Nominations for the 2021 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research Open Through Noon on March 26

The US Play Coalition is now accepting nominations for its annual Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research.  This award is given annually in recognition of a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play. The 2021 award winner will be honored during the 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL .

The 2021 Play Research Award winner will receive a physical award, social media coverage and free full conference registration for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play*. Given that we are virtual this year, our 2021 Award Winner will ALSO receive free conference registration for our in-person 2022 Play Conference ! (Travel, lodging and other fees not included.)

*Note that registration fees will be refunded if the winner is already registered.

Deadline for 2021 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.


The inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to its namesake – Joe L. Frost, the contemporary father of play advocacy.  “Joe Frost was 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 was a fitting tribute.”

Frost 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 was honorary chair each year until 2019.  Joe sadly passed away on February 17, 2020.

The 2020 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research was presented to Stuart Brown, MD, Founder of the National Institute for Play

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.

Upon learning he had won this year’s award named for his longtime colleague and friend, Dr. Brown said, “To be the recipient of an award named after my special friend Joe, and with the blessing of the Coalition is such an unexpected honor. Such affirmation warms my heart.”


Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research.

Deadline for 2021 nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.   

The 2021 Play Research Award winner will receive a physical award, social media coverage and free full conference registration for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play*. Given that we are virtual this year, our 2021 Award Winner will ALSO receive free conference registration for our in-person 2022 Play Conference ! (Travel, lodging and other fees not included.)

The Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research

Purpose:
This is to be awarded annually in recognition of an individual’s body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.

Evaluation Criteria:
The basis for selection will be the degree to which the nominee has achieved an exceptional research contribution as evidenced by publications, patents, citations, or other criteria deemed important by experts in the field. Outstanding research contributions can take a variety of forms including, but not limited to, theoretical advances, experimental results, development of programs and tools.


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 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL 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 – all online from April 1 through June 30, 2021.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!


2021 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Open Through Noon on March 26

The US Play Coalition is pleased to partner 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 will be honored during the 2021 VIRTUAL 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.”

The 2020 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award recipient is Jessica Hentoff, 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.”


Nominations are now being accepted for the 2021 Youth Development Practitioner Award

The 2021 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award winner will receive a physical award, social media coverage and free full conference registration for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play*. Given that we are virtual this year, our 2021 Award Winner will ALSO receive free conference registration for our in-person 2022 Play Conference! (Travel, lodging and other fees not included.)

*Note that registration fees will be refunded if the winner is already registered.

Deadline for 2021 YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.


2021 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.

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.

Deadline for 2021 nominations is 12:00pm (noon) EST on March 26.  If you have any questions, please contact contact Melanie Hammack at hammack@clemson.edu.


February #WePlayChat: Play and Fun in Higher Education: Why it’s Rebellious

Join us on Twitter Wednesday, February 24 at 6:00pm EST/4:00pm MST for the next installment of our monthly #WePlayChat.  We are honored to welcome Dr. Lisa K. Forbes and Dr. David Thomas from Professors at Play to the main stage to discuss the topic, “Play and Fun in Higher Education: Why it’s Rebellious”.

Lisa K. Forbes, Ph.D. is an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Counseling Program at the University of Colorado Denver. Lisa is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is training to become a Play Therapist. Lisa’s research centers around intensive mothering practices, gender conformity, and mental health and…you guessed it, play and fun in teaching and learning!

David Thomas Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Online Programs at the University of Denver and Assistant Professor Attendant in the Department of Architecture at the University of Colorado Denver. David’s research centers around fun, fun objects (like buildings!) and the meaning of play.

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

Q1. What is playful learning/playful teaching and why should we care in higher education?

Q2. What examples have you seen of play working in your teaching? Why did it work? What were the outcomes?  Would this work with K-12 as well as with post-secondary students?

Q3. What are the obstacles to taking a more playful approach to learning with post-secondary students?

Q4. Do post-secondary students really want to play when they learn and how do you convince them if not?

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.


Harrison Pinckney Joins the
US Play Coalition Steering Committee

We are pleased to announce that Harrison P Pinckney, IV, PhD, recently joined the US Play Coalition Steering Committee.  Our steering committee consists of 21 leaders from across industry, education and health, all committed to its mission to promote the value of play throughout life. Steering committee members contribute their expertise and insights for the current and future work of the US Play Coalition.

Harrison Pinckney loves play. Play consumes much of his time as he is always engaged in fun activities with his three sons and wife. Whether it is hikes on a sunny day, building a cardboard city on a rainy day, or making up pretend words before bedtime, play defines much of his life.

When he’s away from his family, Dr. Pinckney devotes his professional time to examining how to create opportunities for Black youth to experience the freedom and wonderment that defines play. He accomplishes this through his role as an Assistant Professor at Clemson University in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department.

Dr. Pinckney is already a very active contributor to the Play Coalition, serving on our Play Research Team to provide expertise as needed and headlining our Play Conference and other partner events, most notably the groundbreaking 2018 keynote on the implications of race on play for youth of color.

US Play Coalition Executive Director Stephanie Garst said she is thrilled to welcome Dr. Pinckney to the committee:

“I credit Harrison for inspiring us to use our educational platform to begin having the very real and difficult conversations about the implications of race on play for youth of color.  His scholarship and publications provide powerful context of the realities facing youth of color with practical frameworks to help advance the discussion on race, recreation, and youth development.  He is truly part of the new generation of play advocates.  I know that we benefit greatly from his voice and his expertise on our steering committee.”

According to Dr. Pinckney, “Play is essential to learning about the world around us and exploring new possibilities. Being a part of a team that makes play a priority in the lives of others is a rare treat, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to help in that endeavor.”


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


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


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


The ABCs of the 2021 Virtual Play Conference Educational Sessions and Research Symposium

The full detailed schedule is coming soon…but until then, below is an alphabetical list of the MORE THAN 60 recorded Educational Sessions and Research Symposium Sessions that will be core content for the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL, available online from April 1 through June 30.

As we prepare for our second online Play Conference, there is a renewed intensity to connect play advocates, educate our national and global community, support play research and publications, and truly fulfill our mission to promote the VALUE of play throughout life. We continue to incorporate phenomenal speakers and resources with unique opportunities for learning through play!

       

 

  • A Play-Based Literacy Program for The Professional Development of Reception Year Teachers
  • A Prescription for Play in Education
  • Access for All: Providing Equitable Hands-On Learning Experiences in A Digital World
  • All Ages, All Abilities, All the Time
  • Beyond Candyland: Learning Through Making Board Games
  • Big Body Play Powers A Child’s Learning Trajectory
  • Capture the Flag: How Traditionally Marginalized Residents Reclaim Urban Space Through Play
  • Circus Is an International Language
  • Crazy Games Workshop Explores Using Low Cost Materials Outside Normal Usage to Create Fun Learning
  • Designing Everyday Spaces for Children
  • Designing Hybrid Outdoor Play and Learning Spaces for All Ages
  • Eduspeak And Play: Surviving the Wolf at The Door While Keeping Play Alive & Well in Your Classroom
  • Equity and Play: Surviving and Thriving
  • Future of Play: Technology Integration
  • Healthy Communities, Parks and Splashpads
  • Hobby Horses—A Hobby, Sport or Pure Play? Feminine Debates on A Contemporary Plaything
  • Inclusive Playground Design:  A Case Study of Three New England Playgrounds
  • Intergenerational Play Within the Workplace: A Powerful Mechanism for Informal Learning
  • Legacy of Laughter; A Grandparent Playbook
  • Let’s Start With Play. Why Play in The Emergency Department Can Be Our Best Tool for Patients
  • Making Connections: People, Places, And Physical Activity
  • More to Say After Outdoor Play: Bookmaking and Storytelling with Children
  • No, They’re Not Too Old to Play. Bringing Loose Parts Play to South Florida Middle Schoolers.
  • Nonprofit, Let’s Play America, Hangs on During the Pandemic with Virtual Play Days & Handbooks
  • Paddle, Pivot, Pedal, Prance and Most of All…PLAY!
  • Parent LAB PLAY DAY Series
  • Parents’ Perceptions of Play Throughout the Pandemic and In the Social Justice Movement
  • Performative Play for The Project Based Learning Classroom
  • Play and Expressive Therapy Interventions for Enhancing Emotion Regulation
  • Play as Culturally Sustainable Family Engagement
  • Play Behavior of Children from an Isolated Area in Brazil: Body and Space as Cultural Expression
  • Play Frisco 2.0
  • Play Like Our World Depends on It: Using Playfulness to Engage Others in The Climate Emergency
  • Play on The Go: Tips for Developing and Using Prop Boxes
  • Play Programming During the Pandemic…. What Can We Learn?
  • Play, Politics, & Policy: Building a State-Wide Movement for Recess
  • Playground Design for School Communities – Moving Towards a Better Way
  • Playing in a Pandemic: Lessons from Virtual and Traditional Instruction in Early Elementary School
  • Pretend Play as a Tool for Development During Virtual Learning of Young Children
  • Prototyping: Play Applied
  • Ready Player One: Harnessing the Power of Activity and Fun Using A Digital Medium
  • Recess and Play Before and During the Covid-19 Pandemic
  • Reconsidering Solitary Play: Understanding Self, Place, and Nature
  • Reducing the Negative Impacts of Trauma Through Outdoor Play
  • Removing Invisible Barriers: A Design Call to Action from Families of Those with Differing Abilities
  • Sacred Play: An Ancient Contribution to Contemporary Play Theory
  • Shifting Play from Survival to Thrivival
  • Social Togetherness in a Time of Social Distancing
  • Soulful Play
  • Sustainability of Self
  • Teaching Off Trail
  • The Benefits and Uses of Collaborative Competition in the Classroom
  • The Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Young Children’s Play
  • The Effects of a Multi Recess Intervention on Body Composition in Elementary School Children
  • The Importance of Failure in Play
  • The Push Play Project
  • The Rubber Shark Principle: How Play Is Bridging Our Relationship with Disability Inclusion
  • The Value of Adult Play Is All in the Design
  • Those Summer Days: Exploring Extreme Heat’s Impact on Children’s Outdoor Play and Physical Activity
  • Toy Activism Through Teddybears: Promoting Playful Resilience and Ludounity In Pandemic Times
  • Ways to Play the Virtual Way
  • Wordplay: How Silly Jokes, Nonsense Rhymes, and Secret Languages Thrive in Unstructured Play

 

 

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.


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.


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!
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#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.