2022 Summer Blog Series – Making Space for Play

Summer Blog Series
Play and Design #1

Making Space for Play

In 2015, my family was transferred to London. We packed up ourselves, our one-year-old, our two cats, and embarked on an adventure in a new city for six months. Knowing no one, and with little guidance on how to transition from full-time career to full-time caretaker, I started researching my options.

Luckily for us, London is a city designed for families. There are black cabs with seats that fold up so you can push a stroller straight inside, plentiful buses and trains with priority seating, rooms in all public buildings for changing and feeding, well-designed and maintained playgrounds within walking distance of most residents, and my favorite of all, children’s centers in every neighborhood.

At that time, the British government believed strongly in supporting not only children, but also their caregivers. The environment of the city reflected that belief and investment. Things were zoned for us, designed for us, and considered for us. Most playgrounds had cafes, for caffeine and snacks, and restrooms with baby changes in all gendered restrooms. The children’s centers had structured play times for all ages, and adult support groups with tea and information on children’s development. A key part of that development is play, but the key to great play is happy caregivers that allow it to happen.

Making space for play is not just about creating a place for play to happen. It is about making space within ourselves, giving time and energy, showing children love and support, and engaging with them in a way that allows play to flow freely. But that engagement cannot happen if that caregiver is not filled up themselves. You cannot pour from an empty cup. And far too many caregivers are down to their last drop.

Shortly after returning from London, I started a non-profit, Studio Ludo, with the mission of building better play through research, advocacy, and design. Our studies of play behavior span over 100 play environments in the US and UK and include data on the play habits of over 60,000 people. Our biggest finding is that more than half of people in playgrounds are not children…but teens, adults, and seniors. This resonates with us in a big way. How do we support and bring joy to this undesigned for half? How do we replicate the types of environments and experiences that I had as a caregiver, helping them to fill their cups and give them space to play?

We believe that everyone deserves a great place to play. And everyone means not just kids, but caregivers too. We design playgrounds with whole families in mind, with restrooms, and benches in the shade, and cafes, along with open-ended scaled-up swings and climbing structures that invite adults in on the fun.

We also know that play can happen anywhere, which is why we recently opened our loose parts play library, the Playbrary, overflowing with art supplies, toys, recyclables, cardboard, games, and other loose materials (think baskets of pez dispensers and rows of typewriters). Interspersed in the fun are comfy chairs, free coffee, and staff trained in play and development, happy to provide some adult conversation or play with your child while you rest.

While this may seem like a little slice of play utopia for the young people in your life, we believe it is essential for the grownups too. Caregivers deserve care. They are in the trenches, raising a generation on very little sleep and reheated coffee. Let’s make space for them. They are deserving of all the praise…and maybe a little play too.

 


About the Author: Meghan Talarowski is the Founder and Executive Director of Studio Ludo. Meghan believes that play environments in the United States can, and should, be better. She has degrees in architecture and landscape architecture, almost 20 years of experience in the design field, is a licensed landscape architect, and a certified playground safety inspector. Her research focuses on how the design of play environments impacts physical health and social behavior of children and caregivers. She has presented at TEDx Philadelphia, ASLA, AIA, IPA, the US Play Coalition, and Child in the City. She was a winner in the 2016 international Play Space design competition, a winner in the 2016 Kaboom Play Everywhere Challenge, and a finalist for two projects in the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge. She is a member of the steering committee for the US Play Coalition and a member of the board for Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2022 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts; Liz McChesney and Meghan Talarowski. Our experts will be sharing blog posts with you throughout the months of July and August.


Earn up to 9 credits with Online LACES Play Series through Aug 10

For our landscape architect friends, we are excited to announce the REBOOT of our Online LACES Play Series!  Earn up to 9 LACES credits online and ON DEMAND through August 10, 2022.

Thank you to our partner – the South Carolina Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects. These fine folks work hard to ensure we can provide LACES CEUs for the relevant conference sessions. Glad to have you on our Play Team, ASLA-SC!

Check out the list of LACES approved sessions:

  • “All Ages, All Abilities, All the Time” – Jill Moore White
    Parks today face the challenge of providing environments where all visitors can feel safe, secure and fully engaged. Universal design increases usability, safety, health and social participation. In this presentation, participants will discover how applying the principles of universal design ultimately contribute to social equity and social sustainability in parks.
  • “Designing Everyday Spaces for Children” – Shweta Nanekar, PLA, LEED AP (BD+C)
    How do we modify current approaches to the design of everyday spaces to make them more child-friendly? Available literature on child-friendly environments is reviewed to identify empirical research and project examples that can help designers and planners to create spaces that cater to the “Whole Child.”
  • “Future of Play: Technology Integration” – David Flanigan, CPSI
    We all know that kids are spending countless hours in front of a screen, not only for gaming and social media, but due to COVID, many kids are attending school virtually. What will the future be like for kids if they are addicted to their screens and don’t want to go outside and play?
  • “Healthy Communities, Parks and Splashpads” – Sarah Shepherd
    As demographics, inclusiveness and health concerns evolve, aging facilities need to step up their game to keep communities engaged and active.  Explore effective community infrastructure through the lens of aquatic play. Discover how Splashpads increase park usage, promote inclusion and build social capital that help communities grow and flourish.
  • “The Importance of Failure in Play” – Melinda Pearson
    Failure is an inevitable part of life. By creating play spaces that push boundaries in thinking and stretch the limitations of our bodies we create a safe play to explore our failures and learn great things about our growing selves and our budding potential in the process.
  • “Inclusive Playground Design:  A Case Study of Three New England Playgrounds” – Ingrid Kanics
    This presentation will share the research results of interviews with parents of children of all abilities around the design of three New England Inclusive Playgrounds. We will share what design features they feel make a playground inclusive and how these playgrounds impact the life of their communities, families and children.
  • “Making Connections: People, Places, and Physical Activity” – Ines Palacios, PhD
    Discover planning and design considerations to increase community connectivity, offer more enjoyable ways to be physically active outdoors, and create multigenerational destinations that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Effectively champion and advocate for solutions to provide more affordable, accessible ways to activate healthy lifestyles and increase economic vitality.
  • “National Study of Playgrounds (2020)” plus a 2022 update! – Meghan Talarowski, MLA, CPSI, and Deborah A. Cohen, MD
    The National Study of Playgrounds (NSP), a joint research project of Studio Ludo and Dr. Deborah Cohen, is the first observational study of playgrounds to compare the impacts of playground design on play behavior and physical activity across gender, age group, and socio-economic status.
  • “Prototyping: Play Applied” – Aaron Goldblatt, Dana Schloss, Meghan Talarowski, Christopher Kircher
    Designers of all stripes occasionally use prototyping to test ideas and physical realities. This discussion advocates for moving the act from occasional to central to a practice and to understand it as an act of play. Designing through joyful exploration makes better spaces for everyone.

The LACES series is part of the online reboot of the 2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY.


Earn up to 9 LACES credits!  Register for the Online LACES Series for ON DEMAND access through August 10, 2022.  (This will actually give you access to all of the content from the 2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY!)

If you are already registered for the 2022 Play Conference Online Reboot, please reach out to us at usplaycoalition@clemson.edu for access to the session assessments.


The U.S. Play Coalition
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


2022 Summer Blog Series – True Play and Literacy Connect at the Library

Summer Blog Series
Libraries & PLAY #1

True Play and Literacy Connect at the Library

Public Libraries across the country are pursuing play as a critical pathway to learning. Connecting play to the mission of the public library is just one of the many ways public libraries are moving beyond the bricks and mortar repository of books and into an active laboratory of experiential learning. This approach emphasizes risk-taking, problem-solving, and the four critical 21st Century Skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. True Play is one of the most compelling forms of play in public libraries.

The idea of True Play—embracing the child’s deep and uninterrupted engagement in the activities of their choice— was developed by educator Ms. Chen Queqin in the public early childhood programs of Anji County, China. Anji Play, Ms. Cheng’s approach to early childhood education centers around five fundamental principles: love, risk, joy, engagement, and reflection. This philosophy asserts the right to True Play is essential to every child and profoundly respects the capacity of the individual child to play and work with others. Programs that embrace this approach provide children with large and open-ended materials like ladders, tires, and planks to play with as they wish. Educators, including librarians, follow this philosophy and seek to create “spaces of love” where materials, the environment, and adult decision-making all respond to children’s needs and abilities, particularly their need to play without adult guidance, direction, or interruption. For that reason, educators who put this philosophy into practice observe children playing with the adults “hands down, mouth shut, and ears, eyes and heart open to discover the true child.” This approach allows children to take authentic risks, including physical, emotional, social, and intellectual challenges, to experience joy and maintain meaningful and authentic engagement.

The Madison Public Library has pioneered this critical form of play in community-based settings at its “Wild Rumpus” events. True Play events come from years of research, visits to Anji County in China, and the creativity of librarian Carissa Christner and the Madison Public Library team who has worked to bring these events to life at her library.

Says Carissa, “learning happens when you can explore something interesting to you at your own pace and time. For us, this was a meaningful connection to the five practices of Early Literacy: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, and Play.” At Madison Public Library, finding meaningful intersections in how people learn while respecting individual diversity is critical. Carissa says: “Play is the most universal and accessible early literacy practice for a diverse community of learners. True Play is critical to our equity efforts.” Holly Storck-Post at Madison PL is thinking about how to develop elements of True Play inside the library that will be meaningful for babies and toddlers. She is helping to establish Play Labs which combine aspects of Anji Play into spaces for the youngest library users. “Creating open-ended experiences inside the library for our youngest children helps us make our spaces accessible to the entire community.”

True play is offered in libraries across the country, including Washington State where Kitsap Regional Library Director Jason Driver says, “approaching play from a place of true respect for the child and the child’s learning is at the heart of this approach and critical for its success.” In Kitsap, True Play Jamborees are planned to “develop early problem-solving, risk-assessment, and collaboration skills, all while having a blast.” Says “Emmon Rogers, Youth Services Librarian: “during COVID, kids have had limited social and learning connections. We wanted to tap into play to develop kids’ ability to form social bonds and take physical and social risks, all necessary for healthy human development and learning. Anji Play allows us to build all these skills and helps develop critical social networks that have gone missing these past two years.” Also critical to COVID recovery is helping parents and caregivers relearn how to stay flexible and allow chi

ldren to learn alternate paths to problem-solving. “COVID meant that only one pathway or tap root to social stability and learning was formed for kids,” says Emmon. “That was the family. At the height of COVID, our library’s greatest response was meeting basic needs like food. Now our greatest mission is fostering basic human social needs like connection, autonomy, agency, and social bonds.” Another aspect critical to the process of Anji Play is reflection. Reflection allows a child to close the learning cycle through digesting and understanding the play and its effects. Play stories are integral to the play process and can include dictation, writing or drawing the child’s stories, and photography or videography. Key to literacy development, the Play Stories develop numeracy, sequencing, vocabulary, inventive spelling, and narrative description. Professor Rebekah Willett, University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool, and an observer of Madison Public Library’s True Play “The reflective component of Anji Play helps solidify some of the cognitive work that happens during play – both for the children and the parents. By pausing to observe and record play, participants can make explicit some of the implicit learning that happens during Anji Play.”

Bryan Wunar, CEO of Discovery World Science Museum in Milwaukee, WI, and noted STEM educator agrees: “Reflection allows learners to make meaning, analyze their actions and codify their learning. The type of reflection in True Play is also the habit of good STEM learners.” Reflection closes the learning cycle, and this process of Anji Play mirrors the Habits of Mind of a successful 21st Century learner. While True Play has many benefits for a growing learner, it is also a source of joy. Joy comes from risk-taking, problem-solving, working together, and being “in the flow.” Joy is intrinsic to learning and growing up to be a happy and well-adjusted person. Greg Mickells, CEO of Madison Public Library, may say it best: “True Play contains many elements fundamental to learning, including critical thinking, risk, and curiosity; but what I have witnessed with Anji Play is how important joy is to literacy. Having an opportunity that brings joy to learning should be an experience for all children.”

 


About the Author: Liz McChesney served as the Chicago Public Library Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement, where she earned numerous national awards, including the American Library Service to Children Distinguished Services Recipient. She now serves as the Community Partnerships Consultant to the Laundry Cares Foundation, where she helps build early learning in everyday spaces such as laundromats, WIC Centers, and family courts. She additionally serves as a Senior Advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and is a Senior Fellow at the National Summer Learning Association. In all these roles, play is at the center of her work. She has two books with the American Library Association, Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count (2017) and Pairing STEAM with Stories (2019). Her first picture book, Keke’s Super Strong Double Hugs, was published in 2020 and her forthcoming book, The Path Forward: Serving Children Equitably is forthcoming.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2022 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts; Liz McChesney and Meghan Talarowski. Our experts will be sharing blog posts with you throughout the months of July and August.


2022 Summer Blog Series – Wash, Spin, and Play at the Laundromat

Summer Blog Series – Libraries & PLAY #2

“Wash, Spin, and Play at the Laundromat”

Wash, spin, and…play? You may not think it, but all types of meaningful play are ‘bubbling up’ in the everyday space of laundromats. All across the country, local laundromats are teaming up to offer early learning through play in their facilities. The Laundry Cares Foundation, in partnership with the Too Small To Fail Initiative of the Clinton Foundation, supports this initiative to bring play to everyday spaces. The goal of the Laundry Literacy project is to bring transformed spaces, high-quality play materials, and beautiful children’s books along with trusted messengers from the community. Offering this to children who have a long dwell time during laundromat visits, a mundane yet essential family chore, allows for playful learning opportunities. “A core strategy of Too Small to Fail has been to transform everyday places into playful, literacy-rich environments that would delight and captivate children and provide support for their parents as well,” said Jane Park. Families typically spend about two hours at their local laundromat each week and return on a weekly cycle. “We see that the laundromat provides a critical space for families to continue their learning,” says Brian Wallace, CEO of the Coin Laundry Association. “Through Laundry Cares Foundation, we are transforming our space and outcomes for community kids. Play is essential to that effort,” Wallace continues. Literacy experts agree: “We know that play is learning; bringing play together with other early literacy initiatives and into everyday spaces is an impactful way to meet the needs of our communities,” says Brian Bannon, The Merryl and James Tisch Director at the New York Public Library where he oversees educational initiatives. Partnerships with public libraries to provide story times, open play, and play-based learning opportunities is an essential element of this work. The New York Public Library
has been fundamental in bringing early literacy activities to area laundromats.

Over 200 laundromats across the country have transformed empty corners or unused areas of their stores by installing a highly curated ‘kit of parts’ called the Family Read, Play, and Learn spaces. These spaces contain a child’s table and chairs, a small couch for a parent and child to read or play together, and many fun ways to learn and play. “Providing high-quality materials that encourage open play and exploration in a transformed space is essential for a lasting impact,” says Marisa Conner, Early Childhood Consultant to Too Small To Fail. Blocks, puppets, building shapes, magnetic letters, and a play washing machine are all a part of these installations and serve to increase child engagement and instances of play in the space. In fact, pre-eminent early literacy researcher Dr. Susan Neuman of New York University has been researching this project for over five years and has found that transforming the space of the laundromat alone can change outcomes for kids: children were observed engaging in thirty times more literacy activities in laundromats that include the prototype kit compared to laundromats without the kits. “Children are eager and ready to learn,” states Dr. Neuman, “and the laundromat can be a place of immense learning through play, books, and language.”

Ongoing learning initiatives are also rolled out through the participating laundromats. This summer, in partnership with author Sandra Magsamen, the laundromats have been promoting play connected to Sandra’s new book, I Wish Wish Wish For You. This is a national summer learning initiative of Laundry Cares in partnership with Sandra Magsamen Studios and Source Books Publishing. “This book is about all the dreams we have for our children. This is a critical time for us all to wish for our children and to hear and understand our children’s wishes for the world,” said Sandra as she launched this book and the World of Wishes Campaign at the National Summer Learning Association last fall. Through bilingual posters placed in participating laundromats, children are guided to build a city using the Read, Play, and Learn Space building blocks. Other prompts encourage children to find a bubble in the washers and make up a story imagining it taking off into the world. Liz Terrell, Early Childhood Consultant for the Laundry Cares project who worked on this national summer initiative, says, “Guiding play around this beautiful book and the environment of the laundromat helps children draw meaning and make connections, which is how children learn and grow.” Additionally, child-directed play in the laundromat is encouraged year-round. This play allows the child to take control of their play, own the ideas, and have power in the process.

In July the Laundry Cares Foundation offered a five-site Free Laundry and Literacy Day throughout metropolitan Atlanta. Free laundry was provided to help families get ready for the start of school and ribbon cuttings occurred in these laundromats’ on five new early learning sites. The day was filled with playful learning as children created their wishes and played with bubbles. “I like to play,” said eight-year-old Tala-hisha, “but sometimes I don’t get to because I have to help my Mom.” The new laundromat space will allow her and her family and other kids just like her time and space to dedicate to play and reading while the wash is spinning.

Other play initiatives in the laundries have included a partnership with Sidewalk Math that allows children a contract-free way to learn mathematical patterns while hopping, skipping, and jumping on math-pattern games placed on the laundromat floor. This was accompanied by a deck of math concept cards which were created by Highlights Children’s Magazine. The cards promote games that draw on math concepts such as shapes, sorting, and counting. The Highlights math decks were distributed to over 5,000 families across the country at the height of COVID. “The laundromat is a great place to learn math,” said Dan Naumann, Executive Vice President of the Laundry Cares Foundation, “Sidewalk math and the early childhood math cards are great examples of how guided play can promote learning in our stores. Laundromat owners know that transformed space is not only good for business, but it’s also good for kids, and that matters to us.” Philadelphia laundromat owner of The Laundry Cafes, Brian Holland, echoes that sentiment by saying, “play is at the heart of equitable learning in our communities. Using our everyday spaces-Laundromats- to help our children and our communities flourish is what matters most.”

For more information on how to bring play to a laundromat near you, please reach out to Liz@Laundrycares.org.


About the Author: Liz McChesney served as the Chicago Public Library Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement, where she earned numerous national awards, including the American Library Service to Children Distinguished Services Recipient. She now serves as the Community Partnerships Consultant to the Laundry Cares Foundation, where she helps build early learning in everyday spaces such as laundromats, WIC Centers, and family courts. She additionally serves as a Senior Advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and is a Senior Fellow at the National Summer Learning Association. In all these roles, play is at the center of her work. She has two books with the American Library Association, Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count (2017) and Pairing STEAM with Stories (2019). Her first picture book, Keke’s Super Strong Double Hugs, was published in 2020 and her forthcoming book, The Path Forward: Serving Children Equitably is forthcoming.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2022 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts; Liz McChesney and Meghan Talarowski. Our experts will be sharing blog posts with you throughout the months of July and August.


VIDEO: Keynote Speaker
Dr. Drew Lanham Shares
“Passion as Playtime —
Why Loving What We
Do Can Save Us”

For our 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY keynote kickoff on April 3, J. Drew Lanham, PhD, shared his PLAY wisdom with his presentation, “Passion as Playtime — Why Loving What We Do Can Save Us.”  It is a powerful message about being re-inspired to play, about claiming our right to play, about play as activism, and about moving play to the position of mainline attention.  IT IS A MUST SEE!

Dr. Lanham is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University.  His published writings — “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature,” “Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts,” and numerous essays and articles — chronicle his experience as a Black man raised in South Carolina with a fascination for wild places and the feathered creatures that inhabit them.


Below is the full recording of the keynote session:

 

This is one of the amazing presentations from the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY – all recorded live earlier this year. Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!  REGISTER FOR THE ONLINE REBOOT!!!!

The 2022 Play Conference ONLINE REBOOT features headliner recordings from the in-person conference PLUS new content, and virtual event opportunities that kickoff on June 29 and continues through July 31, 2022.


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, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, park and recreation professionals, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The  2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY  explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.  The conference features weekly live headliners and networking events, dozens of recorded educational and research presentations and much more.


2022 Health & PLAY Institute at the Conference on the Value of Play

The 2022 Health & PLAY Institute is a special series featuring leading health professionals and researchers from across the country.

Recorded live at the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY, the second annual Health & PLAY Institute (HAPI22) builds on the 2021 inaugural Online Health & PLAY Institute.

This year, the institute examines the synergies between play and health through the lens of the conference theme, THE NATURE OF PLAY. 

Topics include:

  • “The Nature of Play” – Stuart Brown, MD
  • “The Therapeutic Benefit of Nature PLAY an Acute and Chronic Pain” – Michael Suk, MD, JD, MPH, MBA
  • “Pushing Through a Fixed Notion of Play” – Brooke Buckley, MD, FACS
  • “National Study of Playgrounds” – Deborah A. Cohen, MD, MPH & Meghan Talarowski, PLA, ASLA, CPSI
  • “Environmental Determinants of Emotional Intelligence: Role of Nature Play and Greenspace Exposure” – Matthew Browning, PhD
  • …and “Movement Snacks” with Darryl Edwards

Speaker details and Registration information is below.


Meet Our Experts

Michael Suk, MD, JD, MPH, MBA, (Moderator) is a leading advocate on health and nature, outdoor recreation as a gateway to better health, and play for life champion as our 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 his role as a Steering Committee Member for the US Play Coalition, Dr. Suk helped to create the Health and PLAY Consortium that aims to build momentum in exploring and promoting the VALUE of play as a tool for improving health.   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.

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.

Brooke Buckley, MD, FACS, is Chief Medical Officer at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital. She is a 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.

Deborah A. Cohen, MD, MPH, is a Research Scientist for Kaiser Permanente Research and Evaluation.  Dr. Cohen’s work focuses on improving the food environment, so that it promotes moderation and the consumption of healthy foods. She is also investigating how the design of playgrounds can encourage more people to be physically active and whether park prescriptions promote more physical activity.

Meghan Talarowski, PLA, ASLA, CPSI, is Founder and Executive Director of Studio Ludo in Philadelphia.  Meghan believes that play environments in the United States can, and should, be better.  She is a licensed landscape architect and a certified playground safety inspector whose research focuses on how the design of play environments impacts physical health and social behavior of children and caregivers.

Matthew Browning, PhD, is an Assistant Professor and Director of the Virtual Reality and Nature Lab, Clemson University.  His research career encompasses three domains (nature, health, virtual reality) and the intersections between them. Dr. Browning’s research aims to improve human health and well-being through environmental interventions, both physical and simulated.  His collaborative research expands awareness of the protective impact of urban greening on health.  Dr. Browning has published nearly 50 peer-reviewed articles and ranks among the top 15 most productive/cited scholars on nature and health based on PubMed metrics.

Darryl Edwards is the founder of the Primal Play Method® and a physical activity, health and play researcher. The Primal Play Method® fuses the science of evolutionary biology with exercise physiology and play psychology.  Darryl is author of the best-selling book “Animal Moves.”


Registration Information for the 2022 Health and PLAY Institute


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, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, park and recreation professionals, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The  2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY   explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.  The conference features weekly live headliners and networking events, dozens of recorded educational and research presentations and much more.


Play Therapy Forum Coming to the 2022 Play Conference

The US Play Coalition is partnering with the Multicultural Play Therapy Center at UNC Charlotte to offer a Play Therapy Forum, shedding light on the therapeutic power of play. This special series is one of our new Play Forums for the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play.

“There is more evidence now than ever that children need play in order to live healthy lives, and play therapy is improving children’s mental health and overall well-being all over the world,” according to the Association for Play Therapy.

The Play Therapy Forum will help kickoff the conference on Sunday, April 3. Sessions include:

  • Healing from Trauma: Play Therapy Principles for Intergenerational Relationship and Connection
    – Jennifer Geddes Hall, PhD, LPC/S, ACS, RPT and Jill C. Shelnut, PhD
  • Time for a Reboot: Prescribing NaturePlay Therapy for Emotional Wellness for Children, Teens and Families
    – Jamie Lynn Langley, LCSW, RPT-S
  • The Power of Play Therapy – Jessie Guest, PhD
  • Understanding Play Therapy, the Barriers, and How to Break Through for School Counselors!
    – Jill Van Horne, Jill Van Horne, PhD, LCMHC-S, NCPSC, NCC, RPT-S, EAGALA Certified
  • A special poster session by graduate students studying Play Therapy at the University of South Carolina

Register for the full 2022 Play Conference or choose the Play Therapy Forum (Sunday) ONLY/Single Day option for just $75 (includes lunch).

Eligible participants may earn APT and NBCC credits (additional fee required).  Approved Providers:  APT Approved Provider #07-191 and NBCC Approved Provider #4208

 

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, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, park and recreation professionals, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.

Multicultural Play Therapy Center at UNC Charlotte
The mission of the Multicultural Play Therapy Center is to provide educational and supervision experiences for professional therapists in this region to support the emotional growth of children from diverse cultures through the process of play therapy. Play therapy training enables professionals to develop a therapeutic relationship with children aged 2½ – 10 using materials and communication skills that match the developmental needs of the child.  Learn more about our upcoming Multicultural Play Therapy Center Conference


Check out “Libraries, Learning & PLAY” – Postponed to the 2023 Play Conference

UPDATE March 3, 2022
POSTPONED TO 2023 PLAY CONFERENCE

The US Play Coalition is partnering with Let’s Move in Libraries to create “Libraries, Learning & PLAY,” one of our Play Forums for the 2023 Conference on the Value of Play.

“Play is a vital part of lifelong learning, and public libraries are community-based lifelong learning institutions,” says Noah Lenstra, PhD, Director of Let’s Move in Libraries.

“Libraries, Learning & PLAY” will feature exemplars, case studies, best practices, lessons learned and big ideas.  Learn how play is supported in public libraries and consider how to most effectively collaborate with librarians at local, state, and national levels to advance play goals.  Sessions will include topics such as:

  • Museums and Libraries: Closing the Gap!
  • The PlayBrary!
  • Nature Smart Libraries, Outdoor Play, and Learning
  • “Checking out” Play
  • …and more!
Details to come, so stay tuned!

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, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, park and recreation professionals, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.


Sneak Peek of the 2022 IN PERSON Play Conference Sessions

(updated 2/14/22)

Check out this sneak peek of some of the amazing educational and research symposium sessions we have planned for the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY, April 2-6 in Clemson, SC.

Below is an alphabetical list of some of the session titles.
The detailed conference schedule is coming soon!

          

  • AAA Play: Examining Play as The Linchpin to Learning
  • Active Play: What Role Did It Have in Our Evolutionary Past and How Vital Is It for Our Future?
  • Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, Who’s Not Ready Holler Eye
  • Authentic Learning and Play Through Intergenerational Connections in Makerspaces
  • Being Mindfully Curious to Discover Our Inner Play Being
  • Bringing Kids Imagination to Life in Outdoor Play Through Augmented Reality
  • Built and Social Nature of Neighborhoods Impact Women’s Play
  • Coming To Our Senses: Envisioning Spaces for Play on A University Campus
  • Community Edinburgh (Inspiration from Scotland)
  • Contextual Play Hackathon – Creating Meaningful Play Solutions
  • Controversial Play: Weapon, Fantasy and Risky Play-Why They Are Important and How to Support Them
  • COVID Roadblocks Disrupting Play Opportunities: Fighting Back
  • Creating Ecosystems of Play: The Synergies of Systems
  • Developing A Love of Learning and Health Through Nature-Based Play Spaces
  • Don’t Throw It Away! Make Something and Play!
  • Earth Tones
  • Experiential Spaces as Immersive Playscapes for Adult Players
  • Exploration In Forests of Learning: Play-Based Ecosystems
  • Get Up, Get Out, And Play Naturally!
  • A Glimpse Beyond the United States: Considering the Trajectories of Play Via The ‘Land Down Under’
  • How Global PLAY Has Influenced PLAY In the Early Years of Australian Schools
  • “It Felt like Complete Chaos…at First” – A Student-Led Play Day with Non-Profit
  • Just Playing: Towards A Universal Ethic of Play
  • Körperkoordinationstest Fur Kinder (KTK): Assessing Motor Coordination Differences in Children Recess
  • The Meaning of Play and Its Implications for Equitable Design in Outdoor Urban Spaces
  • Mindfulness in a Bag – Bringing Social/Emotional Learning to life through Brown Bag Play
  • National Study of Playgrounds
  • Naturally, It’s Child’s Play!
  • A New Perspective on Urban Playscapes: A Case Study Method
  • Parent Motivations for Enrolling Young Children in Early Enrichment Programs
  • Park Ranger Emergency Response Training Needs
  • Play As Liberation: Exploring Self-Directed Education
  • Play Protocols: Maximizing Learning Through Play
  • Playcemaking: Designing Nature Playscapes with Children
  • The Playful Life: The Power of Play in Our Every Day
  • Playful Literacy Instruction: Making Learning Joyful and Culturally Responsive
  • The Playful Remake: Repurpose Tried and True Activities to Make Them Playful
  • The Power of Play Therapy
  • The Power of Quality Recess: Why You? Why Now? And How?
  • Recess Policy Implementation: Beliefs and Perceptions of Site-Based Decisions-Makers
  • Second Nature: Technologies Enabling and Enriching Play in the 2020’s
  • The State of Play: The State of Children’s Physical Activity and Access to Community Opportunities for Play in The U.S.
  • Supporting Health Equity and Environmental Resilience Through Green Playgrounds
  • Teaching For Social Justice: Honest Teaching of History While Building Community Through Playfulness
  • Teaching Off Trail
  • Time For a Reboot: Prescribing Natureplay for Emotional Wellness for Children, Teens and Families
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Equity and Play
  • What Did You Do in School Today? Developing Class Books Around Children’s Play Experiences.
  • YES, I Have An IEP! Climbing, Forts and Snakes: Risky Playing My Way to College, Career and Beyond!
  • You Can’t Fall from That: What National Playground Standards Could Learn from Childcare Regulations
 

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, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, park and recreation professionals, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.


Youth Learning Institute’s
Annual Youth Development Practitioner Award

The US Play Coalition partners each year with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their annual 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 YLI award winner is honored during the Annual Conference on the Value of Play.

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.”

First awarded at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play, our awards program honors exceptional individuals each year.  The YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award winner receives a physical award, social media coverage, free full conference registration and more for the annual Conference on the Value of Play. 


YLI’s Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Process

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

Eligibility:
Must have operated a youth development program or service within the United States for at least 10 or more years. (The nominee does NOT have to be affiliated with Clemson University.)

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.