The US Play Coalition is pleased to announce a new resource for play fans everywhere – PlayGrounding Podcast.
PlayGrounding is about the power of play and what it means to live a play-inspired life. Not just the “blow off some steam” kind of play, but the kind that can sharpen your mind, make you more creative and help you move from discontentment toward fulfillment.
Host Kara Stewart Fortier launched the podcast on a quest to learn about the many facets of play. While on her quest, she discovered the US Play Coalition in late 2016. Fortier reached out to learn more, interviewing Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey in January…and the relationship took off. She attended the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play and was inspired. Since the conference, many of her podcast guests have been Play Conference speakers and play ambassadors.
“Kara and The PlayGrounding Podcast provide a new take on the world of play – approaching it as an adult looking to reclaim and re-explore what she had in her youth. Adding the podcast to the Play Coalition portfolio of resources helps us to further our mission to promote play throughout life. Kara’s is a unique voice for play,” says Stephanie Garst, executive director for the US Play Coalition.
“I found my people!” says Fortier of the US Play Coalition. “I’m so grateful to the US Play Coalition for teaching me so much about the value of play. I’m excited to see where this partnership adventure leads!”
So check out our latest play resource, PlayGrounding Podcast. As her site says, “And after hearing what many of the PlayGrounding Podcast guests have to say, you’ll start to realize that play is as important to our physical and mental health as sleep, exercise and good nutrition.”
Join us Friday, July 28th at 3:00pm EST as we welcome Matt Leung to our #WePlayChat on “The Role of the Adult for Children’s Play.”
Matt Leung has spent over 10 years working with children and youth in the recreation sector. Matt is a Master Trainer with DANCEPL3Y, and the original Play Ambassador at Vivo for Healthier Generations, a local recreation centre in Calgary. Matt has facilitated play-FULL trainings and workshops across Canada and leading up to the 2017 International Play Association conference being held in Calgary, he sits on the steering committee for YYCPlays, a committee of professionals invested in building Calgary’s capacity for play.
Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:
1. What is the role of an adult in children’s play?
2. How can adults best support the child’s right to play?
3. Where do adults have the most influence on a child’s play?
4. What are some great examples you’ve seen of positive adult impact on play?
#WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. Launched in 2016, our #WePlayChat participants come from 7 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY. We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat. We have our chats 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 across the globe.
This summer we are launching a blog series by our new Play Ambassadors. Enjoy the first installment by Brian VanDongen
July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and this year’s theme is “Get Your Play On.” I think this is a perfect theme. Parks provide a great place to play, and recreation departments should embrace that and market their parks to their residents and to the public at large. As a parks and recreation professional, I want people to use our parks. They are a place to relax, a place to get exercise, a place to explore, a place to enjoy the fresh air, and, most importantly, a place to play. But is it possible to just “play?”
The word is getting out about play and its benefits.
1. Play provides much needed physical activity and helps children build healthy bodies. By participating in physical activity and play, children can get valuable time improving their cardiorespiratory system, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and bone strength. Active play can help children reach the CDC-recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity and help them become physically literate and healthy.
2. Play helps build creativity and imagination. When children play, objects take on new forms. A frisbee may become a UFO, pots and pans become a drum set, a log becomes a boat. These “loose parts” are what makes play great and help children build creativity and imagination. Children also take on various roles, from firefighter to superhero to baseball player when they play, sometimes all within the same play time!
3. Play advances social skills. Children playing with building blocks together learn teamwork. When kids disagree about who will use the green soccer ball or who will be the goalie, they are learning how to settle disagreements and compromise.
The benefits I mentioned about play are generally well-accepted as the cornerstone benefits. Of course, there are many more — countless more — benefits that I could discuss. When we talk about the benefits of play, however, most of them are focused on free play. In my opinion, this type of play gets phased out as we age. Free play turns into competitive play.
Play turns into having rules, formalized goals, and a point system. Teams (or individuals) compete against one another to win. Free play is reduced or eliminated and turns completely into a sport. Now I’m not saying that sports are bad or that as children get older that they and adults should not participate in sports. There are a great number of benefits — physically and socially — that children and adults derive from sports participation.
But this competitive way of thinking eliminates “free play.” It limits the imagination. It limits creativity.
It is a happy talent to know how to play. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sometimes older children need to slide down a slide, toss a football around, or hop on rocks across a river without an end goal. Just to do it. Just to play. I know it can be hard. As a golfer, I want to keep score every round; I want to know how well (or poorly) I played. I crave that number at the end. But sometimes you get so caught in trying to win, that you forget why you started in the first place. You forget how to let loose and just play. There are benefits of play for adults too. Some mirroring the benefits for children: social interaction, creativity building, and physical activity. However, some benefits pertain just to adults and older children including stress reduction and improved cognitive function (especially imporant in older adults).
Societal conventions and stereotypes need to be proven false. Adults and older kids can swing on a swing set, climb across the monkey bars, or build a sandcastle. It is possible to just play. We all can “Get Our Play On” this Parks & Recreation Month — and every month. But in an almost counterintutitive way, as we get older we have to try harder to not try and to just play.
Featured Image: Happy Max by makelessnoise CC BY 2.0
Meet Play Ambassador/Guest Blogger Brian VanDongen
Brian is a parks and recreation professional in Hillsborough Township (N.J.). Through his experiences working in parks and recreation and studies in Exercise Science and Physical Education as well as Sport and Exercise Psychology, Brian has observed and learned many things in community recreation and youth sports. Brian believes that all children deserve to have a positive and fun youth sport experience regardless of ability. Also, all children and adults should have access to high quality recreation programming and parks providing passive and active recreational opportunities to lead a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle. He has a regular blog called The First Quarter. Brian joined the Play Ambassador team in 2016.
Photo or Character from a greeting card (optional)
Large eraser or hand towel (folded)
Tape or glue
Crayons, markers, stickers, etc. (optional)
Create the skateboard deck using the plain side of the cereal box by drawing an elongated oval. (Approximately 5-6 inches long and 2-2½ inches wide.) Cut out the deck and decorate it.
Note: It is your skateboard so you can make any shape you want.
Cut a drinking straw into two 2-inch pieces. On the underside of the deck tape these pieces; one up towards the front and the other towards the back. (These will hold the skewer axles.) Set aside.
Axles & Wheels:
Prepare all four wheels by poking holes in each of the four plastic caps. To do this, place the eraser or multi-folded hand towel on a flat surface. Place the plastic cap with open side down on the eraser/towel. Identify the exact center of the cap. Place the point of the skewer at the center and firmly press down until the skewer pierces through the cap and goes into the eraser/cloth. Run the skewer completely through each cap.
Adding the axles & wheels to the deck
Press one cap on the blunt end of the skewer. Slide the skewer through one of the straw bits. Slide a second cap onto the skewer and slide it into position. (This should be on the other side of the skateboard deck.) SNAP the skewer close to the second wheel. Repeat process for the other axle and wheels.
Be sure to adjust the wheels to make sure they do not rub against the deck.
Adding the skater
To add the skateer, cut around the character making sure to leave a ¼”- ½” tab at the bottom. Make a 90o fold in the tab and secure onto the skateboard using glue or tape.
Create a ramp using boards, books, or boxes. See how far you can get your skateboard to go. Challenge friends and family!
Supplies: • Single serving plastic yogurt cup, clean • Length of string or yarn • Hole punch • Aluminum foil (6-inches x 6-inches)
To make: • Punch a hole in the side of the plastic yogurt cup • Thread string/yarn through the hole in the cup and with one end of the string/yarn secure with a knot. • Place the other end in the middle of the square of foil. Crumple foil to form a ball. The ball can be rolled on a flat surface to make it smoother. o If using a wooden bead, thread the other end of the string/yarn through the bead; secure with a knot.
To play: Hold the cup in one hand, letting the ball on the string dangle below. Using only the hand holding the cup, flip the ball up and into the cup. Find the best strategy for getting the ball into the cup every time.
The U.S. Play Coalition established an awards program recognizing outstanding play research and youth practitioners at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play. This new awards program will honor exceptional individuals each year. The winners will not only receive a physical award, but also have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.
Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research
The inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to its namesake – Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy. The award recognizes a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.
“Joe Frost has been an influencer for our organization’s work as well as for the world of play,” said Stephanie Garst, executive director of the U.S. Play Coalition. “The creation of this award is a fitting tribute.”
Frost is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is known across the world for his more than 30 years of work on early childhood and children’s play environments. Past president of both the Association for Childhood Education International and International Play Association/USA, he is the author or co-author of 18 books and numerous publications and has also served as a consultant for playgrounds worldwide.
Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the coalition’s beginning in 2009. He served as a keynote speaker that year at the coalition’s first conference – then called the Summit on the Value of Play –and has been an honorary chair for each successive conference.
YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award
The U.S. Play Coalition also teamed with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute to present the first-ever Youth Development Practitioner Award. The award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services.
“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.
The inaugural award went to Dan Mathews, chief operating officer at Camp Twin Lakes, a Georgia-based organization that provides camp experiences for children with serious illnesses, disabilities and other life challenges. According to his nomination, Dan is “a champion for all youth using play as the center of his outstanding leadership and tireless efforts in furthering development, access, and professionalism of the field of youth-development…He is an excellent standard bearer for the inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award.”
Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $47,000 in funding to date. At the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play the new grant winners were announced. The review process was challenging as we had a record number of outstanding submissions this year.
Each year a $3,000 research seed grant is awarded to a researcher or group of researchers who present empirical research at the play conference 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 2017 Research Seed Grant was awarded to Shan Jiang, PhD, from West Virginia University for her project, “Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment.”
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. This year we had two partners supporting our action grants, IPA-USA and Partners for Parks. We also had funding from our Giving TuesPLAY initiative.
There were three projects that each received a 2017 Action Grant: – Britt Stetson for Harper’s Playground at Arbor Lodge Park, a playground for children of all abilities in in Portland, Ore.
– Debora Wisneski and Miriam Kuhn for “Building a Community of PLAY Through an Interdisciplinary University Collaborative” at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
– Gregory Manley from City of Play in Pittsburgh, Penn., for Ludovia, a weekly class for young professionals and working-class minorities to foster play through physical, emotional and social communication.
HAPPY SPRING! Celebrate spring with a family walk. Enjoy the colors and sounds as they unfold with the increasingly warmer weather. As you walk challenge one another to a Number Hunt. As the saying goes, “The family that plays together, stays together.”
Number Hunt can be played anywhere and it doesn’t require any additional supplies. To play, carefully look at your surroundings and find one of something. The first person to shout it out earns one point. For example, “I see one dog!” Next, look for two of something, such as “I see two brown birds at the feeder!” Now search for a quantity of three … and so on. At the end of the walk the person who has earned the most points gets to choose the next game or activity.
A sister game to Number Hunt is Numeral Hunt. The object of this game is to find the numerals starting with zero or one, your choice.
PlayCore’s Center for Professional Development is uniquely committed to sound research and best practices to advance play and recreation through programs, publications, continuing education, and advocacy. Their unparalleled network of esteemed scholars provides them with the validated research to compose best practice resources and help inform the design of products created by their brands, like GameTime. With their National Demonstration Site program, PlayCore recognizes communities for designing spaces using best practices outlined in the research.
The National Demonstration Site program was created to recognize thoughtfully planned outdoor environments that ensure people can be physically and socially active through play and recreation. Communities are recognized in a number of ways, including an online map, and the positive attention gained can attract additional partners, funding, and serve as a model environment for others to replicate and share. With a total of five National Demonstration Site programs for inclusive play, nature play, playful pathways, youth fitness, and adult fitness, PlayCore and GameTime are helping communities get the recognition and exposure they so richly deserve.
GameTime’s inclusive parks at Hugh Mac Rae Park in Wilmington, NC and Havens Gardens Park in Washington, NC are two of many parks being recognized as a National Demonstration Sites for following research-based best practice principles in inclusive design.
Research also informs many product designs, like the Expression Swing, the only swing where parent and child can swing together in complete attunement.