#WePlayChat: A Year In Review

In 2016, the US Play Coalition launched a monthly Twitter chat, dubbed #WePlayChat. #WePlayChat 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.

With the first successful year of our #WePlayChat in the books, we wanted to take a moment to share

The top tweets of #WePlayChat2016!

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. We are excited to continue the conversation in 2017 and beyond. Join us for #WePlayChat2017! Find us on Twitter @USPlayCoalition

US Play Coalition to honor Joe Frost with Inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research

Dr. Joe L. Frost, Ed.D, L.H.D., is one of America’s leading experts on play and playgrounds and has a global reputation as the contemporary father of play advocacy.  He is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at The University of Texas at Austin with a passion for children’s play and play spaces.  Joe has been an influential member of the US Play Coalition’s steering committee since its humble beginnings.  He has served as moderator at the 2009 Summit on the Value of Play and then as honorary conference chair for each successive play conference.  Joe Frost has been an influencer for our organization’s work as well as for the world of play.  Along with his wife Betty, Joe attends US Play Coalition events whenever he can!

At the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play, the US Play Coalition will present the inaugural Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research.  This is to be awarded annually in recognition of a body of exceptional research that has enhanced and expanded the study of play.  It only makes sense that Joe will be the first recipient!

Each year the recipient of the Joe Frost Award will receive not only a physical award, but also conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference. To all of Joe’s friends, family, colleagues, students and admirers, we hope you will consider supporting the new award with a tribute donation to the Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research with a tax-deductible contribution today!

The Genius of Play Becomes “Play Collaborator” with the US Play Coalition

The Genius of Play, the Toy Industry Association’s (TIA) research-backed initiative to bring more play into kids’ lives, has engaged in a new partnership to become a play collaborator with the US Play Coalition.

The Genius of Play will be a highly visible partner and participate in a featured educational session during the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play, as it continues to spread its message about the important developmental benefits of play.

“We are thrilled to be able to partner with the US Play Coalition on their biggest event, the annual conference on the value of play!” said Anna Yudina, TIA’s director of marketing initiatives. “By becoming a play collaborator with the coalition, The Genius of Play will be able to reach hundreds of play professionals and advocates to help amplify our message of raising happier and healthier kids through the power of play. What’s more, our missions are perfectly aligned, which means there will be many opportunities to collaborate on various initiatives in the future.”

Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition, said: “We are excited to break new ground with our play collaboration with The Genius of Play. You can’t think of children and toys without thinking of play…it just makes sense! We are big fans of the work The Genius of Play is doing on social media to educate people on the meaning and the value of play. It is this work that truly brought us together.”

The US Play Coalition’s annual Conference on the Value of Play brings together leading play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the country. The three-day event includes keynote and featured speakers, play institutes, PLAYtalks, research symposium, educational sessions, roundtables, grant opportunities, networking, and opportunities for play.


KaBoom! CEO to give PLAYtalk at 2017 Conference on the Value of Play


Our next PLAYtalk presenter is determined to bring play everywhere, especially to low-resource communities in the United States.  James Siegal is CEO of KaBOOM!, the national non-profit that seeks to give all kids the childhood they deserve, filled with play.  KaBOOM! is dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.

James Siegal says that, in addition to building play spaces in low-income neighborhoods, KaBOOM! urges local leaders to take steps to create equitable, kid-friendly cities.  “The conversations about improving cities all too often ignore the needs of kids and families,” he says.

Most recently, KaBOOM! hosted The Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million competkaboom-logo-tagline-1200x630ition to help kids access innovative play spaces.

For his PLAYtalk, James will discuss “Transforming Every Day Spaces into PLAYces”.

PLAYtalks are our Play Conference version of TED Talks. They will be a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world.

Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

Inaugural Youth Development Practitioner Award to be Given at 2017 Conference on the Value of Play

The US Playli-large-logoy Coalition is pleased to partner with Clemson University’s Youth Learning Institute for their first ever 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 inaugural recipient will be named at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play in Clemson, SC.

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.”

Nominations are now being accepted for the 2016 Youth Development Practitioner Award.  Deadline for nominations is December 15, 2016. The winner of the 2017 Youth Development Practitioner Award will be notified in mid-January and recognized at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play at Clemson University, April 2-5, 2017.  The winner will have conference fees paid, hotel accommodations and up to $500 in travel to attend the Play Conference.

2017 Youth Development Practitioner Award Application Process

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

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.

If you have any questions, please contact Melanie Bargar at 864-787-2893.

Powerful LiiNK Project is 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.

reserach grant winners 2016Debbie Rhea and Alexander Rivchun from Texas Christian University were the 2016 Research Grant winners for their work on the LiiNK Project.  The LiiNK team has been making headlines with their incredible work to get more and more frequent recess in the daily school schedukids-on-climbing-rings le. Their successes in Texas elementary schools have gone viral!

The LiiNK Project (Let’s inspire innovation ‘N Kids) is in its fourth year overall and its second year in public schools (14 elementary schools total). We were very fortunate to receive a research grant from the U.S. Play Coalition to continue our work in the public schools to improve learning through play and character building. LiiNK’s intervention encompasses three aspects: 1) teacher and administrator training on how and why the combination of unstructured, outdoor play and character development are important to the school day; 2) implementing four-15 minute unstructured, outdoor play sessions daily in the schools; 3) implementing four- 15 minute character development lessons weekly in the schools. The research grant funds were used this year to help implement this intervention in 10 more elementary schools at the grades K and 1 levels.kids-on-playground-structure

Schools have become so focused on learning outcomes and assessment tools that little regard has been given to the social, emotional, and physical health of our children. As a result, teachers and administrators do not know how to allow more flexibility in the school day for unstructured play and social emotional learning due to academic time constraints daily. We have been able to train LiiNK teachers and administrators to think differently about how to integrate play and character into the school day without losing learning time. The results that we have collected are amazing in all aspects for the child and the teacher. Different results that will be highlighted in the presentation are BMI trends over a two year period, behavior shifts in the classroom, attentional fatigue trends, and reading/writing score outcomes.

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



Giving TuesPLAY supports Child-Centered Play at University of Florida

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.

Sondra Smlearning-to-playith and her team at the University of Florida were 2016 Action Grant Recipients.ready-to-play

With their grant, the university has created child-centered play time at TWO elementary schools in their area! Both of these schools serve children who are high needs, and the program works with 18 children at this time. Play is fun for these kids with toys, puppets, and other activities, but it is also an important part in their counseling. Graduate students in the university’s counselor education program are learning about the value of play in counseling children as they work with the students at these schools.

To support great projects like this, make sure to donate to the US Play Coalition TODAY!


November 30th #WePlayChat: Play Around The World

we-play-chat-purpleJoin us Wednesday, November 30 at 9:00am EST as we welcome Mathias Poulsen to our #WePlayChat on “Play Around The World”.  Mathias is an advocate for play and is building momentum to support play initiatives through his Counter Play Festival in Denmark in 2017. He is one of our strong Denmark play ambassadors who is aiming to make the world a more open and playful place to live.

With our 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play coming this spring, we want start the conversation and learn about your expertise and experiences in this area of play! mathias

Here are some of the themes we’ll be chatting about:

    • How does unstructured and structured Play look in different parts of the world?
    • Describe some ingredients necessary for play in Northern and Southern climates.
    • How can different types of play create a more positive and resilient society?
    • What are some positive bi products of risky play you’ve seen locally? Globally?

#WePlayChat is our new monthly Twitter Chat series.  #WePlayChat-ers to date include teachers, playground organizations, play advocates and other play enthusiasts from coast to coast as well as from Canada, Australia, Denmark and the UK – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.

A Twitter chat is a public Twitter conversation around one unique hashtag (#). This hashtag allows you to follow the discussion and participate in it. Twitter chats are usually recurring and on specific topics to regularly connect people with similar interests.  To be a part of our chat, be sure to search for #WePlayChat and follow the live stream of tweets.  Then respond by including the tag #WePlayChat

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through these #WePlayChats.  We are trying them 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.

Remember that this month we will explore Play Around The World with Mathias Poulsen.

Support Play Trailblazers Like These When You Support Giving TuesPLAY!


This Giving Tuesday, consider donating to Giving TuesPLAY! The support we receive on Giving TuesPLAY helps to fund our wonderful grant winners. These winning projects are trailblazers in the world of play, and we need your help to get them going!

One of our 2016 Action Grant winners was The Playworker Project with Megan Dickerson from The New Children’s Museum.  These incredible Playworkers pictured here are now fully trained in play!

Museum Playworkers are people you might see in Museum galleries.  They are professionals trained in “playwork”: a practice that originated on adventure playgrounds in the United Kingdom. The Museum Playworker’s role is to observe what is happening at the Museum and respond in ways that create an environment in which all can play.cardboard-chaos-1 cardboard-chaos-5 museum-playworkers-2-0

Recently, the Museum created an indoor adventure playground called “Cardboard Chaos” as a prototype for big things that will be coming out in January.

GivingTuesday is a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, November 29, 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!!

To support projects like The Playworker Project and other awesome programs and the development of play, be sure to donate on Giving TuesPLAY – Tuesday, November 29! We can’t wait to share the future of play with you!

How Do College Students Play?

“How do you rec?” is a question students at Clemson University are frequently asked by campus recreation. Everyone recognizes that recreation looks different depending on who you are – some people love team sports while others pursue solitary activities. As a campus recreation employee, I am asked about this a lot, but in my opinion, there is a better question we can be asking college students, and that is “how do you play?”

College is a time full of transition for many. Not quite adults, but no longer children. Incredibly busy with coursework, but stuffing spare moments full with social time. What about the breaks in between? So many students get burnt out from trying to do too much too fast. What if students began to intentionally devote their down time to play?

I’m lucky – my major is parks, recreation, and tourism management. We have play incorporated into a lot of our classes. Last week, we had a project due in one of our courses called a heritage skill. You had to teach yourself how to do something from before the industrial revolution. Our professor was adamant that we were not creating an arts and crafts project. While we were skeptical about this at first, we soon realized he was right. What we were doing was hands on learning: playing with new materials, discovering skills and strengths we never knew we possessed. I built a backpack frame for this assignment, and while it was incredibly time consuming, it was not draining like the homework I have online in other classes. This was fun! I had the world as my oyster to collect resources and create something to be proud of.


Even those in more hard-science majors can find time to work play into their schedule. One of my friends is a computer engineering major with a 4.0 GPA, which is impressive for any major, but especially so for one as challenging as hers. She schedules time every Friday to go slacklining with her friends. They string a tether between trees on campus and tightrope walk with the focus as if they were balancing across the Grand Canyon. This combination of imagination and physical activity helps her stay grounded during her long weekdays of classes.

Most of my play occurs outside. I have four day weekends and try to use as many of them as I can to go on trips in the area. Whether it is a day long hiking trip or a full weekend of climbing and backpacking, I feel completely refreshed after playing in the wilderness. Going somewhere new sparks the creativity in me as I wonder what is around the bend in the trail. When I stand on top of overlooks, I think about all the people who have been there before me, and try to imagine what it was like to be the first person to see everything.


Often I lament that there are not adult-sized playgrounds, but really, nature provides the perfect playground for everyone. I climb trees, I scramble down cliffs, I swim in freezing mountain water. The opportunities are endless, and there is always something to challenge you and push you outside of your comfort zone. And nothing can quite compare to coming home, jumping in the shower, and snuggling into bed knowing that you’ve had a day well spent giving your body and mind just what they needed: a little bit of play.


We all have something to learn from each other, and the topic of play is no exception. So next time you have the chance to chat with a college student, ask them how they play. It could spark a conversation that benefits you both!