Playing from Scratch – Jianzi

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

Jianzi (pronounced schi-an-tshe) is a Chinese game that uses a shuttlecock. The game dates back to the 2nd century BC in China’s Han dynasty. It was developed by the Chinese military as a way to promote physical fitness and improve the stamina of the soldiers. A traditional jianzi is made by wrapping paper around a coin with a hole in the center and then decorating it with feathers.


  • Ring from plastic cap on milk jug
  • Plastic grocery bag
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Large eraser

To make:

  • Lay the plastic grocery bag flat on the table. Using scissors, remove the handles and the bottom seam. Smooth out the bag so that it is flat on the surface. Cut the right side from bottom to top, and cut the left side from bottom to top creating two layers of rectangular plastic. It is OK if the edges are rough.
  • With layers together, turn the plastic so the longer side extends out in front.
  • Place the plastic ring at the top and center of the plastic sheets.
  • With the ring inside, fold the plastic over and over – like a burrito or an eggroll – until all the plastic is wrapped around the ring.
  • With fingers, locate the center of the plastic ring. Using the tips of the scissors carefully cut a small opening through all the layers of sheeting. If this doesn’t work, an adult can use the point of the scissors or pencil to poke a small opening through all the layers. Note: When poking through the layers using a pencil, place a large eraser on the table, lay the sheeting over the eraser, and poke down into the easer.
  • Take one end of the folded sheeting and push it through the opening. (A pencil may be helpful in completing this task.) Once through, pull tight.
  • Take the other end of the folded sheeting and push it through the opening – same way, same direction as the other one. Once through, pull tight.
    • It should look like rabbit ears.
  • Using scissors cut along the folded long edges to create a feathered look.

To play:

The objective is to keep the jianzi in the air as long as possible using only one’s feet and knees.


  • Time how long the jianzi is played without touching the ground.
  • Count how many times the jianzi is kicked or tapped with the knee.
  • Count how many different body parts (e.g., left elbow, right elbow, left knee, right knee, head) are used to keep the jianzi in the air.
  • Count how many times the jianzi is batted between two players.


  1. Tissue paper and balloons made from shiny foil-like plastic can replace plastic shopping bags.
  2. Use large plastic lids or shoe box lids as paddles to bat the jianzi back and forth between players.
  3. Form a circle of players and using feet or knees pass the jianzi from one to another. Try to get the jianzi around the entire circle without it touching the ground.


#WePlayChat 2017: A Year In Review

#WePlayChat 2017 is in the books!  #WePlayChat is our monthly Twitter chat.  It is a FREE professional development opportunity for anyone seeking to gain knowledge around the wide open field of play. #WePlayChat also serves as a platform to engage and network with other organizations and individuals through social media. There was great discussion throughout the year – each month with a different play themed topic and chat moderators who used their unique experience and expertise to facilitate the dialogue.  #WePlayChat-ers to date include teachers, playground organizations, play and recess advocates and other play enthusiasts from coast to coast as well as from across the globe – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  Our 2017 #WePlayChat participants came from 8 countries, spanning 5 continents.  As the year draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to share…

The top tweets of #WePlayChat 2017!

Our themes for 2017 were broad and our moderators were impressive:

  • January 2017 – “Play Based Experiential Learning” with guest co-moderator Amowi Phillips, social innovator and concept team leader of the Mmofra Foundation, part of Playtime in Africa, a children’s park and natural learning project in Accra, Ghana which is the only one of its kind in the country.
  • February 2017 – “The Joys of Unstructured Play” with guest co-moderator Rae Pica, education consultant and author
  • March 2017 – “Play to Support Growth & Well Being” with guest co-moderator Kimberly Hart of
  • April 2017 – “Lessons Learned at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play” with US Play Coalition Exec Director Stephanie Garst and Play Ambassador Coordinator Ryan Fahey
  • May 2017 – “The Importance of Play” with guest co-moderator Genius of Play
  • June 2017 – “Inclusive Play” with guest co-moderator US Paralympian Jill Moore
  • July 2017 – “The Role of the Adult for Children’s Play” with guest co-moderator Leung of DANCEPL3Y and Vivo for Healthier Generations (Alberta, Canada)
  • August 2017 – “How Communities Can Promote Play” with guest co-moderator Carly Demanett of the Eugene Civic Alliance (Eugene, OR)
  • September 2017 – “Creating a Healthier Life by Participating in Play” with guest co-moderator Darryl Edwards; Creator of the Primal Play Method™ (London, England)
  • October 2017 – “Play and Millennials” with co-moderator Dr. Heather Von Bank from Minnesota State University-Mankato
  • November 2017 – “Making Fitness a Playful Pursuit in Education” with co-moderator Dale Sidebottom, owner of Energetic Education (Melbourne, Australia)
  • December 2017 – “Inclusive Play” with co-moderator Brandi Heather, Adapted Physical Activity and Play Development Specialist (Alberta, Canada)


Thank you to all of those individuals, partners, sponsors and organizations who have been a critical part of our #WePlayChat learning opportunities this past year. This chat currently serves as the largest monthly play based twitter chat in world thanks to all of your engagement and support.

We are excited to continue the conversation in 2018 and beyond. Join us in the new year for #WePlayChat! Find us on Twitter @USPlayCoalition.

Physician and Author to give PLAYtalk on “Playful Intelligence”

Anthony T. DeBenedet, MD, will be a PLAYtalk presenter at the  2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play, April 8-11, at Clemson University.

DeBenedet is a practicing physician and behavioral-science enthusiast. His interviews and writings have run in various media outlets, including the New York Times, the Today show, the Washington Post, and TIME Ideas. He is also author of Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World (Santa Monica Press, 2018), a book about the hidden ways that playfulness influences adulthood, and co-authored The Art of Roughhousing: Good Old-Fashioned Horseplay and Why Every Kid Needs It (Quirk Books, 2011), a parenting book about the importance of parent–child physical play.

DeBenedet’s 2018 PLAYtalk presentation is titled “Playful Intelligence.” Blending counterintuitive observations, anecdotes, and research across a range of disciplines―notably medicine, psychology, sociology, history, neuroscience, and economics—DeBenedet’s PLAYtalk will explore how playfulness impacts everyday life in profound and unexpected ways.

In adulthood, stress has a monopolizing effect on much of what we do. Interestingly, in response to this, the amount of time we spend playing doesn’t change. But the playful part of our personalities does—and often to the detriment of our well-being. Playful Intelligence offers a framework for counteracting this change and keeping the power of living lightly within reach.


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three day event 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.


Thankful for Our Longtime Supporters

As we close out our month of thanksgiving, we want to give thanks for our four platinum sponsors.  Since our founding in 2009, these four have been at our side.  They are truly are leaders in advancing play. Their support comes from their deep belief in our work, our message, and our network.

Please click on their logos to learn more about each.

Research Project on Pediatric Therapy Garden Another Beneficiary of Giving TuesPLAY Funds

Giving TuesPLAY is TODAY! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you will be helping to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.


Supported by our 2017 Research Seed Grant, Dr. Shan Jiang, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture/Environmental Design at West Virginia University, has led her research team on two research projects related to “Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment.”

Jointly supported by Landscape Architecture Foundation 2017 Case Study Investigation Fellowship, Dr. Jiang conducted a diagnostic post-occupancy evaluation study on a pediatric therapy garden at Virtua Voorhees Hospital, New Jersey. Dr. Jiang and her research assistant, Sofija Kaljevic, visited the hospital, evaluated the restorative design features of the garden using site survey tools. Users’ opinions on the garden design as positive distractions were also explored through two focus group discussions onsite. 


Another study is a systematic literature review that examines the effect of positive distractions on hospital occupants in pediatric healthcare facilities.  In this review, twenty-five studies were collected for analysis from architectural and medicine databases. Findings highlighted the importance of incorporating positive design elements, such as interactive play devices, multi-sensory installations, and replications of the natural environment. This study has been developed to conference abstracts that are under review by Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture 2018 Conference (CELA2018) and West Virginia University Undergraduate Research Day at the Capitol.

Dr Jiang will also present an update on her research projects at the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play.

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to the US Play Coalition TODAY! Time is ticking for #GivingTuesPLAY!



Grand Opening of Play Lab at UNO supported by Giving TuesPLAY Funds

Giving TuesPLAY is just around the corner! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you help to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

One of the 2017 Action Grants supported a PLAY Day to mark the official grand opening of the Play Lab at University of Nebraska Omaha. The Play Lab is an interactive, hands-on classroom specially designed to prepare aspiring teachers in the theory, science and application of play as an educational technique. Up-and-running as a classroom since August, the space encourages teacher candidates in Early Childhood Education programs to collaborate and explore in a space that reflects a real-world early childhood setting.

Play Lab is the brainchild of Associate Professor of Early Childhood Dr. Debora Wisneski and Peggy Pawloski, a play environment designer and former kindergarten teacher. The non-traditional classroom features beautifully-designed furniture units, a puppet theater, comfy soft seating, and a communal workspace, all designed by Pawloski with the intent to bring “joy and playfulness to the work and school environment.”

The PLAY Day grand opening event brought together College of Education faculty, staff, and teacher candidates; early childhood community partners; preschoolers and parents; and UNO early childhood donors. During the day-long open house, participants enjoyed presentations, free play time, and storybook readings by Bruce Arant, followed by a gratitude ceremony and reception.

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to #GivingTuesPLAY on November 28!

Photos Courtesy of the University of Nebraska at Omaha



Giving TuesPLAY supports programs like Ludovia in Pittsburgh

Giving TuesPLAY is almost here! When you donate to the US Play Coalition, you will be helping to fund our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement.

Greg Manley and his team at City of Play in Pittsburgh were 2017 Action Grant Recipients for their program Ludovia. “Ludovia” is derived from the Latin, meaning “Playful way.”

Funded with support of a US Play Coalition Action Grant, Ludovia is City of Play’s public class for adults that focuses on social fitness.  It is a weekly group class that builds physical social skills and dynamic imagination.  Greg explains, “We start with an assortment of physical warm-ups from martial arts, dance & sports, and then progress into vocal warm-ups and drama exercises. During the second part of class, students practice a wide array of physical communication techniques that improve their social/playful skills.”

“The US Play Coalition’s grant allowed City of Play to invest in its most introspective program to date,” Manley continues.  “Because of the grant, we were able to learn about the nature of our own training and how we turn our own physical perspective of the world into professional practice.”

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to Giving TuesPLAY on November 28!


December 4 #WePlayChat on Twitter tackles Inclusive Play

Join us Monday, December 4 at 11:00am EST/ 9:00am MST for our December #WePlayChat on Inclusive Play.  We  are thrilled to welcome co-moderator Brandi Heather, Adapted Physical Activity and Play Development Specialist based in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada.

Brandi is both a Builder and Instructor, she has spent 19 years using accessible play as the foundation of her programming and teaching. Brandi has helped to build a highly successful 2 year Adapted Physical Education Diploma Program at Red Deer College. The program’s foundation is built on teaching strength based physical literacy programming for people with disabilities. Her programs focus on igniting potential, expanding expectations, and exploring possibilities; children and their families participate together in a play based exploration that builds a child’s physical, cognitive and emotional development that offers both success and challenge for children with a variety of ability levels.

Her children’s adapted physical activity programming helps children and families connect to the importance of movement through play, developing physical literacy skills for a lifetime. Her play spaces give opportunity to explore their physical ability, determination, gross and fine motor skills and to discover how their body explores space and boundaries.

Here are the questions that will guide our chat:

Q1. How can we use play to make connections to recreation and wellness opportunities for people living with impairment?
Q2. How can play and therapeutic play be used to create inclusive environments in education?health? recreation?
Q3. What are the health benefits of play for families with children living with an impairment?

Q4. What are examples of great play based activities that you have seen in community that include people of all abilities?

#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 9 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 and contribute to the conversation around the value of play.


Support Play Trailblazers Like These When You Support Giving TuesPLAY!

After Black Friday and Cyber Monday is #GivingTuesday. It is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 28, 2017, the US Play Coalition will be a part of #GivingTuesday, encouraging YOU to support PLAY by donating to our Action and Research Grants for playmakers and researchers whose work has the potential to improve and expand the Play Movement. We call it Giving TuesPLAY! (Get it?!) Big or small, your gift MATTERS!!

One of our 2017 Action Grant winners was Harper’s Playground, the first fully-inclusive, nature-based community playground in Portland, OR.   Harper’s Playground aims to increase awareness about and widespread replication of their inclusive playground model. To further this work, they have an annual “Community Play Day” that brings diverse people, families and community partners together to raise awareness, to elevate conversations and, most importantly, to make more play for more people.

According to Britt Stetson, Development Director for Harper’s Playground, “the 2017 Action Grant Award lead to significantly increased engagement in and impact of this event. In the past, given a small staff, the event was community-organized and informally promoted with no financial resources. This award meant we were able to give a small stipend to volunteer event organizer, allowing her to dedicate considerable time to event planning and promotion. We were also able to fund promotion and day-of activities for participants. The result: our most robust Community Play Day to-date with well-organized and elevated participation from local partner organizations and greater attendance by children and families all across the Portland Metro Area. Because of our 2017 Action Grant Award, significantly more families have experienced the power of inclusive play at Harper’s Playground, turning them into active, year-round playground goers and advocates and ambassadors of our work.”

We are thrilled that our Action Grant was so meaningful for Harper’s Playground!  Our action grants are $1,000 grants to facilitate play in communities. These grants support creative and innovative proposals to engage groups in play or to educate about the value of play. Check out all of the play trailblazers whose projects received Action Grants over the years.

To support great projects like this, please consider a Giving TuesPLAY gift!  Join the global movement and donate on Tuesday, November 28! Your gift matters!  We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

Now Accepting Nominations for 2018 Outstanding Researcher and Youth Practitioner Awards

The U.S. Play Coalition is now accepting nominations for its 2018 awards program, recognizing outstanding play research and youth practitioners.  First awarded at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play, this new awards program honors exceptional individuals each year.  The winners not only receive a physical award, but also have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of Play.  Deadline for nominations is 11:59pm EST on December 15.

Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research

The Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research honors its namesake, the contemporary father of play advocacy.  The award recognizes someone for a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.

“Joe Frost has been an influencer for our organization’s work as well as for the world of play,” said Stephanie Garst, executive director of the U.S. Play Coalition. “This award is a fitting tribute.”

Frost is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin. He is known across the world for his more than 30 years of work on early childhood and children’s play environments. Past president of both the Association for Childhood Education International and International Play Association/USA, he is the author or co-author of 18 books and numerous publications and has also served as a consultant for playgrounds worldwide.

Frost was influential in the creation of the U.S. Play Coalition, serving as a steering committee member since the coalition’s beginning in 2009. He served as a keynote speaker that year at the coalition’s first conference – then called the Summit on the Value of Play –and has been an honorary chair for each successive conference.


YLI Youth Development Practitioner Award

The U.S. Play Coalition teamed with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for the Youth Development Practitioner Award. The award recognizes outstanding performance in the creation and implementation of youth development programs or services. (The nominee does NOT have to be affiliated with Clemson University.)

“There are many deserving practitioners across the nation, and our goal with this award is to bring recognition to this field of service,” said Stephen Lance, executive director of the Youth Learning Institute.