Helping Teens Understand the Importance of Play

This month our executive director, Stephanie Garst, has had a few opportunities to share the importance of play with teens.

As a guest for the Clemson University Summer Scholars program on “Environmental Sustainability through Parks and Recreation,” Stephanie spent the morning with high schoolers from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and even New York.  They trekked to two local parks near campus to learn about the importance of play as a valuable and necessary part of a healthy and productive life, including its role in obesity prevention, education, and promoting connections with the environment. Tying in parks as areas for play, the students played childhood games and explored the playground, reflected on their respective childhood play experiences, worked with each other to invent and play new games, and discussed why PLAY is important in their lives.

Stephanie also welcomed over 100 South Carolina 4H leaders to Clemson University for their 2015 State Congress. She led them in a rousing version of Boom Chicka Boom, facilitated this epic game of RoShamBo Rock Star and challenged them to bring PLAY into the work they do for 4H.

2016 Play Conference Gets a REBOOT

The US Play Coalition is beyond excited to announce that next year’s conference is NEW AND IMPROVED! In fact, it has been REBOOTED!  New Dates, New Approaches, New Opportunities.

The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play is April 3-6, 2016 at the Madren Conference Center in Clemson, SC.

Building on the energy and innovation that came from our snowy and sometimes “power-free” 2015 conference, there will be new elements for the 2016 conference – round tables, fireside chats, coffee talks and “Play Talks.” The dates have also been changed to April to (hopefully) avoid the snow!

Round tables will feature knowledgeable facilitators around critical issues and trends in the field. Fireside Chats and Coffee Talks will harness the organic opportunities for networking, collaborating and research. And “Play Talks,” our version of TED Talks, will be a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world. These new components, coupled with traditional presentations and our epic PLAY breaks will make The Play Conference an event not to be missed. Be sure to mark your calendars!!

While you are marking your calendar, you may want to reserve your hotel room.  The James F. Martin Inn is attached to the Madren Conference Center. A block of rooms has been reserved for conference attendees for only $109 per night (does NOT include breakfast). A block of rooms is also available at the Holiday Inn Express in Clemson for $99/night including breakfast. We will have a regular complimentary shuttle from there to the conference and back.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Email Stephanie Garst at for more details. A call for Presentation Proposals will be out in early September.

Play Conference Reboot is Coming April 3-6, 2016 @ Clemson University

Mark your calendars because you will NOT want to miss this!!  After five years, the Conference on the Value of Play is getting a reboot!  Starting with a change in dates – because April showers are way more fun than power outages and sleet – there are BIG PLANS for the 6th Annual Play Conference.  Keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked because spring has sprung – and so have we!  More details to come!

The 2015 Conference on the Value of Play: Advancing Play was one for the record books!

Record registration, record snow, record memories!

Click on the Tiger for photo highlights from the Play Conference

Neither an ice storm nor a lack of power kept the 2015 Conference on the Value of Play from its laser-focus on promoting the importance of play in everyday life! The Feb. 15-18 conference, which drew play researchers and advocates from across the world, featured the unveiling of research touting recess as an essential activity that enhances children’s health, development and capacity to learn, as well as the debut of Play Pulse, a quarterly publication on play research, information and advocacy. ADD/HD expert Kevin Ross Emery and renowned psychology author Peter Gray served as keynote speakers, and the conference also included a variety of lectures, sessions and panel discussions as well as a luncheon address by Clemson First Lady Beth Clements.

Two New Publications Launched at 2015 Play Conference

We launched two amazing new pubs from the US Play Coalition – a new white paper “The Critical Place of Play in Education” and the first ever “Play Pulse.”

The white paper is a research collaboration between the US Play Coalition and the Association of Childhood Education International (ACEI) written by Dolores A. Stegelin (Clemson University), Kathleen Fite (Texas State University) and Debora Wisneski (University of Nebraska-Omaha).

The Play Pulse, an initiative headed by Ellen O’Sullivan, will be a regular publication providing the latest research, information and action steps regarding the incorporation of play into everyday life.  The publication names above are linked to the full documents online.  They are also on our webpage under resources (and currently linked on the homepage!).  Please spread these good works to your colleagues around the globe!


Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Conference on the Value of Play, and we are proud to have awarded $35,000 in funding to date.   At the 2015 Conference on the Value of Play: Advancing Play, the new grant winners were announced.  A $3,000 research seed grant is awarded to researchers who present empirical research at the Conference on the Value of Play to support new, innovative and thoughtful work on the value of play.  This is seed funding in support of longitudinal or future research in diverse topics related to play, and grant recipients’ work reflects great potential for expanding knowledge in the field.

The 2015 Research Seed Grant was awarded to Richard Christiana, Joy James and Rebecca Battista for their project, “Creating Community Awareness through Prescribing Outdoor Play for Children.”

Research Seed Grant Winners Richard Christiana and Joy James with US Play Coalition Co-Chair Brett Wright

In addition to the research grant, $1000 action grants are awarded to support creative and innovative proposals to engage groups in play or to educate about the value of play. Ideas include hosting a play day, engaging more people in preexisting programs, or a whole new idea.

There were two projects that each received a 2015 Action Grant:

  • Play at the Core: the Importance of Play-Based Practices in Early Education, a Mixed-Methods Approach — Emily Rea, Jared Carroll, Jacob Gomez, and Sanam Jain
  • Providing Appropriate Play Experiences for Children with Autism — Rebecca Woodard and Zach Burt
Seniz Yargici Lennes, 2015 Action Grant Winner Sanam Jain, Fran Mainella, 2015 Action Grant Winner Emily Rea, and Doug Youngblood
Seniz Yargici Lennes, Fran Mainella, 2015 Action Grant Winners Rebecca Woodard and Zach Burt, and Doug Youngblood