Chief Playmaker and Founder of The Life is Good Kids Foundation to Keynote the 2018 Play Conference

The US Play Coalition is thrilled to announce that Steve Gross will be the first keynote speaker for the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11, at Clemson University.

Steve Gross is the Founder and Chief Playmaker of the Life is Good Kids Foundation. He is a pioneer in utilizing playful engagement and meaningful relationships to overcome the devastating impact of early childhood trauma.

Steve’s 2018 keynote presentation is titled “Spreading the Power of Optimism through Play.”

Steve is serious about play – and its tremendous benefits for all people. The Life is good Kids Foundation is a non-profit organization that for twenty years has used play to help children overcome life threatening challenges such as poverty, violence and illness. A recognized expert in utilizing, joyful play to promote resiliency in children, he has extended those insights to adults, reconnecting them to the passionate, joyful and playful selves that enable them to be their best in and out of the workplace.

Through research, first-hand lessons learned in his crisis response efforts following Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and his uniquely humorous and participatory engagement with audiences, Steve demonstrates how to use playfulness to energize individuals, teams and organizations – especially in challenging, change-filled times – allowing them to reach their full potential.

   

September #WePlayChat: Creating a Healthier Life by Participating in Play

Join us Thursday, September 28 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Darryl Edwards; Creator of the Primal Play Method™ to our #WePlayChat on “Creating a healthier life by participating in play.

Darryl Edwards, is a Natural Lifestyle Educator, movement coach and creator of the Primal Play Method™. Darryl developed the Primal Play methodology to inspire others to make activity fun while getting healthier, fitter and stronger in the process.

Darryl is the author of several award-winning books including Paleo Fitness and Paleo from A to Z. His work has been published in titles such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle Magazine, Men’s Fitness and he has featured on the BBC documentaries Eat to Live Forever and Doctor In The House.

Feel free to connect with Darryl at PrimalPlay.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/DarrylFEdwards Twitter @fitnessexplorer, Instagram @fitnessexplorer

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:
Q1. How does play lead to positive health benefits?
Q2. How does play support positive mental well being?
Q3. What challenges exist which prevent people from playing?

Q4. Can playing influence other areas of your life? I.e. relationships? work

#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 8 countries, spanning 4 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.

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.


#WePlayChat: How Communities Can Promote Play

Join us Tuesday, August 29 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Carly Demanett of the Eugene Civic Alliance to our #WePlayChat on “How Communities Can Promote Play.”

Carly Demanett is the Media and Communications Manager for Eugene Civic Alliance (ECA) in Eugene, OR. ECA was established to build and operate a community sports and entertainment venue to benefit the children of Eugene. 

It’s about kids and how we as a community provide for their basic physical fitness. It’s about how healthy activities affect our community and economy. It’s about the resilience of a community, despite setbacks, to play on.”

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

Q1. What are your local communities doing to support play?
Q2. What are the secret ingredients to supporting sustainable play initiatives?
Q3: What is the best way to effectively communicate the importance of play within a community?
Q4: How can partnering with other orgs/businesses/schools/etc. help promote 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.


Book Review: Playing it Up– With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds

Book Review by Dr. Debora B. Wisneski (University of Nebraska- Omaha) with Melany Spiehs and Carol Burk (Omaha Public Schools)

Almon, J. (Ed.)(2017). Playing it up– With loose parts, playpods, and adventure playgrounds. Annapolis, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

Debora: In 2014 in Vancouver Canada, I was able to listen to the Canadian environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki give an impassioned speech on the future. She was speaking of building a better world for our children’s future. Part of her presentation included her reminiscing of her involvement in the environmental movement. She recalled in her younger years feeling the need to fight- against policies harmful to the earth and against corporations who polluted. However, she had made a transition in her career from fighting to one of building. She came to the realization that when the powers- that-be would one day come to the realization that harming the earth is unsustainable, they would need to turn to those who know how to live in earth-friendly and sustainable ways. Thus, Cullis-Suzuki began to focus her efforts on creating a sustainable community where she lives and raises her family. In the process, she also came to the realization that the Utopia she dreamed of currently would not exist at a national or global level, but she discovered that there was a network of such communities that already existed around the world. These communities created a sort of web that spread across the globe that could stay connected though so far apart.

Cullis-Suzuki’s description of the state of her cause, reminded me of the plight of play in American schools and lives. It is easy to get discouraged when fighting against school policies and practices that hinder children’s play in education; however, I have become more hopeful when I have turned my attention to collaborating with others to build play spaces in schools and communities. While every city or school does not support play, there are many places and people around the world that are building play spaces. Joan Almon’s new book “Playing It Up- With Loose Parts, Play Pods, and Adventure Playgrounds” is a wonderful documentation of the work of play advocates and playworkers around the U.S. who are building play spaces and expanding our network of play communities. In Almon’s edited book each chapter is written by a play leader who describes in detail innovative ways play spaces are being designed and what materials are being organized and used in these spaces. The book opens with a ringing endorsement by Dr. Stuart Brown.

Melany: The first chapter begins with Almon describing the state of play in the U.S. and her concerns for children. She displays a deep respect for young children and her message is one of urgency but not hopelessness. Due to our current society filled with lawsuits, safety is a major concern in schools. She states, “Society’s fear of play, with its various physical and psychological risks, remains a major obstacle that needs to be overcome, or at least minimized, if children are to play freely again” (p. 3). Children use play to deal with stress and anxiety and with the decrease in play children are displaying an increase in obesity, depression, hyperactive disorders and autism. Yet, Almon trusts that children are naturally risk aware and a good at assessing risk and thus, advocates for loose parts, playpods and adventure playgrounds to support their play.

Debora: The second chapter, written by Rusty Keeler, offers a reflection of the state of free and risky play in the U.S. and his recognition that play is returning to the world of children. As he states, “The world is changing because we are consciously evolving it. We are consciously choosing to say “yes” to the play opportunities we believe children need” (p. 15) The following chapters are written by the play leaders from around the U.S. describing the unique aspects of their play spaces and providing evidence of this play evolution. Along with the stories, there are beautiful high quality photographs that make you want to be in these spaces and extensive biographies and websites of the contributors which is extremely important when we are striving to make connections within this movement. The first section of stories focuses on the process of starting up play projects and the practical details necessary for success. The second section highlights various examples of adventure playgrounds- the risky child-initiated wild spaces with loose parts and minimal adult intervention that were considered taboo in American culture. On these pages, these fantastic spaces come to life. The third section describes play pods in parks and schools- smaller outdoor spaces but with a multitude of recyclable and reused materials for building and pretend- changing how children play during traditional recesses. The fourth section illustrates the movement of bringing play back to nature. The book concludes with calls to advocate for play and essential lists of resources, play advocacy groups, and the principles of playwork- all the tools one could use to begin his or her own play project. And this is the real power of the book- it inspires one to action. It is contagious as two of our reviewers who are preschool teachers discovered. Here, they describe how Almon and her co-authors inspired action at their preschool and elementary school:

Melany: At Spring Lake (Elementary), we have an abandoned outdoor classroom on site. It is a large area blocked off by a chain link fence. Inside there are trees, small sheds and overgrown raised beds. The weeds have taken over and there has been no one to take care of the area since it closed down many years ago. I have had my eye on this space since I started at Spring Lake back in August. After talking to my team and my administrators I have been given permission to lead a resurrection of this outdoor classroom. Seeing Joan Almon’s photos of children playing in nature and reading the play stories encouraged me to take this leap of faith. She was that gentle nudge that I needed to be an advocate for outdoor play at my school.

Carol:
We read Joan’s book before we opened up our outdoor classroom. Her words about risk assessment helped us to remember that children are capable and can do their own assessment. It made for a more authentic experience for everyone. We noticed there was minimal re-directing from adults, almost no conflicts between children, and children resolving, negotiating, and compromising with each other.

Reviewers Carol Burk, Debora Wisneski, and Melany Spiehs

“Playing It Up” can be ordered from amazon.com and is available at no cost online at allianceforchildhood.org. We recommend this book as essential for the play movement today.


PlayGrounding Podcast a New Resource for Play Fans Everywhere

The US Play Coalition is pleased to announce our 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, “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.”


#WePlayChat: “The Role of the Adult for Children’s Play” Featuring Play Ambassador Matt Leung

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.


IS IT POSSIBLE TO JUST “PLAY”?

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.


Go Go Skateboard!

Celebrate National Go Skateboarding Day – June 21

picture1

Go Go Skateboard!

Source: ©2015. Joyce Hemphill, Laura Scheinholtz, and Heather Von Bank and adapted from The Power of Playful Learning.

Supplies:

  • Cereal box
  • One plastic drinking straw
  • One round bamboo skewer (12 inches x 3 mm)
  • 4 soft plastic caps from milk jugs
  • Photo or Character from a greeting card (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Large eraser or hand towel (folded)
  • Tape or glue
  • Crayons, markers, stickers, etc. (optional)

Make:

Deck:

  • 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.

To Play:

Create a ramp using boards, books, or boxes. See how far you can get your skateboard to go. Challenge friends and family!

 

Source:

*http://www.nationaldaycalendar.com/june/


2018 Play Conference Logo Design Competition Announced

Are you creative?!  Handy with graphic design programs?! Wanna win a $100 Amazon.com e-gift card?!  Submit a design for our first ever conference logo by July 9.

The winning logo will be used to establish the conference’s visual identity and highlight the theme for the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play.


Ball-n-Cup Game


Source: ©2015. Joyce Hemphill, Laura Scheinholtz, and Heather Von Bank and adapted from The Power of Playful Learning

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.