticks that can used as swords, plastic bags that turn into juggling scarves and mud that can be thrown to ward off the bad guys.  It takes some creativity, courage and a little out-of-the-box thinking, but it is so important. Getting kids active is essential to their long term health and well-being.   Studies have shown that the motivation to be active (exercise) in adulthood can be influenced by childhood experiences.”

For more ideas or how to use inexpensive items to increase physical activity, check out the Be Active Kids 8 one-pagers.


By: Ryan Fahey, B.Ed, BKin

Ryan is a new regular blogger for the US Play Coalition.  He is working to develop our Play Ambassador program and spread the word about the Value of Play.