Remembering How to Play:
One Pandemic Intern Finds Inspiration from our Online Play Conference

As we get older, naturally, play finds itself towards the bottom of the priority list. We cannot always escape the demands life brings, and many of us may feel as though play no longer deserves the time we once gave it when we were younger. Or maybe we feel we are incapable of dedicating large amounts of time to it because we are occupied with things that are more important in fulfilling our definition of what being an adult means. Much like in the movie Hook starring Robin Williams as Peter Pan, he one day leaves Neverland and as time goes by, he forgets that it was even a part of his life. He doesn’t remember Tinkerbell, the Lost Boys, or even his enemy… Captain Hook. As he is forced to come back to Neverland, he slowly starts to see the life he used to live and has forgotten. He remembers how to be a kid again.

I spent my childhood growing up in Golden, Colorado, which is right in the foothills at the base of the Rocky Mountains. My connection to the outdoors is something I developed very quickly as a kid. We had a backyard that was split into two levels; the middle was held up by a wall of rocks with creatures of all sorts living in the dark areas between them and served as our platform to test how high we could jump off the ground. It wasn’t unusual to wake up with a herd of deer on the other side of the fence dividing our property and my neighbor’s. We had a wooden playset on the right side and a trampoline on the left that my two sisters and I spent hours upon hours jumping, playing zombie or trying to perfect our front flips. I developed a deeper connection and appreciation for the scenery and nature around me as I got older, so the time we spent outside was the most fun when I took in what was around me and let my imagination kick in.

Play has a certain aspect of vulnerability when putting yourself and your imagination out there. My imagination when I was younger was often put towards making up new places for me to live. I had and still have such a fascination for exotic homes: treehouses, our old camper, castles, towers, fairy gardens, secret worlds, you name it. I never imagined I was anyONE else, but someWHERE else – and living a different life. When we’d take our pop-up camper up to the mountains, my dad would have it sitting in the front of our house for a few days before we left. That camper became MY home – with my own kitchen, bed, coffee, and secret password to enter, given to those that were allowed. When winter rolled around with loads of snow it was the perfect opportunity to create a new home with my bare hands. I remember one year we got so much snow we built an igloo in my front yard with a sledding hill going down the side of our house. I imagined living in that igloo for the rest of my life. For me, there was something comfortable about being confined in such a small home.

This pandemic has brought times of struggle and confusion to us all. We are all feeling the wear and tear of dealing with the future being unknown and the present being so unsettling. One thing that has tested us all is NOT being busy. We now have the time that we all crave when our lives are jam-packed with school, work, meetings, and other commitments. We have the time to spend with our family, to try new things, or maybe even reflect and remember. I haven’t thought about that igloo or my old trampoline in years. The biggest difference between my days now and my days when I was a kid is that I made time for play when I was a kid. We all made the time for play when we were younger.

Remembering how I used to play as a kid has brought back so many memories and familiar feelings of why play was so important to me when I was younger – and what it did in shaping the person I am today. Allowing ourselves time every day to be our creative selves is freeing and necessary.

 

Play is always around us, and it evolves with us as we evolve into the next phases of our lives. The choice to see its presence is up to the individual.

 

Haley Schueppert is a senior at Clemson University and an intern for the US Play Coalition.  She first interned with the US Play Coalition in the spring of 2020 just as we switched all work and programming to online.  Haley regularly participated in the 2020 Online Play Conference sessions and speaks often of the positive learning she took from it.

 


January #WePlayChat: Nature Play During Winter

Join us on Twitter Wednesday, January 27th at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT for the next installment of our monthly #WePlayChat.  We are honored to welcome Educator Peter Dargatz to the main stage to discuss the topic, “Nature Play During Winter.”

While his claim to fame might be as a retired racing sausage for the Milwaukee Brewers, Peter Dargatz is more proud of being a father of three children, a national board-certified teacher, and the coordinator of a public school nature kindergarten program. Besides leading a school-wide nature center collaboration and a district-wide family nature club, he is the volunteer coordinator for the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s Tyke Hike program, a founding member of the Wisconsin Nature-Based Early Childhood Association (WINBECA), and a regular columnist for Play & Playground magazine. His first book, Teaching Off Trail, will be published in October 2021.

Here are the questions we will be covering during this #WePlayChat:

Q1. What are some misconceptions about unstructured play as it relates to nature play during the winter months?

Q2. What are the differences between risks and hazards when playing in the winter months?

Q3. What is your favorite winter play moment?

Q4. Why should kids (and adults) get outside EVERY day, especially during the winter months?

Want to join the global conversation around the value of play!?  When it is time for the chat, login to Twitter, and search for the hashtag #WePlayChat and follow along on the “Latest” tab.  Feel free to like, reply, and retweet. Just be sure to include the hashtag #WePlayChat so your input is part of the feed!
____________________________________________________________________________________

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the field of play. Launched in 2016, it is the longest-running monthly play-based chat in the world.

Our #WePlayChat participants come from 33 countries, spanning multiple continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers, and experts from across the globe.


Inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute to Launch at the 2021 Virtual Play Conference

Inaugural “Health and PLAY” Online Institute

Weekly Webinar Series beginning April 5, 2021
Mondays at 5:30pm EST/4:30pm CST/2:30pm PST

The inaugural “Health and PLAY” Institute is a weekly webinar series featuring leading healthcare professionals and researchers from across the country.  The weekly panel presentations will examine the synergies between play and health through five distinct pillars:

 

  • The Science of Play: What We Know – Examining the history of play science and its relationship to human interaction, brain development and as a potential medical intervention.
  • The Role of Play in Society – Exploring the role of play from a population viewpoint and the role of non-profit advocacy groups and state government.
  • Healthcare Professionals’ Wellbeing: Burnout, Compassion Fatigue and Play – Pulling back the curtain on the widely recognized and growing epidemic of healthcare professionals’ “burnout” and compassion fatigue with an eye toward using Play as a tool combat “moral injury.”
  • Play and the Ecosystem of Health – Considering the role of play in addressing the pillars social determinants of health and the role of non-profit advocacy groups and health foundations.
  • Using Play as Bridge Between Technologies – Looking at health technology platforms and discussing how aspects of “Play” can be a bridge to consumer engagement and/or better health outcomes.

Meet Our Experts

CHAIR/MODERATOR

Michael Suk, MD, is a leading advocate on health and nature, outdoor recreation as a gateway to better health, and play for life champion as our Chair and Moderator for the Health and Play Institute. Dr. Suk is a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon, Professor and Chair of the Musculoskeletal Institute at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. In addition to his role as a Steering Committee Member for the US Play Coalition, Dr. Suk also serves on numerous Boards including the American Medical Association, Joint Commission for the Accreditation of Healthcare Associations and SHIFT at the Center for Jackson Hole. Previously he served as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the US Department of the Interior and Senior Advisor on Health and Recreation to the National Park Service.

The Science of Play: What We Know

Stuart Brown, MD, is Founder of the National Institute for Play.  His background in psychiatry, the evolution of human and animal play, as well as his clinical research into the causes and prevention of violence, have shown him that authentic play is a state of being which can be accessed and used by everyone, and that play is as important to humans as vitamins or sleep.

Jessica M. Black, PhD, is pioneering and directing advancement of cognitive, educational and social neuroscience into social work research, education and training. Dr. Black is an Educational Neuroscientist and an Associate Professor at the Boston College School of Social Work. She is Chair of Children, Youth and Families Concentration and is the Chair of Teaching Excellence.

Jenny Radesky, MD, is a Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician whose research focuses on family digital media use, child social-emotional development, and parent-child interaction.  She uses a combination of observational, qualitative, and passive sensing methods to examine how parents and young children use mobile media throughout daily routines.  She authored the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics digital media guidelines for young children.

Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, is a gastroenterologist with an interest in lifestyle, integrative, and behavioral-science approaches in digestive health and general well-being.  He is author of Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World (2018) and The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It (2011).  His interviews and writings have run in various media outlets, including the New York Times, Psychology Today, the Today show, the Washington Post, and TIME Ideas.

 

The Role of Play in Society

Erwin Tan, MD, is Director of Thought Leadership – Health at AARP and a board-certified internist and geriatrician. He previously served as the director of Senior Corps at the Corporation for National and Community Service, where he oversaw the RSVP, Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion programs.

Hon. Jerome Loughridge, (INVITED) is Secretary of Health and Mental Health for the State of Oklahoma. He serves in a voluntary capacity as head of the Health Cabinet in the Administration of Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt. In this role, Loughridge is responsible for oversight of the State’s major health-directed agencies, including the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and the State Department of Health, along with multiple agencies, boards and commissions. He is also responsible for leadership of the State’s health entities as an integral part of the Governor’s Covid-19 Response Task Force.

Sarah Griffin, PhD, professor of Public Health Science at Clemson University, has over twenty years of experience in public health with a specific interest in eliminating health disparities. Dr. Griffin serves as Principal Investigator of the Greenville Health System (GHS) School-Based Health Center implementation study for OnTrack Greenville. She is also Co-Principal Investigator for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obesity prevention initiative with rural health extension

 

Healthcare Professionals’ Wellbeing: Burnout, Compassion Fatigue & Play

Marie Brown, MD, is a practicing internist, an associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at Rush Medical College, the director of practice redesign for the American Medical Association, and the immediate past governor of the American College of Physicians (ACP). Dr. Brown is a frequent guest lecturer at academic, national and international health care conferences. Her areas of expertise include: practice transformation, joy in medicine, adult immunizations, medication adherence and diabetes.

Brooke Buckley, MD, FACS, board certified general surgeon and national expert on physician well-being. Dr. Buckley has dedicated a significant portion of her training and professional life to organized medicine and taking a broader look at medical care delivery, with specific interests in emergency surgical care, health-care delivery to rural communities, and physician wellbeing.

Caroline P. Cárdenas, MSN, MA, RN, CBCN, is a doctoral candidate in psychology researching the effects play has on helping professionals experiencing compassion fatigue. She has served as an oncology and hospice nurse for over 15 years. She is the creator of The Hula Hoop Girl where she guides helping professional through the experiential process of play to evoke joy and restore well-being. Caroline is featured in the documentary film, “PLAYING FOR KEEPS,” where she is highlighted as a high performing healthcare professional, who prioritizes play as essential to a more joyous life.

Michael Tutty, PhD, MHA is the Group Vice President of Professional Satisfaction and Practice Sustainability at the American Medical Association (AMA). Mr. Tutty leads AMA’s efforts to enhance practice efficiency, to improve professional satisfaction and to advance the delivery of high-quality care.

 

Play and the Ecosystem of Health

Garth Graham, MD, MPH, (INVITED) is a leading authority on social determinants of health. President of the Aetna Foundation and Vice President of Community Health for Aetna, Inc., Garth is also a cardiologist and public health expert.

 

Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, where he manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school time sites as they work to achieve national standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Daniel oversees community-based and out-of-school partnerships at the Alliance.

Alex Maiersperger is Co-founder of Advancement League, a social movement and membership organization helping healthcare leaders put Health, Everywhere. They are known for bringing leaders inside and outside of traditional healthcare together, combining career development and community impact in new ways that shape a healthier future.

Martin Tull, (INVITED) Senior Director of Partnerships and Development, American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Unlike typical healthcare, lifestyle medicine focuses on collaborative patient-provider relationships and positive, evidence-based lifestyle changes as the basis of care. This broader range of treatment options empowers patients with hope and control over their health.

 

Using Play as Bridge Between Technologies

Amy Babington is Vice President of Client Success & Strategy at Force Therapeutics, leading a team that is responsible for supporting the patient and provider end users of the Force platform. In her tenure, she has been an integral part of the team to build out important functions and determine the needs of Force’s client base and market.

Brittne Nelson-Kakulla, PhD, is Senior Research Advisor- Consumer Insights at AARP.  She is a consumer-focused leader experienced in research, strategic planning, project management, statistical analysis, and data analytics. Her most recent research looked at tech trends and gaming attitudes and habits of adults over 50.

Meaghan Praznik, is a health and wellness, social media expert and Head of Communications & Partnerships, AllTrails. She is a 13-time IRONMAN finisher and qualifier for the IRONMAN World Championship in Kona, Hawaii and IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships.

 


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together 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 U.S. and beyond. The 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.


US Play Coalition Announces 2020 YLI’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner

The U.S. Play Coalition and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute are proud to announce the 2020  Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner:

Jessica Hentoff, Artistic & Executive Director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis, Missouri.

First awarded in 2017, the Youth Learning Institute’s Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.  The evaluation criteria is quite extensive and detailed below.  “There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.

MEET JESSICA HENTOFF:

Jessica Hentoff is artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. Jessica has been teaching and performing circus arts for over 40 years, using circus arts to motivate social change. It is both an arts education and a youth development organization. They believe that circus teaches the art of life- while children are learning circus arts, they are also learning life skills like focus, persistence, teamwork.

Jessica’s remarkable vision and use of circus arts to build character and community has brought about ground-breaking and bridge-building programs such as Circus Salaam Shalom, which brought together Jewish and Muslim children, Far East Meets Midwest, which combined Asian and Midwestern arts and artists and Peace Through Pyramids, which has brought together young people from around the world. These trademarks of Circus Harmony are the embodiment of the organization’s mission to help children “defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time.”

Circus Harmony serves as a model social circus for programs around the world. They were part of a national study by the Weikart Center that found their impact on the development of social and emotional skills exemplary. They believe this is due to the powerful role peer mentoring plays in their program.

Jessica had been named both St. Louis Arts Innovator of the Year and Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year. She was honored to be the first person to receive the American Youth Circus Organization/ American Circus Educators’ Excellence in Circus Education Award. In 2019, Circus Harmony was the recipient of the Missouri Arts Award for Arts Education.


First awarded in 2017, the Youth Development Practitioner Award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Evaluation Criteria includes:

  • 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.

Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


December #WePlayChat: Play With Toys – Holiday Edition

Join us on Twitter Wednesday, December 16 at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT for the next installment of our monthly #WePlayChat.  We are honored to welcome Dr. Laura Zimmerman from the Tech Play Collaborative to the main stage to discuss “Play with Toys: Holiday Edition.”

Laura Zimmermann, Ph.D., is the Founder and President of Tech Play Collaborative which supports positive child outcomes through partnerships with industry and academia. Dr. Zimmermann has over 10 years of expertise in child development, play, and media. She consults with children’s media developers, toy designers, education policy institutes, and research organizations. Previously, Dr. Zimmermann was an Institute of Education Sciences Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Child’s Play, Learning, and Development Lab at the University of Delaware. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Georgetown University. She is excited to explore collaborations to support children’s learning through play.  You can follow Tech Play Collaborative via Twitter @TechPlayCollab.

Here are the questions we will be covering during this #WePlayChat:

Q1. What was your favorite childhood toy?

Q2. What are the benefits of toy play over the holidays?

Q3. What will you look for when picking toys for children this holiday season?

Q4. How can we use toys to augment video chat with kids we cannot see over the holidays? 

How can you participate in #WePlayChat?

Want to join the global conversation around the value of play!?  When it is time for the chat, login to Twitter, and search for the hashtag #WePlayChat and follow along on the “Latest” tab.  Feel free to like, reply, and retweet. Just be sure to include the hashtag #WePlayChat so your input is part of the feed!
____________________________________________________________________________________

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the field of play. Launched in 2016, it is the longest-running monthly play-based chat in the world.

Our #WePlayChat participants come from 33 countries, spanning multiple continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers, and experts from across the globe.

Learn more about #WePlayChat online by clicking here.


US Play Coalition Announces 2020 Award Winners

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce the 2020 recipients of its annual awards program, recognizing outstanding play research and youth practitioners.

First awarded in 2017, our awards program honors exceptional play researchers that have made significant contributions to the knowledge of play and practitioners that help further play in their communities and beyond.

 

2020 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research Winner – Stuart Brown, MD
The US Play Coalition recognizes a play researcher each year for exceptional research in the field of play.  The award honors its namesake, Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy. Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the organization’s beginning in 2009.

Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, Dr. Stuart Brown first recognized the importance of play by discovering its absence in the life stories of murders and felony drunken drivers. He is founder and president of the National Institute for Play. Dr. Brown’s book: Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul has been translated into twelve languages.

Dr. Brown’s years of clinical practice and review of over 6000 personal play histories affirmed the importance and need for healthy play throughout the human life cycle.

His independent scholarship and exploration of the evolution and neuroscience of human and animal play have led to the establishment of the National Institute for Play. The mission of the National Institute for Play (NIFP) is to bring the unrealized knowledge, practices and benefits of play into public life.

Dr. Brown co-teaches “From Play to Innovation” at the Hasso Plattner School of Design at Stanford University, and is the “Key Strategist” for the Nevada Medical Center’s Global Play Science Institute.  He continues to produce regular creative scholarly contributions and enjoys other international corporate and academic consulting on play and its many contributions through their engagement with it, as it enhances overall human well-being.  As the information base about play grows, it is evident that play is a public health necessity.  Our species, Brown says, “is built for play, and built by play.”

 

2020 Youth Learning Institute’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Winner – Jessica Hentoff
Jessica Hentoff was recognized by the U.S. Play Coalition and Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.

Jessica Hentoff is artistic/executive director of Circus Harmony in St. Louis. Jessica has been teaching and performing circus arts for over 40 years, using circus arts to motivate social change. It is both an arts education and a youth development organization. They believe that circus teaches the art of life- while children are learning circus arts, they are also learning life skills like focus, persistence, teamwork.

Since its inception in 2001, Circus Harmony has gone from ten students to over 1300 students and from presenting 40 shows a year to over 500 shows a year. They have developed youth circus troupes which consist of Jewish, Christian, Caucasian, Hispanic, African American and Asian children from inner city and suburban areas throughout St. Louis. In 2007, they started their first Peace Through Pyramids partnership with the Galilee Circus— a Jewish/Arab youth circus from Israel! In 2015, they brought their Peace Through Pyramids program to Ferguson and have now expanded to five other communities and Puerto Rico!

Circus Harmony serves as a model social circus for programs around the world. They were part of a national study by the Weikart Center that found their impact on the development of social and emotional skills exemplary. They believe this is due to the powerful role peer mentoring plays in their program.

Jessica had been named both St. Louis Arts Innovator of the Year and Outstanding Arts Educator of the Year. She was honored to be the first person to receive the American Youth Circus Organization/ American Circus Educators’ Excellence in Circus Education Award. In 2019, Circus Harmony was the recipient of the Missouri Arts Award for Arts Education.


Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


November 30 #WePlayChat: Playing Through A Pandemic

Join us on Twitter Monday, November 30 at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT for the next installment of our monthly #WePlayChat.  We are honored to welcome Meghan Talarowski to the main stage to discuss the topic, “Playing Through A Pandemic”.

Meghan is the founder and executive director of Studio Ludo. She has degrees in architecture and landscape architecture, almost 20 years of experience in the design field, and is a certified playground safety inspector. Her work has been featured by The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, Curbed, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and World Landscape Architecture Magazine. She is a steering committee member for the US Play Coalition and a board member for Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse. You can follow Meghan via Twitter @_studio_ludo.

Here are the questions we will be covering during this #WePlayChat:

Q1. How do we use play to spread joy, not the virus?

Q2. How can play support kids and caregivers during the pandemic?

Q3. How do we play together in times of social isolation?

Q4: What is your favorite way to play?

How can you participate in #WePlayChat?

Want to join the global conversation around the value of play!?  When it is time for the chat, login to Twitter, and search for the hashtag #WePlayChat and follow along on the “Latest” tab.  Feel free to like, reply, and retweet. Just be sure to include the hashtag #WePlayChat so your input is part of the feed!
____________________________________________________________________________________

#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the field of play. Launched in 2016, it is the longest-running monthly play-based chat in the world.

Our #WePlayChat participants come from 33 countries, spanning multiple continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers, and experts from across the globe.

Learn more about #WePlayChat online by clicking here.


US Play Coalition Announces 2020/2021 Action & Research Grant Winners

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce the 2020/2021 recipients of its annual grants program, recognizing exceptional researchers, practitioners and play projects.

Play is important for people of all ages to be physically active, mentally alert, creative, and socially connected. Over the past decade, the US Play Coalition has been proud to have awarded $64,000 in action and research grants to a variety of projects. These investments have helped foster the continued growth of both a body of knowledge and community-focused play experiences that benefit thousands of people of all ages and abilities.

2020/2021 Action Grant Winners

Three $1,000 action grants are providing needed funding for projects that are facilitating play in specific communities and across the country.

Simone Chin, Ph.D., and Susan Caruso of Sunflower Creative Arts received the inaugural Joan Almon Legacy Action Grant, sponsored by Alliance for Childhood.  The action grant funds will support their project “No, They’re Not Too Old to Play! Bringing Loose Parts Play to South Florida Middle Schoolers.”  It is a Build & Play program for adolescents (ages 11-14) from South Florida’s economically challenged, underserved or vulnerable African American, Caribbean- American, and Hispanic population. Build & Play invites children to create, invent and build using their imagination and loose parts.

Ariana Brazier, CEO and co-founder of ATL Parent Like a Boss in Atlanta, was awarded an Action Grant for a Parent Lab PLAY DAY Series that aims to actively engage Black families and families of color, particularly from poor and low-income communities as well as teachers, school administrators and any individuals and/or groups who serve in their focus community.   The Parent LAB PLAY DAY Series engages participants in interactive games designed to connect the active body to brain development, and thus enhance cognitive learning experiences.  They use physically interactive games in and through our PLAY DAY Series to celebrate and promote opportunities for Black cultural expression.

Angela Kyle, Co-Founder/ Executive Director of PlayBuild in New Orleans, was awarded an Action Grant for her initiative “Super-Powering Play:  Mobilizing PlayBuild’s Volunteer Community Board as Play Ambassadors.”  The PlayBuild Community Board is a grass-roots volunteer network of committed and passionate community residents who manage the day-to-day operations and programmatic activities of the organization.  Established in the summer of 2019 the Community Board is the connective tissue between the organization and the Central City neighborhood where we work.   The Community Board members have no formal training in child development, education, or design disciplines, however, they have shown enthusiasm and willingness to acquire the skills and training that will make them more effective brand ambassadors for PlayBuild’s work.

2020/2021 Research Seed Grant Award Winner

William Massey, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at Oregon State University, received this year’s $3,000 Research Seed Grant Award for his project, “The recess initiative: A participatory action approach to increasing physical activity and self-regulation through recess in elementary schools.”

Dr. Massey’s line of research focuses on the intersection of play, physical activity, and child development. His current line of research is dedicated to understanding how recess quality impacts healthy development in elementary school-aged children.

Working through the OSU Psychosocial PhysicaL ActivitY (2PLAY) Lab, Massey says the overall purpose of the proposed study is to test the feasibility of a multi-component recess intervention to increase physical activity and self-regulation in elementary school children. In considering conditions in which recess might promote positive child-level outcomes, they are also examining the quality of the recess environment.


Founded in 2009, the U.S. Play Coalition is an international network of individuals and organizations that promote the value of play throughout life. The coalition is housed in Clemson University’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management department, part of the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.  Our membership comes from a cross-section of industries and professions – play researchers, educators, park and recreation professionals, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians, parents and more.  Learn more at usplaycoalition.org


“PLAY and Early Childhood” ONLINE Institute Available Through 12/30

The US Play Coalition and the Institute for Child Success are thrilled to present the recordings and materials from the “PLAY and Early Childhood” ONLINE Institute, a unique early childhood professional development program presented live on Zoom on October 3, 2020.

AVAILABLE ONLY THROUGH DECEMBER 30, 2020.

Presentations included with this 6-hour institute:

Workshop 1 – “Voices for Play: Advocating for Active Play”
Amity Buckner, M. Ed., Director, Pickens County Office of First Steps

Workshop 2 – “Integrating Play and STEAM Teaching into Early Childhood Classrooms”
Amanda Bennett, M.Ed., ABD, Lecturer in Child Development, College of Education, Clemson University

Workshop 3 – “Strategies for Supporting Preschool Children Who Have Experienced Trauma”
Jill C. Shelnut, Ph.D., Lecturer in Early Childhood Education, Clemson University
Jennifer Geddes Hall, Ph.D., LPC, ACS, RPT, Assistant Clinical Professor, College of Education, Clemson University

Workshop 4 – “Play and the Reggio Emilia Approach”
Dee Stegelin, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, Clemson University & Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success

Workshop 5 – “Children Think Better on Their Feet Than in Their Seat”
Mary Mackenzie, M.Ed., United Kingdom, Senior Fellow, Institute for Child Success

Workshop 6 – “Playing with Vivian Paley’s Storytelling and Story Acting Approach”
Debora Wisneski, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Omaha


Registration Fee for the PLAY and Early Childhood ONLINE Institute

$30.00/person
$125 for groups of 5-10 from the same school or center*
*Please email us to get this rate or inquire about rates for groups larger than 10.


VIDEO: Panel Discusses Engaging State Policymakers with Outdoor Play

The Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook is a joint effort of the Children and Nature Network, the Meridian Institute, National Caucus of Environmental Legislators, Outdoor Alliance for Kids and North American Association of Environmental Education.

As part of the 2020 Online Conference on the Value of Play, representatives of each organization (detailed below) discussed the Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook, a tool to empower grassroots and grasstops leaders and educate state legislators on the value of outdoor engagement and play – with an aim to work together to pass legislation to give more youth and families more outdoor opportunities.

Panelists include:

Watch the full video of the panel presentation recorded live on Zoom, April 24, 2020: “Engaging State Policymakers with Outdoor Play: Youth Outdoor Policy Playbook”
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The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together 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 U.S. and beyond. The three day event has been moved ONLINE for 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is our first-ever online Play Conference! Learn more at usplaycoalition.org/playconference2020