2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Effective Playground Protective Surfacing: The Elusive Goal

Rolf Huber, Canadian Playground Advisory Inc.
Ken Kutska, International Playground Safety Institute, Inc.

Every type of surface has the potential to fail to perform as expected.  Manufacturers and distributors are obligated to market the advantageous aspects of their products but what questions should the owner/purchaser be asking of the supplier.  Playgrounds are a place of wonder for all to enjoy irrespective of ability or age. Without the knowledge necessary to purchase the appropriate surface system for your playground you are likely to experience problems with maintaining your playground in compliance with the current public playground standards and guidelines.

Part One

The history if impact attenuation and severity of injury.

  • Mechanism of injury prevention and severity reduction
  • What is an acceptable injury to a child?
  • How many playground injuries are there per year?  What are most frequent types of injuries? What are the main cause of these injuries? What is the cost?
  • How many traumatic brain injuries are sustained on playgrounds annually?

Review the current Standard of Care for Public Playground Impact Attenuating Surfacing

  • US CPSC Handbook for Public Playground Safety
  • Other ASTM Standards related to impact attenuation for surfacing.

Injury Reduction: Can playground injuries be reduced let alone prevented?

With the goal of injury reduction in mind; we will discuss the impact of the owner, designer, and/or manufacturers’ intended design use of the playground equipment versus the reality of how a child plays in unforeseeable and unintended ways.

Since the performance of surfacing greatly contributes to the potential for injury prevention and/or reduction in injury severity we will discuss what the owner/designer should consider when designing for more challenging play in the public playground.

Part Two

This section will outline the problems associated with different types of surfacing systems, their materials, installation and maintenance issues, and the problems related to cross contamination of loose-fill and unitary surface systems.

  • Review the different types playground surfaces available today.
  • Discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and performance issues of each.

What goes wrong with surfacing? We will discuss the common problems of maintaining compliant surfacing regardless of the type.  What is an accessible surface?

  • Every playground must meet the ADA as a minimum.  Current practices often do not meet the requirements for the removal of architectural barriers for all.  As play people we understand graduated challenges, with an empathy for all.  Understanding the role of surfacing in providing full challenging play to everyone is the goal of this portion of the session.
  • What is the law on accessibility?
  • How is accessibility compliance measured?

Good Product Selection and Purchasing Practices

  • There is not a perfect surface – We will have a discussion with the entire group to consider what is a good surface and how it enhances play, protects children and allows access to everyone wanting to play or participate in play.

Best Defense Against Claims of Surfacing Non-Compliance

This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.


2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Change Agents for Play: Program Design Starts with Understanding Your Audience

Deborah Rhea, Ed.D. – Professor, Texas Christian University and Director, LiiNK™ Project
Alex Rivchun – Project/Budget Manager, LiiNK™ Project
Laura Clark – Research Associate, LiiNK™ Project
This workshop will focus on being change agents in our communities to design and communicate play initiatives that utilize both physical environment and social emotional learning components.

Our goals are to identify and discuss challenges facing schools and communities to integrate play into different environments; discuss what unstructured, outdoor play means and why social emotional learning (SEL) should be emphasized; finally, to identify different ways our groups can collaborate to bring change to our communities through different program designs. This workshop will also examine what local, state, and federal policies should be considered to strengthen resource availability for designing programs.”

Much has happened over the past 30 years in the U.S. to the detriment of children’s health and academic enthusiasm. Parents are in an uproar over the lack of recess in the schools. Our culture has adopted a much more aggressive stance on technology to teach and entertain children while providing very few opportunities to use natural resources through play to learn and create. In order to produce a healthier, academically grounded culture for our next generations of children, unstructured play should be a fundamental part of every school day for pre-kindergarten through adolescents. Much of the research has shown obesity trends can be reversed, health benefits can be increased more long term, and children will be more vested in learning when given time to explore and problem solve through play and physical activity. How we design play in our communities is only as effective as understanding the audience making decisions about play in that environment.

Workshop Outline/Objectives:

Hour 1: Participants will identify current play initiatives; identify strengths & barriers common to their program implementation; and identify their target audience.

Hour 2:  We will focus on the patterns identified in the first hour and develop 2-3 ways the attendees can become change agents through play design initiatives

Hour 3:  We will focus on developing ideas to effectively communicate their initiatives to identified target audiences, as well as developing 2-3 strategies that move the attendees’ initiatives forward through local, state, and federal policies.

This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.

2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Play Facilitator Certificate of Completion

Ellen O’Sullivan, PhD., CPRP
President, Leisure Lifestyle Consulting

This training gives adult facilitators the tools, beginner knowledge, and confidence to provide unstructured play experiences at their facility.  This introductory training is designed to meet the needs of seasonal, part-time, and temporary workers at camps, playgrounds, and after-school programs. The program is also beneficial as a training tool for full-time staff that work with and lead those individuals.  A certificate of completion will be given to all participants who complete the training. This training is typically priced at $59/person…but the 2017 Play Conference fee is just $25/person!

Specific topics covered during the training include:

  • About Play – The Importance of Play
    • Characteristics of Play
    • Types of Play
    • Examples of Play
  • Play and its Relationship to Stages of Child Development
    • Brief overview of child development characteristics
    • Role of play related to those characteristics
    • Examples of suitable games and activities
  • Roles of Play Facilitator
  • Setting the Stage
    • Safety and security
    • Support for play environment
  • Overseeing Play
  • Directing vs. Supporting Play
    • Balance between both
    • o   Examples of situations where appropriate
    • o   Examples of facilitator’s behavior
This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.


Ellen O’Sullivan, Ph.D., CPRP
Ellen O’ Sullivan is a long time park and recreation professional who began her life’s work as a camp counselor and community recreation director and evolved to university professor and consultant.  Ellen has long believed in the power and promise, that parks and recreation holds for individuals, communities, and society overall. Her contributions to the field include authorship of several books on marketing, major role in the benefits movement, ground-breaking applied research in health using the innovative magnet center approach as well as her role supporting and sustaining community agencies as they strategically alter course to create a viable future in the health, livability, and vitality of communities.

The ABCs of the 2017 Play Conference Research Symposium and Educational Sessions

The full detailed schedule is coming soon with dozens more session titles…but until then, below is an alphabetical list of the Research Symposium and Educational Sessions that have been confirmed for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play.  Check back often because we will update the list as our presenters continue to confirm their sessions.

 playing with boxes from Pat Rumbaugh   DSCF1349   IMG_2667

Be sure to REGISTER TODAY because the early bird deadline for this PLAYful conference is February 24.

  • 7 Elements of PLAY & the Impact on Learning in the Classroom
  • A Call for Trauma Informed Play
  • All Grown Up! Emerging Trends with Play Past Childhood: Parkour, Parks, and Programming
  • Ambassadors for Play – Next Generation Play Workers
  • An Invitation to the Playground: Obesity and the Power of Play and Recreation
  • Bringing play into the architecture curriculum
  • Brown Bag STEM Challenge: Experiencing STEM through Play
  • Building a Community of PLAY Through an Interdisciplinary University Collaborative
  • Caretakers of Wonder: Promoting Science Concepts with Playful Activities
  • Creating Family Friendly Cities
  • Designing Effective Playground Environments to Stimulate Play
  • Designing for a Playful Park: Creating a Play program for Boston’s Greenway
  • Designing Play and Recreation Environments that Turn Research into Practice
  • Documenting Play With Video – A Curricular Lens
  • Equitable Play Opportunities: A Social Justice Issue
  • Generation Migration:  An Intergenerational Adult Day Camp Experience
  • Get PLAYFUL with DANCE
  • Getting Out of the Way: Designing for Playwork
  • Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment
  • Imagination Playground, Tinker Toys, and Play
  • Impact of Adlerian Play Therapy on Externalizing Behaviors of At-Risk Preschoolers
  • Integrating STEAM and 21st Century Learning Skills into Summer Camp
  • It All Starts on the Playground: Magical Bridge Playground and Beyond
  • Kidmania: Designing for Playing, Learning, and Growing
  • Learn Through Play : A Post-Occupancy Evaluation of the Smale River Front Park’s Adventure Playground, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • LET US Play: A New Approach to Old Games
  • Meeting Preschool Teachers Where They Are! Creating Digital Play Landscapes in Rural Communities
  • Monkey Brains and Monkey Bars
  • Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo and Aquarium: The Phoenix Zoo’s Successful Adventure in Bringing Nature Play to the Community
  • Outdoor Classroom (subject but not the correct name of presentation)
  • Parents as Potential Gatekeepers of Play:  Strategies for Managing Overparenting in Out-of-School Time
  • Parents Can Read, Rattle & Roll
  • Patterns, Place, and Play: How Design Initiatives Can Highlight What Is Right In Front of Us
  • Play Everywhere:  Creating Family-Friendly Cities
  • Play Facilitation: Choices that Count
  • Play Facilitation: Unleashing Power of Play for Children
  • Play For All: Inclusive Playscape Design
  • Play in American Life, a Tribute to Dr. Joe L. Frost:  Meet the Authors
  • Play to Innovate
  • Play Under Pressure
  • Play University: A Hands-on Approach to Guiding Children Through the Stages of Play
  • Playful Pedagogy: Playwork and Playing Out
  • Playing on Two Wheels
  • Playing to Heal: A Trauma Sensitive Sports Practice
  • Pop Up Play: Affordable, Safe, and Community Driven Solutions
  • Pretend Play and Brain Growth
  • Promoting the Power of Play Through a Regional Play Conference
  • Pure Play at the Fair: How temporary space leads to permanent play
  • Quantitative Assessment of Playground Quality and Inclusivity
  • Reclaiming Play
  • The Adult Play Cycle: Sex, Drugs, Netflix & Chill
  • The Connections Between Invention and Play
  • The LiiNK Project: The effects of play and character development on attentional fatigue in public school grades K & 1
  • The LiiNK Project: The effects of play and character development on classroom behaviors, BMI, and character scores in public school grades K & 1
  • The Magic of Children’s Gardens
  • The Power of Play: Improving School Climate Through Play
  • The Shape of the New Adventure Play Movement
  • The Transformational Power of an Inclusive Playground
  • Unleashing the Preschooler’s Potential in the Classroom and Beyond: How Movement & Play Power Learning
  • Why Play Must be Open-Ended, Mindful, and Wacky in Order to be Worthwhile!
  • You want me to do what?

Featured Sessions Announced for 2017 Conference on the Value of Play

The US Play Coalition is proud to announce a number of its featured sessions for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play.  The annual conference, whose 2017 theme is “Where Design Meets Play – Bringing Play to Landscapes, Curricula, Programs, Museums, and Beyond,” will be April 2-5 at Clemson University.  Here is a glimpse at the featured speaker lineup…more to come!

“Sometimes It Hurts: Designing Play Environments with as Much Risk-Taking as Possible and as Little Safety as Necessary”
– Moderator / US Perspective: Teri Hendy, Site Masters, Inc.
– European Perspective: Julian Richter, Richter Spielgeraete GmbH
– UK Perspective: Harry Harbottle, CATE Consultancy
– Canadian Perspective: Jennifer Martin, TELUS Spark
This two-part session includes speakers from the US, Germany, the UK and Canada presenting an international view of the role of risk taking in designing children’s play environments.  The panel will focus on the perception of risk vs. the reality; designing for acceptable risk that balances risk and play value; establishing a precedent of risk tolerance; and modeling risky play that creates healthy and innovative communities.

“The Genius of Play: Designing an Integrated Program to Help Families Capitalize on Key Developmental Benefits for Their Children”
– Anna Yudina, Director of Marketing Initiatives, Toy Industry Association
– Erik “Dr. E.” Fisher, Ph.D., Psychologist, Media Consultant, Author
– Jackie Retzer, Marketing Communications, Toy Industry Association
– David Gallagher, Chief Program Officer, Playworks
The presentation highlights research findings about parental attitudes towards play and shares best practices for utilizing social media, expert influencers, and partnerships to build a national play movement.

“Designing a Practice of Play”
Dan Harding, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Architecture and Community Design+Build
Clemson University

“Using Empathy to Design School Based Play”
David Gallagher, Chief Program Officer, Playworks
This session will focus on how to have an empathic lens when designing programming for play within schools.

“Lighting with LED . . . The Opportunities and the Challenges”
Joe Crookham, Chief Executive Officer and President, Musco Sports Lighting, LLC
This session will cover LED related issues regarding energy, maintenance, spill, glare, sky glow and the impact of color spectrum choices on both vision and health.  This session will discuss design opportunities and challenges when using diode light devices, LED, to illuminate large areas such as a ball field, play areas and walkways.

“The Future of Schoolyards and Strategies to Work with School Communities to Get Things Funded and Built”
Bambi Yost, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture,  Iowa State University, will share lessons learned from  her time as Project Manager and researcher on Denver Public School’s Learning Landscapes schoolyards.

“Playing Outside the Lines: Play As A Metaphor for Life”
Erik “Dr. E.” Fisher, Ph.D., Psychologist, Media Consultant, Author
Often we teach kids to play games by the rules, and there is definitely a value to this. However, what can happen when you  take play and the game beyond the rules and look to what play can teach about the child and what you can teach children about life through play?

More featured sessions to be announced in the coming weeks.
Check the conference site often for updates and news!


Inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award to be Given at 2017 Conference on the Value of Play

The US Playli-large-logoy Coalition is pleased to partner with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their first ever Youth Development Practitioner Award.  The purpose of this award is to recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services. The inaugural recipient will be named at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play in Clemson, SC.

According to Stephen Lance, Executive Director of Youth Learning Institute, “There are many deserving practitioners across the nation and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service.”

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2016 Youth Development Practitioner Award.  Deadline for nominations is December 15, 2016. The winner of the 2017 Youth Development Practitioner Award will be notified in mid-January and recognized at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play at Clemson University, April 2-5, 2017.  The winner will have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.

2017 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Process

To recognize outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Must have operated a youth development program or service within the United States for at least 10 or more years.

Evaluation Criteria:
Applicants should show evidence of as many of met criteria in their submitted statement.

  • Accomplishments serve as an example for other youth serving programs.
  • Program/service demonstrates best practices and a nurturing culture that supports inclusivity and human resilience.
  • Outreach efforts promote youth development programs and encourage support and participation from the community at-large.
  • Equips young people to lead and serve, through direct work with youth and by training other practitioners.
  • Demonstrates positive impact on lives of young people and leads by example.
  • Demonstrates high level of leadership, professionalism and integrity in the field of youth development.
  • Strengthens the field of youth work by providing quality training opportunities for youth workers to maximize their investment in young people.
  • Focuses on attempts to improve the quality of youth services by providing training standards and improving program function.
  • Shares best practices with other youth practitioners or serves as a liaison in the community to create a network of participation and sharing of ideas/knowledge.
  • Program/service demonstrates exceptional commitment to public service and/or educational leadership.

If you have any questions, please contact Melanie Bargar at 864-787-2893.

Powerful LiiNK Project is Another Beneficiary of Giving TuesPLAY Funds

Giving TuesPLAY is TODAY! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you will be helping to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

reserach grant winners 2016Debbie Rhea and Alexander Rivchun from Texas Christian University were the 2016 Research Grant winners for their work on the LiiNK Project.  The LiiNK team has been making headlines with their incredible work to get more and more frequent recess in the daily school schedukids-on-climbing-rings le. Their successes in Texas elementary schools have gone viral!

The LiiNK Project (Let’s inspire innovation ‘N Kids) is in its fourth year overall and its second year in public schools (14 elementary schools total). We were very fortunate to receive a research grant from the U.S. Play Coalition to continue our work in the public schools to improve learning through play and character building. LiiNK’s intervention encompasses three aspects: 1) teacher and administrator training on how and why the combination of unstructured, outdoor play and character development are important to the school day; 2) implementing four-15 minute unstructured, outdoor play sessions daily in the schools; 3) implementing four- 15 minute character development lessons weekly in the schools. The research grant funds were used this year to help implement this intervention in 10 more elementary schools at the grades K and 1 levels.kids-on-playground-structure

Schools have become so focused on learning outcomes and assessment tools that little regard has been given to the social, emotional, and physical health of our children. As a result, teachers and administrators do not know how to allow more flexibility in the school day for unstructured play and social emotional learning due to academic time constraints daily. We have been able to train LiiNK teachers and administrators to think differently about how to integrate play and character into the school day without losing learning time. The results that we have collected are amazing in all aspects for the child and the teacher. Different results that will be highlighted in the presentation are BMI trends over a two year period, behavior shifts in the classroom, attentional fatigue trends, and reading/writing score outcomes.

To supkids-on-swingsport great projects like this, make sure to donate to the US Play Coalition TODAY!  Time is ticking for #GivingTuesPLAY!



Giving TuesPLAY supports Child-Centered Play at University of Florida

Giving TuesPLAY is TODAY! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you will be helping to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

Sondra Smlearning-to-playith and her team at the University of Florida were 2016 Action Grant Recipients.ready-to-play

With their grant, the university has created child-centered play time at TWO elementary schools in their area! Both of these schools serve children who are high needs, and the program works with 18 children at this time. Play is fun for these kids with toys, puppets, and other activities, but it is also an important part in their counseling. Graduate students in the university’s counselor education program are learning about the value of play in counseling children as they work with the students at these schools.

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to the US Play Coalition TODAY!


Support Play Trailblazers Like These When You Support Giving TuesPLAY!


This Giving Tuesday, consider donating to Giving TuesPLAY! The support we receive on Giving TuesPLAY helps to fund our wonderful grant winners. These winning projects are trailblazers in the world of play, and we need your help to get them going!

One of our 2016 Action Grant winners was The Playworker Project with Megan Dickerson from The New Children’s Museum.  These incredible Playworkers pictured here are now fully trained in play!

Museum Playworkers are people you might see in Museum galleries.  They are professionals trained in “playwork”: a practice that originated on adventure playgrounds in the United Kingdom. The Museum Playworker’s role is to observe what is happening at the Museum and respond in ways that create an environment in which all can play.cardboard-chaos-1 cardboard-chaos-5 museum-playworkers-2-0

Recently, the Museum created an indoor adventure playground called “Cardboard Chaos” as a prototype for big things that will be coming out in January.

GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 29, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!) Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

To support projects like The Playworker Project and other awesome programs and the development of play, be sure to donate on Giving TuesPLAY – Tuesday, November 29! We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

Play Like a Girl Founder to give PLAYtalk at 2017 Play Conference

drk-headshotKimberly S. Clay, PhD, MPH, MSW
Founder & Executive Director, Play Like A Girl!®

Inspiring play. Unlocking potential.
So girls can do extraordinary things.
Play Like A Girl® is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering women and girls to be healthy and confident through sport, physical activity, and active play.  Founder and executive director Dr. Kimberly Clay will share her passion for helping girls reach their full potential and her latest efforts to #bringbackplay – starting in backyards, neighborhood parks and schools across the South.

Dr. Kimberly Clay began her career as a social worker and public health analyst.  In 2004, she surged onto the research scene as a National Institutes of Health Cancer Prevention and Control Fellow at the Minority Health Research Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During her work, Dr. Kim visited local communities and witnessed the gender gap in physical activity and health-related outcomes firsthand, which led her to start Play Like A Girl!®.  Dr. Kim has also served as Public Health Advisor for the Centers Disease Control and Prevention and was a tenure-track professor at the University of Georgia until she took a sabbatical to lead Play Like A Girl!®plg-logo

Dr. Kim has been named one of Toyota’s Everyday Heroes, Xavier University’s 40 Under 40, and one of 50 People on the Move by the Nashville Business Journal.

Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!