Industry Leaders Announced for Keynote “Power PLAYer Panel”

The US Play Coalition is proud to announce the latest addition to the keynote lineup for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play, April 2-5 at Clemson University.

Some of the biggest names in the industry will come together for our second keynote session – the “Power PLAYer Panel.”  Tackling the landscape of play from research, health, youth, parks and governmental perspectives, this is a discussion NOT to be missed!

Fran Mainella – Founder/Co-Chair of the US Play Coalition & Former Director of the National Park Service
Fran Mainella served as the 16th Director of the National Park Service from 2001 – 2006. She was the first woman to hold this key position. Prior to heading the National Park Service, Mainella served for twelve years as Director of Florida State Parks. She has also served as executive director of the Florida Recreation and Park Association and as president of both the National Recreation and Park Association and the National Association of State Park Directors. She is currently a Visiting Scholar at Clemson University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and the founder and co-chair of the US Play Coalition.

Stuart Brown, MD – Founder and President of National Institute for Play
Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, Dr. Stuart Brown has spent his career studying animal behavior and conducting more than six thousand “play histories” of humans from all walks of life—from serial murderers to Nobel Prize winners.  Brown’s research asserts that play is essential to our social skills, adaptability, intelligence, creativity, ability to problem solve, and more. Play is hardwired into our brains—it is the mechanism by which we become resilient, smart, and adaptable people.

Michael Suk, MD – Chief Physician Officer, Geisinger System Services
An orthopaedic traumatologist by training, Dr. Michael Suk has served as a White House Fellow by President George W. Bush and served as Special Assistant to Secretary Gale A. Norton at the U.S. Department of the Interior.   During his tenure as a White House Fellow, Dr. Suk organized Get Fit with US, designed to support HealthierUS, a federal interagency program based on the premise that increasing personal fitness and becoming healthier is critical to achieving a better and longer life.  At Interior, Dr. Suk spearheaded an initiative to develop the link between public health and recreation by coordinating five Interior bureaus.  Dr. Suk believes that simple outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and camping on public lands and waters can serve as a gateway to a healthier lifestyle.

Kim Moore Bailey – Executive Director, Youth Outside

Kim Moore Bailey brings a wealth of experience to her role as Executive Director for Youth Outside. Kim provides the leadership and vision that drives its mission of connecting youth to nature by eliminating barriers, providing resources, and promoting outdoor programming. Inspired by her own passion for the outdoors and years of both professional and personal experiences, Kim focuses on Youth Outside’s strategic direction, grantmaking portfolio, and working to achieve measurable results. Kim believes that Youth Outside serves as an intermediary to develop the critical connections required to engage underrepresented youth to nature and to encourage the capacity building of the organizations supported.



2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Effective Playground Protective Surfacing: The Elusive Goal

Rolf Huber, Canadian Playground Advisory Inc.
Ken Kutska, International Playground Safety Institute, Inc.

Every type of surface has the potential to fail to perform as expected.  Manufacturers and distributors are obligated to market the advantageous aspects of their products but what questions should the owner/purchaser be asking of the supplier.  Playgrounds are a place of wonder for all to enjoy irrespective of ability or age. Without the knowledge necessary to purchase the appropriate surface system for your playground you are likely to experience problems with maintaining your playground in compliance with the current public playground standards and guidelines.

Part One

The history if impact attenuation and severity of injury.

  • Mechanism of injury prevention and severity reduction
  • What is an acceptable injury to a child?
  • How many playground injuries are there per year?  What are most frequent types of injuries? What are the main cause of these injuries? What is the cost?
  • How many traumatic brain injuries are sustained on playgrounds annually?

Review the current Standard of Care for Public Playground Impact Attenuating Surfacing

  • US CPSC Handbook for Public Playground Safety
  • Other ASTM Standards related to impact attenuation for surfacing.

Injury Reduction: Can playground injuries be reduced let alone prevented?

With the goal of injury reduction in mind; we will discuss the impact of the owner, designer, and/or manufacturers’ intended design use of the playground equipment versus the reality of how a child plays in unforeseeable and unintended ways.

Since the performance of surfacing greatly contributes to the potential for injury prevention and/or reduction in injury severity we will discuss what the owner/designer should consider when designing for more challenging play in the public playground.

Part Two

This section will outline the problems associated with different types of surfacing systems, their materials, installation and maintenance issues, and the problems related to cross contamination of loose-fill and unitary surface systems.

  • Review the different types playground surfaces available today.
  • Discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and performance issues of each.

What goes wrong with surfacing? We will discuss the common problems of maintaining compliant surfacing regardless of the type.  What is an accessible surface?

  • Every playground must meet the ADA as a minimum.  Current practices often do not meet the requirements for the removal of architectural barriers for all.  As play people we understand graduated challenges, with an empathy for all.  Understanding the role of surfacing in providing full challenging play to everyone is the goal of this portion of the session.
  • What is the law on accessibility?
  • How is accessibility compliance measured?

Good Product Selection and Purchasing Practices

  • There is not a perfect surface – We will have a discussion with the entire group to consider what is a good surface and how it enhances play, protects children and allows access to everyone wanting to play or participate in play.

Best Defense Against Claims of Surfacing Non-Compliance

This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.


2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Change Agents for Play: Program Design Starts with Understanding Your Audience

Deborah Rhea, Ed.D. – Professor, Texas Christian University and Director, LiiNK™ Project
Alex Rivchun – Project/Budget Manager, LiiNK™ Project
Laura Clark – Research Associate, LiiNK™ Project
This workshop will focus on being change agents in our communities to design and communicate play initiatives that utilize both physical environment and social emotional learning components.

Our goals are to identify and discuss challenges facing schools and communities to integrate play into different environments; discuss what unstructured, outdoor play means and why social emotional learning (SEL) should be emphasized; finally, to identify different ways our groups can collaborate to bring change to our communities through different program designs. This workshop will also examine what local, state, and federal policies should be considered to strengthen resource availability for designing programs.”

Much has happened over the past 30 years in the U.S. to the detriment of children’s health and academic enthusiasm. Parents are in an uproar over the lack of recess in the schools. Our culture has adopted a much more aggressive stance on technology to teach and entertain children while providing very few opportunities to use natural resources through play to learn and create. In order to produce a healthier, academically grounded culture for our next generations of children, unstructured play should be a fundamental part of every school day for pre-kindergarten through adolescents. Much of the research has shown obesity trends can be reversed, health benefits can be increased more long term, and children will be more vested in learning when given time to explore and problem solve through play and physical activity. How we design play in our communities is only as effective as understanding the audience making decisions about play in that environment.

Workshop Outline/Objectives:

Hour 1: Participants will identify current play initiatives; identify strengths & barriers common to their program implementation; and identify their target audience.

Hour 2:  We will focus on the patterns identified in the first hour and develop 2-3 ways the attendees can become change agents through play design initiatives

Hour 3:  We will focus on developing ideas to effectively communicate their initiatives to identified target audiences, as well as developing 2-3 strategies that move the attendees’ initiatives forward through local, state, and federal policies.

This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.

2017 Pre-Conference Institute – Play Facilitator Certificate of Completion

Ellen O’Sullivan, PhD., CPRP
President, Leisure Lifestyle Consulting

This training gives adult facilitators the tools, beginner knowledge, and confidence to provide unstructured play experiences at their facility.  This introductory training is designed to meet the needs of seasonal, part-time, and temporary workers at camps, playgrounds, and after-school programs. The program is also beneficial as a training tool for full-time staff that work with and lead those individuals.  A certificate of completion will be given to all participants who complete the training. This training is typically priced at $59/person…but the 2017 Play Conference fee is just $25/person!

Specific topics covered during the training include:

  • About Play – The Importance of Play
    • Characteristics of Play
    • Types of Play
    • Examples of Play
  • Play and its Relationship to Stages of Child Development
    • Brief overview of child development characteristics
    • Role of play related to those characteristics
    • Examples of suitable games and activities
  • Roles of Play Facilitator
  • Setting the Stage
    • Safety and security
    • Support for play environment
  • Overseeing Play
  • Directing vs. Supporting Play
    • Balance between both
    • o   Examples of situations where appropriate
    • o   Examples of facilitator’s behavior
This and two other pre-conference institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option.  Cost to attend an institute is $25.  Pre-registration is required.


Ellen O’Sullivan, Ph.D., CPRP
Ellen O’ Sullivan is a long time park and recreation professional who began her life’s work as a camp counselor and community recreation director and evolved to university professor and consultant.  Ellen has long believed in the power and promise, that parks and recreation holds for individuals, communities, and society overall. Her contributions to the field include authorship of several books on marketing, major role in the benefits movement, ground-breaking applied research in health using the innovative magnet center approach as well as her role supporting and sustaining community agencies as they strategically alter course to create a viable future in the health, livability, and vitality of communities.

The ABCs of the 2017 Play Conference Research Symposium and Educational Sessions

The full detailed schedule is coming soon with dozens more session titles…but until then, below is an alphabetical list of the Research Symposium and Educational Sessions that have been confirmed for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play.  Check back often because we will update the list as our presenters continue to confirm their sessions.

 playing with boxes from Pat Rumbaugh   DSCF1349   IMG_2667

Be sure to REGISTER TODAY because the early bird deadline for this PLAYful conference is February 24.

  • 7 Elements of PLAY & the Impact on Learning in the Classroom
  • A Call for Trauma Informed Play
  • All Grown Up! Emerging Trends with Play Past Childhood: Parkour, Parks, and Programming
  • Ambassadors for Play – Next Generation Play Workers
  • An Invitation to the Playground: Obesity and the Power of Play and Recreation
  • Bringing play into the architecture curriculum
  • Brown Bag STEM Challenge: Experiencing STEM through Play
  • Building a Community of PLAY Through an Interdisciplinary University Collaborative
  • Caretakers of Wonder: Promoting Science Concepts with Playful Activities
  • Creating Family Friendly Cities
  • Designing Effective Playground Environments to Stimulate Play
  • Designing for a Playful Park: Creating a Play program for Boston’s Greenway
  • Designing Play and Recreation Environments that Turn Research into Practice
  • Documenting Play With Video – A Curricular Lens
  • Equitable Play Opportunities: A Social Justice Issue
  • Generation Migration:  An Intergenerational Adult Day Camp Experience
  • Get PLAYFUL with DANCE
  • Getting Out of the Way: Designing for Playwork
  • Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment
  • Imagination Playground, Tinker Toys, and Play
  • Impact of Adlerian Play Therapy on Externalizing Behaviors of At-Risk Preschoolers
  • Integrating STEAM and 21st Century Learning Skills into Summer Camp
  • It All Starts on the Playground: Magical Bridge Playground and Beyond
  • Kidmania: Designing for Playing, Learning, and Growing
  • Learn Through Play : A Post-Occupancy Evaluation of the Smale River Front Park’s Adventure Playground, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • LET US Play: A New Approach to Old Games
  • Meeting Preschool Teachers Where They Are! Creating Digital Play Landscapes in Rural Communities
  • Monkey Brains and Monkey Bars
  • Nature Play Begins at Your Zoo and Aquarium: The Phoenix Zoo’s Successful Adventure in Bringing Nature Play to the Community
  • Outdoor Classroom (subject but not the correct name of presentation)
  • Parents as Potential Gatekeepers of Play:  Strategies for Managing Overparenting in Out-of-School Time
  • Parents Can Read, Rattle & Roll
  • Patterns, Place, and Play: How Design Initiatives Can Highlight What Is Right In Front of Us
  • Play Everywhere:  Creating Family-Friendly Cities
  • Play Facilitation: Choices that Count
  • Play Facilitation: Unleashing Power of Play for Children
  • Play For All: Inclusive Playscape Design
  • Play in American Life, a Tribute to Dr. Joe L. Frost:  Meet the Authors
  • Play to Innovate
  • Play Under Pressure
  • Play University: A Hands-on Approach to Guiding Children Through the Stages of Play
  • Playful Pedagogy: Playwork and Playing Out
  • Playing on Two Wheels
  • Playing to Heal: A Trauma Sensitive Sports Practice
  • Pop Up Play: Affordable, Safe, and Community Driven Solutions
  • Pretend Play and Brain Growth
  • Promoting the Power of Play Through a Regional Play Conference
  • Pure Play at the Fair: How temporary space leads to permanent play
  • Quantitative Assessment of Playground Quality and Inclusivity
  • Reclaiming Play
  • The Adult Play Cycle: Sex, Drugs, Netflix & Chill
  • The Connections Between Invention and Play
  • The LiiNK Project: The effects of play and character development on attentional fatigue in public school grades K & 1
  • The LiiNK Project: The effects of play and character development on classroom behaviors, BMI, and character scores in public school grades K & 1
  • The Magic of Children’s Gardens
  • The Power of Play: Improving School Climate Through Play
  • The Shape of the New Adventure Play Movement
  • The Transformational Power of an Inclusive Playground
  • Unleashing the Preschooler’s Potential in the Classroom and Beyond: How Movement & Play Power Learning
  • Why Play Must be Open-Ended, Mindful, and Wacky in Order to be Worthwhile!
  • You want me to do what?

The Play Lady to Give PLAYtalk “Is Your Community Designed For Play?”

The name says it all…Pat Ruaaaaambaugh IS The Play Lady!  The co-founder of Let’s Play America, is on a mission to encourage joy, improve communities and connect neighbors through play.

“When I play, I am happy, energized and enthusiastic, and I feel like I can take on the world,” says Pat, who is a passionate play advocate and encourages people of all ages to experience the benefits of playing.

Pat speaks all over the country about the importance of play.  She is frequent blogger on the topic as well, contributing to Psychology Today, Genius of Play, AARP and Play and Playground Magazine.  Pat is also author of a children’s book, Let’s Play at the Playground, published in 2013.

The Play Lady has organized more than 60 free events, and her small city sees three “Play Days” a year — including one just for adults — that attract several hundred people. Because of The Play Lady, her hometown has been named a Playful City USA eight times!

The Play Lady’s PLAYtalk is entitled, “Is Your Community Designed For Play?”

Make Your Own Kazoo for National Kazoo Day

National Kazoo Day 2017 is Saturday, January 28.  This month’s “Playing from Scratch” is celebrating 165 years of kazoo playing in America with a guide to making a DIY kazoo!


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


  • 1 paper tube, 4 to 6 inches in length
  • Wax paper, 4-inch x 4-inch square
  • Rubber band
  • Hole punch


To make:

  • With the hole punch, begin by making a hole in one end of the toilet paper tube, approximately 2 inches from the end.
  • Place the 4-inch square of wax paper on top of one opening at the end of the paper tube. Making sure the wax paper is pulled taught, wrap the excess down along the length of the tube with one had. Secure the wax paper in place with the rubber band, doubling band if it is too loose. The tube should now be closed off on one end.
  • Make sure the wax paper is completely sealed with the rubber band.

 To play:

Place the open end of the kazoo to the mouth and hum into it.

Landscape Structures – For a Better Tomorrow We Play Today

We recently launched a campaign that we hope will start a new dialogue in the playground industry. It asks all of us to consider why we invest in our children, playgrounds and in play. With the greater impact of play on children and our communities in mind, we created a video that puts a spotlight on what we at Landscape Structures all instinctively know but don’t always put into words: For a better tomorrow, we play today.

Play is, of course, valuable because it encourages physical fitness and fun. However, we believe the playground instills deeper values in children like leadership, perseverance and cooperation. It’s these values that ultimately shape the adults they become and the reason why we are so dedicated to bringing play to all children. Watch our video and learn more about the campaign at If you feel a connection to the message, share it with your online followers and tell everyone how you’ve been #shapedbyplay.

Featured Sessions Announced for 2017 Conference on the Value of Play

The US Play Coalition is proud to announce a number of its featured sessions for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play.  The annual conference, whose 2017 theme is “Where Design Meets Play – Bringing Play to Landscapes, Curricula, Programs, Museums, and Beyond,” will be April 2-5 at Clemson University.  Here is a glimpse at the featured speaker lineup…more to come!

“Sometimes It Hurts: Designing Play Environments with as Much Risk-Taking as Possible and as Little Safety as Necessary”
– Moderator / US Perspective: Teri Hendy, Site Masters, Inc.
– European Perspective: Julian Richter, Richter Spielgeraete GmbH
– UK Perspective: Harry Harbottle, CATE Consultancy
– Canadian Perspective: Jennifer Martin, TELUS Spark
This two-part session includes speakers from the US, Germany, the UK and Canada presenting an international view of the role of risk taking in designing children’s play environments.  The panel will focus on the perception of risk vs. the reality; designing for acceptable risk that balances risk and play value; establishing a precedent of risk tolerance; and modeling risky play that creates healthy and innovative communities.

“The Genius of Play: Designing an Integrated Program to Help Families Capitalize on Key Developmental Benefits for Their Children”
– Anna Yudina, Director of Marketing Initiatives, Toy Industry Association
– Erik “Dr. E.” Fisher, Ph.D., Psychologist, Media Consultant, Author
– Jackie Retzer, Marketing Communications, Toy Industry Association
– David Gallagher, Chief Program Officer, Playworks
The presentation highlights research findings about parental attitudes towards play and shares best practices for utilizing social media, expert influencers, and partnerships to build a national play movement.

“Designing a Practice of Play”
Dan Harding, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Architecture and Community Design+Build
Clemson University

“Using Empathy to Design School Based Play”
David Gallagher, Chief Program Officer, Playworks
This session will focus on how to have an empathic lens when designing programming for play within schools.

“Lighting with LED . . . The Opportunities and the Challenges”
Joe Crookham, Chief Executive Officer and President, Musco Sports Lighting, LLC
This session will cover LED related issues regarding energy, maintenance, spill, glare, sky glow and the impact of color spectrum choices on both vision and health.  This session will discuss design opportunities and challenges when using diode light devices, LED, to illuminate large areas such as a ball field, play areas and walkways.

“The Future of Schoolyards and Strategies to Work with School Communities to Get Things Funded and Built”
Bambi Yost, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture,  Iowa State University, will share lessons learned from  her time as Project Manager and researcher on Denver Public School’s Learning Landscapes schoolyards.

“Playing Outside the Lines: Play As A Metaphor for Life”
Erik “Dr. E.” Fisher, Ph.D., Psychologist, Media Consultant, Author
Often we teach kids to play games by the rules, and there is definitely a value to this. However, what can happen when you  take play and the game beyond the rules and look to what play can teach about the child and what you can teach children about life through play?

More featured sessions to be announced in the coming weeks.
Check the conference site often for updates and news!


January 2017 #WePlayChat: Play Based Experiential Learning

Join us Friday, January 27 at 1:00pm EST as we welcome Amowi Phillips to our #WePlayChat on “Play Based Experiential Learning.” Amowi  has a life-long interest in children, play, culture and design in African contexts. She is a strong advocate for securing kid-friendly public cultural spaces in urban Africa. She works as a social innovator and concept team leader through Mmofra Foundation on 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.

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

Q1. What are some global examples of play-based experiential learning (#PBXL)?
Q2. In your community, how is learning from play valued?
Q3. What environments work best for playful hands-on learning?
Q4. How can child-centered design and public spaces promote playful learning? 

#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 the across the globe.