VIDEO: Keynote Speaker
Dr. Drew Lanham Shares
“Passion as Playtime —
Why Loving What We
Do Can Save Us”

For our 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY keynote kickoff on April 3, J. Drew Lanham, PhD, shared his PLAY wisdom with his presentation, “Passion as Playtime — Why Loving What We Do Can Save Us.”  It is a powerful message about being re-inspired to play, about claiming our right to play, about play as activism, and about moving play to the position of mainline attention.  IT IS A MUST SEE!

Dr. Lanham is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at Clemson University.  His published writings — “The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature,” “Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts,” and numerous essays and articles — chronicle his experience as a Black man raised in South Carolina with a fascination for wild places and the feathered creatures that inhabit them.


Below is the full recording of the keynote session:

 

This is one of the amazing presentations from the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY – all recorded live earlier this year. Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!  REGISTER FOR THE ONLINE REBOOT!!!!

The 2022 Play Conference ONLINE REBOOT features headliner recordings from the in-person conference PLUS new content, and virtual event opportunities that kickoff on June 29 and continues through July 31, 2022.


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  2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY  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.


Play Therapy Forum Coming to the 2022 Play Conference

The US Play Coalition is partnering with the Multicultural Play Therapy Center at UNC Charlotte to offer a Play Therapy Forum, shedding light on the therapeutic power of play. This special series is one of our new Play Forums for the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play.

“There is more evidence now than ever that children need play in order to live healthy lives, and play therapy is improving children’s mental health and overall well-being all over the world,” according to the Association for Play Therapy.

The Play Therapy Forum will help kickoff the conference on Sunday, April 3. Sessions include:

  • Healing from Trauma: Play Therapy Principles for Intergenerational Relationship and Connection
    – Jennifer Geddes Hall, PhD, LPC/S, ACS, RPT and Jill C. Shelnut, PhD
  • Time for a Reboot: Prescribing NaturePlay Therapy for Emotional Wellness for Children, Teens and Families
    – Jamie Lynn Langley, LCSW, RPT-S
  • The Power of Play Therapy – Jessie Guest, PhD
  • Understanding Play Therapy, the Barriers, and How to Break Through for School Counselors!
    – Jill Van Horne, Jill Van Horne, PhD, LCMHC-S, NCPSC, NCC, RPT-S, EAGALA Certified
  • A special poster session by graduate students studying Play Therapy at the University of South Carolina

Register for the full 2022 Play Conference or choose the Play Therapy Forum (Sunday) ONLY/Single Day option for just $75 (includes lunch).

Eligible participants may earn APT and NBCC credits (additional fee required).  Approved Providers:  APT Approved Provider #07-191 and NBCC Approved Provider #4208

 

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 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.

Multicultural Play Therapy Center at UNC Charlotte
The mission of the Multicultural Play Therapy Center is to provide educational and supervision experiences for professional therapists in this region to support the emotional growth of children from diverse cultures through the process of play therapy. Play therapy training enables professionals to develop a therapeutic relationship with children aged 2½ – 10 using materials and communication skills that match the developmental needs of the child.  Learn more about our upcoming Multicultural Play Therapy Center Conference


Sneak Peek of the 2022 IN PERSON Play Conference Sessions

(updated 2/14/22)

Check out this sneak peek of some of the amazing educational and research symposium sessions we have planned for the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY, April 2-6 in Clemson, SC.

Below is an alphabetical list of some of the session titles.
The detailed conference schedule is coming soon!

          

  • AAA Play: Examining Play as The Linchpin to Learning
  • Active Play: What Role Did It Have in Our Evolutionary Past and How Vital Is It for Our Future?
  • Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, Who’s Not Ready Holler Eye
  • Authentic Learning and Play Through Intergenerational Connections in Makerspaces
  • Being Mindfully Curious to Discover Our Inner Play Being
  • Bringing Kids Imagination to Life in Outdoor Play Through Augmented Reality
  • Built and Social Nature of Neighborhoods Impact Women’s Play
  • Coming To Our Senses: Envisioning Spaces for Play on A University Campus
  • Community Edinburgh (Inspiration from Scotland)
  • Contextual Play Hackathon – Creating Meaningful Play Solutions
  • Controversial Play: Weapon, Fantasy and Risky Play-Why They Are Important and How to Support Them
  • COVID Roadblocks Disrupting Play Opportunities: Fighting Back
  • Creating Ecosystems of Play: The Synergies of Systems
  • Developing A Love of Learning and Health Through Nature-Based Play Spaces
  • Don’t Throw It Away! Make Something and Play!
  • Earth Tones
  • Experiential Spaces as Immersive Playscapes for Adult Players
  • Exploration In Forests of Learning: Play-Based Ecosystems
  • Get Up, Get Out, And Play Naturally!
  • A Glimpse Beyond the United States: Considering the Trajectories of Play Via The ‘Land Down Under’
  • How Global PLAY Has Influenced PLAY In the Early Years of Australian Schools
  • “It Felt like Complete Chaos…at First” – A Student-Led Play Day with Non-Profit
  • Just Playing: Towards A Universal Ethic of Play
  • Körperkoordinationstest Fur Kinder (KTK): Assessing Motor Coordination Differences in Children Recess
  • The Meaning of Play and Its Implications for Equitable Design in Outdoor Urban Spaces
  • Mindfulness in a Bag – Bringing Social/Emotional Learning to life through Brown Bag Play
  • National Study of Playgrounds
  • Naturally, It’s Child’s Play!
  • A New Perspective on Urban Playscapes: A Case Study Method
  • Parent Motivations for Enrolling Young Children in Early Enrichment Programs
  • Park Ranger Emergency Response Training Needs
  • Play As Liberation: Exploring Self-Directed Education
  • Play Protocols: Maximizing Learning Through Play
  • Playcemaking: Designing Nature Playscapes with Children
  • The Playful Life: The Power of Play in Our Every Day
  • Playful Literacy Instruction: Making Learning Joyful and Culturally Responsive
  • The Playful Remake: Repurpose Tried and True Activities to Make Them Playful
  • The Power of Play Therapy
  • The Power of Quality Recess: Why You? Why Now? And How?
  • Recess Policy Implementation: Beliefs and Perceptions of Site-Based Decisions-Makers
  • Second Nature: Technologies Enabling and Enriching Play in the 2020’s
  • The State of Play: The State of Children’s Physical Activity and Access to Community Opportunities for Play in The U.S.
  • Supporting Health Equity and Environmental Resilience Through Green Playgrounds
  • Teaching For Social Justice: Honest Teaching of History While Building Community Through Playfulness
  • Teaching Off Trail
  • Time For a Reboot: Prescribing Natureplay for Emotional Wellness for Children, Teens and Families
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Equity and Play
  • What Did You Do in School Today? Developing Class Books Around Children’s Play Experiences.
  • YES, I Have An IEP! Climbing, Forts and Snakes: Risky Playing My Way to College, Career and Beyond!
  • You Can’t Fall from That: What National Playground Standards Could Learn from Childcare Regulations
 

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 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.


Award Winning Play Bracelets Return for 2021 Holiday Season!

Our 10th anniversary play swag took home the “2019 Best Merchandise” Excellence Award from the South Carolina Festivals and Events Association at its annual conference in 2020.

The SCFEA Excellence Awards celebrate the best from South Carolina!  Our “PLAY FOR LIFE” cuff bracelet, featured at our 10th Anniversary Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY FOR LIFE, won the 2019 Best Merchandise award.  With the holidays upon us, we thought it was fitting for us to do an encore campaign with our 2020 and 2021 themes added to the mix!!

So order our LIMITED EDITION, AWARD WINNING PLAY CUFF BRACELETS – they make great holiday, birthday, graduation, thank you gifts or “just because” gifts!!

Made locally in Clemson, South Carolina. These very popular cuff bracelets are available in three colors – silver, gold and rose gold.

Each color can have one of three phrases:

PLAY FOR ALL

PLAY FOR LIFE

PLAY IS SURVIVAL

Support the US Play Coalition and PLAY by purchasing a PLAYful bracelet – or get one of each!!

Overview
• Handmade item
• Material: Aluminum, Brass, Copper
• Bracelet length: 6 Inches
• Bracelet width: 1/4 Inches
• Adjustable: Yes
• Style: Minimalist

Please note: Shipping is only available in the continental U.S. at this time.
Shipping in the continental U.S. is just $3.50. 
OR! Locals can save on shipping with pickup at the US Play Coalition office at Clemson University

 


US Play Coalition Announces 2021 Online LACES Play Series

For our landscape architect friends, we are excited to announce our 2021 Online LACES Play Series!  Earn up to 9 LACES credits online and ON DEMAND through December 31, 2021. The LACES series is part of the 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL.

Thank you to our partner – the South Carolina Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects. These fine folks work hard to ensure we can provide LACES CEUs for the relevant conference sessions. Glad to have you on our Play Team, ASLA-SC!

Check out the list of LACES approved sessions:

  • “All Ages, All Abilities, All the Time” – Jill Moore White
    Parks today face the challenge of providing environments where all visitors can feel safe, secure and fully engaged. Universal design increases usability, safety, health and social participation. In this presentation, participants will discover how applying the principles of universal design ultimately contribute to social equity and social sustainability in parks.
  • “Designing Everyday Spaces for Children” – Shweta Nanekar, PLA, LEED AP (BD+C)
    How do we modify current approaches to the design of everyday spaces to make them more child-friendly? Available literature on child-friendly environments is reviewed to identify empirical research and project examples that can help designers and planners to create spaces that cater to the “Whole Child.”
  • “Future of Play: Technology Integration” – David Flanigan, CPSI
    We all know that kids are spending countless hours in front of a screen, not only for gaming and social media, but due to COVID, many kids are attending school virtually. What will the future be like for kids if they are addicted to their screens and don’t want to go outside and play?
  • “Healthy Communities, Parks and Splashpads” – Sarah Shepherd
    As demographics, inclusiveness and health concerns evolve, aging facilities need to step up their game to keep communities engaged and active.  Explore effective community infrastructure through the lens of aquatic play. Discover how Splashpads increase park usage, promote inclusion and build social capital that help communities grow and flourish.
  • “The Importance of Failure in Play” – Melinda Pearson
    Failure is an inevitable part of life. By creating play spaces that push boundaries in thinking and stretch the limitations of our bodies we create a safe play to explore our failures and learn great things about our growing selves and our budding potential in the process.
  • “Inclusive Playground Design:  A Case Study of Three New England Playgrounds” – Ingrid Kanics
    This presentation will share the research results of interviews with parents of children of all abilities around the design of three New England Inclusive Playgrounds. We will share what design features they feel make a playground inclusive and how these playgrounds impact the life of their communities, families and children.
  • “Making Connections: People, Places, and Physical Activity” – Ines Palacios, PhD
    Discover planning and design considerations to increase community connectivity, offer more enjoyable ways to be physically active outdoors, and create multigenerational destinations that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Effectively champion and advocate for solutions to provide more affordable, accessible ways to activate healthy lifestyles and increase economic vitality.
  • “National Study of Playgrounds” – Meghan Talarowski, MLA, CPSI
    The National Study of Playgrounds (NSP), a joint research project of Studio Ludo and Dr. Deborah Cohen, is the first observational study of playgrounds to compare the impacts of playground design on play behavior and physical activity across gender, age group, and socio-economic status.
  • “Prototyping: Play Applied” – Aaron Goldblatt, Dana Schloss, Meghan Talarowski, Christopher Kircher
    Designers of all stripes occasionally use prototyping to test ideas and physical realities. This discussion advocates for moving the act from occasional to central to a practice and to understand it as an act of play. Designing through joyful exploration makes better spaces for everyone.

Earn up to 9 credits for just $50!  Register for the 2021 Online LACES Series for ON DEMAND access through December 31, 2021.

If you are already registered for the 2021 Virtual Play Conference, please reach out to us at usplaycoalition@clemson.edu for access to the session assessments.


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

The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual professional development 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 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations, networking and much more – all online from April 1 through December 31, 2021.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!


VIDEO: “Expanding the Conversation on Race and Play”

In 2018, Harrison Pinckney, PhD, moderated a groundbreaking keynote panel of experts in a discussion on what play looks like for Black youth.  This year, Dr. Pinckney returns with new colleagues to broaden the discussion as we continue to work towards a better understanding of the racial implications of race on play.

“Expanding the Conversation on Race and Play”

Black people have long been depicted as less than human. Studies have shown that this perception has led to Black people being mistreated by police officers, teachers and even doctors. Unfortunately, Black children and youth are not exempt from this mistreatment. There are a number of historic and contemporary examples of play being interrupted for Black youth for this very reason.

This is an engaging discussion on how the portrayal of Black youth contributes to the way they are engaged in play spaces. Video games, free play, and movies are among some of the contexts explored.

This session was recorded live on May 24, 2021.  The recording is included below!  This is one of the 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations from the 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL .


Meet our Experts:

Harrison Pinckney, IV, PhD
Assistant Professor of Parks, Recreation & Tourism Management, Clemson University
Dr. Pinckney’s research focuses on the systems, institutions, and programs that influence the racial socialization of African American youth. Similarly, he examines the ways in which racial identity manifests itself in the lives of African American youth. Recognizing the role of faith-based organizations in the African American community, I also explore the ways in which this institution serves youth and the outcomes associated with participation in/with these organizations.

TreaAndrea Russworm, PhD
Associate Professor of English, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
TreaAndrea M. Russworm is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Series Editor of Power Play: Games, Politics, Culture (Duke University Press). She is also currently an Associate Editor for Outreach and Equity for the Journal of Cinema and Media Studies. With research expertise in digital media, popular culture, and African American studies, Professor Russworm is also the founder of Radical Play, a public humanities initiative and afterschool program in Springfield, MA, and she is the author or editor of three books: Blackness is Burning: Civil Rights, Popular Culture, and the Problem of Recognition; Gaming Representation: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Video Games; and From Madea to Media Mogul: Theorizing Tyler Perry. She is currently writing a fourth book on race, video games, and the politics of play.

Nathaniel Bryan, EdD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, Miami University
Nathaniel Bryan, Ed.D., Ph.D. is an assistant professor of early childhood education at the Miami University. His teaching and scholarship explores issues of equity and diversity, critical race theory, culturally relevant teaching, urban education, and Black education. Though he studies broadly these frameworks, he is particularly interested in the constructed identities and pedagogical styles of Black male teachers and the schooling and childhood play experiences of Black boys in early childhood classrooms through a critical lens. In his spare time, Dr. Bryan enjoys reading novels, traveling abroad, and spending time with family.


Below is the full recording of the featured session
“Expanding the Conversation on Race and Play”


This is one of the 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations from the 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL – all recorded live earlier this year.


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual professional development 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 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations, networking and much more – all online from April 1 through December 31, 2021.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!


Nature and Health –
Activism through Literacy and Play: Tips from a Publisher

Summer Blog Series
PLAY for Healthier Communities #3

“Nature and Health – Activism through Literacy and Play: Tips from a Publisher”

Pause for a moment and consider your favorite book as a child. What exciting adventures did you go on as you read? What were you inspired to do, think about, and create? As I wrap this 3-part blog series on play and healthy communities, I’m excited to share a conversation with Philip Lee, co-founder and publisher of the award-winning Lee & Low Books and READERS to EATERS. Philip has an incredible career, including a portfolio of working with publications like Conde Nast, Glamour and GQ.

In this article, we discuss how literacy and play can inspire action.

Daniel: Tell me a little about yourself, Readers to Eaters and what play means to you and why you think it’s important for our health.

Philip: I’m the co-founder, along with my wife, June Jo Lee, of READERS to EATERS, a children’s book publishing company. Our mission is to promote food literacy through stories about our diverse food cultures. I’m the “reader” as I’ve been a children’s book publisher for many years—I previously co-founded one of the first publishing companies that focused on diversity—while my wife is the “eater” as she is a food ethnographer, studying American food culture for corporations and non-profits organizations. I was born in Hong Kong and she was born in Seoul, South Korea, so we’re always mindful of how culture shapes our lives, including the food we eat, and our sense of wellness, health and play.

At READERS to EATERS, our goal is to tell stories about food, so we have an appreciation and connection to the people who grow it, cook it, and provide it to us every day. Through these stories, we hope young readers not only gain a better understanding of what good food means to our body, but also to our family, our community, and the global world. Food is fundamental to all our experiences, so in addition to good health and nutrition, it’s also a tangible way to introduce readers to subjects such as science, climate change, history, immigration, and social justice.

Play, like food, is essential to our physical and mental wellbeing, for adults and children. It allows us to be creative and use our imagination, it breaks routine and encourages us to be spontaneous. Play is often unpredictable, so we must be flexible and adapt to new situations. The key to remember is that play doesn’t have to be regimented and can take on many forms. It can be in the playground running free, in the garden tending vegetables, in the kitchen trying a new recipe, or a quiet moment looking out the window—and away from the computer screen!

Growing up in Hong Kong, my choice of play was limited. The urban city had little space for outside play and limited time for activities after homework, so my playtime was helping in the kitchen to prepare dinner. At times it could be physical work, but it was the time when I got to hear family stories, and there was always the reward of a delicious meal in the end.

Daniel: This blog series is focused on how play can foster healthier communities. In your experience, how is play, literacy and health interconnected?

Philip: Play, health, and literacy are connected in so many ways. First, leisure reading is a type of play! Play doesn’t have to always be a physical activity. It can be quiet reading time that sparks imagination. Education professor Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, in her 1990 article, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors,” points out that books reflect who we are and reaffirms us, introduce us to new worlds that are real or imagined, and allow us to submerge ourselves into new experiences. I think it captures beautifully the essence of play too.

Books connect readers to food in new ways beyond nutrition. For example, our “Food Heroes” series profiles food pioneers who often see what others can’t see and work to build better communities through food. In Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table, the urban farmer saw children as young farmers and parking lots and rooftops as farmland. He wanted young people not only to grow food but to be young activists by making changes in their neighborhoods. Similarly in Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix, the street cook who started the food truck movement found new ways to bring good food and good jobs to hungry communities. In Zora’s Zucchini, a fictional story, a young girl started a neighborhood good share program to avoid food waste from her garden.

Reading can also add appreciation to children’s active play. In The Thing About Bees: A Love Letter, a day in the park led to a new appreciation for bees and pollination, as well as for fatherly love and our natural world. In Feeding The Young Athlete, active families, and children get an introduction to how nutrients support mental focus in competition at the playground and learning in the classroom.

When reading books about cooking and gardening, readers learn that play can also be nourishing to their own bodies and to their communities. More importantly, they are empowered to make changes and be activists in big and small ways.

Daniel: What advice would you give adults who want to use play to inspire a love of reading and activism in children?

Philip: Modeling is the best way to inspire children to read, eat or grow to be activists in our community. Children will understand these activities are important if they see their family taking part in them too. Start with playful reading together. Everyone loves a story! But there are also other ways to share stories other than a book, such as reading a family recipe or a food label. Read this great discussion with the Family Dinner Project on “How to Raise a Voracious Reader: Promoting literacy with dinnertime storytelling family conversation and books about food.”

I would also encourage families and children to be active members in their communities, such as volunteering at the community garden, sharing books at the Little Free Library, or shopping from local farmers at the farmers’ market. These are all ways children can see how they can make an impact in their communities – plus, they are fun, playful experiences! READERS TO EATERS is a Too Small to Fail partner, so we encourage folks to explore their ideas to talk, read, sing and play together as a family too.

By taking part in activities together as a family, children understand the joy they bring and the connection they make. These are memories that will stay with them and empower them to make changes in their lives.

Thank you to Philip for sharing your inspiring insight about the intersection of play, literacy, and activism – perfect timing as we head into Food Literacy Month (September) and Farm to School Month (October).

If you want even more opportunities to connect with whole family health experts like Philip, sign up for the Healthier Generation e-news for exclusive invites to cooking demonstrations, celebrity events, and impactful trainings.


About the Author: Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, where he manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school time sites as they work to achieve national standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Daniel oversees community-based and out-of-school partnerships at the Alliance.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2021 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts.  PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here!  In July, Noah Lenstra, Director of Let’s Move in Libraries, will highlight public library play initiatives for several key demographics.  In August, Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, will blog on “PLAY for Healthier Communities.”


Nature and Health –
Integrating PLAY into Wellness

Summer Blog Series
PLAY for Healthier Communities #2

“Nature and Health – Integrating PLAY into Wellness: Tips from a Registered Dietician and PE Teacher”

Who better to share tips on how play can promote student achievement and well-being than a former physical education (PE) teacher and a Registered Dietician (RD). Today, I’m excited to share ideas from two of my teammates, Courtney Hensch and Seth Shelby leading Healthier Generation’s school health work in South Carolina.

Daniel: My first question is for both of you, tell me a little about yourself and how play relates to your work in South Carolina.

Courtney: I live in Charleston and am an RD and a Clemson alum (go Tigers!). I have been working with schools and districts throughout South Carolina for about three and a half years to establish and sustain wellness policies and practices for their students, staff, and families.

Our work at Healthier Generation is all about helping schools create more opportunities for students to be exposed to nutrition and physical activity, so play naturally fits into our work! Comprehensive school wellness can be challenging, so adding play into wellness initiatives makes it more fun and keeps folks engaged. Because play strengthens cognitive function, helps with social and emotional development, and builds confidence, it’s an essential ingredient for developing strong educators.

Seth: Before working for Healthier Generation, I was a PE teacher in South Carolina public schools. Most of my teaching incorporated active play so students could strengthen their movement skills naturally through a designed activity. As a teacher, I loved participating in the games and demonstrating my love for activity with my students. I felt so fortunate to be in a profession that actively promoted me to play and encourage others to play. I would come home every day with nearly 20,000 steps and a big smile on my face. As I moved into my current position with Healthier Generation, I have had to reorganize how I approach the workday to include times for active play. I set aside time every hour to get some type of activity in, which might include walking the dogs, having a dance party, shooting some hoops, doing some disc golf putts, or playing with my son. These activity breaks are important for my brain to stay focused on what I am trying to accomplish for the day.

Seth playing disc golf as a family

Daniel: My second question is for Seth. As a father of a young child, why is play important to you and your family?

Seth: Playing is so incredibly important for my family. Since my son could walk, we have been on the go as a family. We live within a 1-mile radius of two city parks, and we take advantage of those resources every single day if the weather is nice. We play on the playgrounds, walk the trails looking for bugs and birds, play disc golf (he has quite the forehand), and go swimming and fishing in the river. My son doesn’t know another way of living other than being active. It is that exposure that will hopefully translate into a lifelong love of being active. As a dad, it is a great way for him to get energy out, but more importantly, it is a great way of bonding with him through play. I often find it is during our playtime we often have the most honest conversations; especially when he is learning something new and becomes frustrated. Allowing him space to fail at something while also being supportive and helping him work through those emotions positively is transformative for me as a dad.

Daniel: Courtney, the next question is for you. When we think of play, we typically think of physical activity. As an RD, how can play encourage healthy eating at home?

Courtney: There are so many ways to encourage playful learning in the kitchen. Here’s a quick checklist of ideas that families can try together.

  • Gardening: research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat more produce. Play in the garden teaches new skills, builds responsibility, independence, and self-esteem.
  • Cooking: if young children are involved in cooking, they are more likely to try new foods. I always have so much fun playing in the kitchen with my two-and-a-half-year-old niece. She loves making salad or mixing up eggs for breakfast. While she is playing it the kitchen, she develops curiosity, fine motor skills, and even math literacy while counting.
  • Games: make a game out of trying something new by closing your eyes and guessing the fruit or vegetable you’re tasting! My family likes to play “The High-Low Game” where we go around the table, and everyone shares their “high” (the best part of the day) and their “low” (the worst part of the day) – it always results in meaningful conversation.
Courtney playing with her niece

Daniel: Last question for both of you. As part of your work with Blue Cross Blue Shield Diabetes Free South Carolina, you provide training to educators. How do you bring play into these adult learning experiences?

Courtney: Often when we think of play our mind automatically goes to a child, but it is important to realize that play is for all ages! I always try to incorporate play into my workshops to show how simple it is to incorporate play into a classroom setting. It is rewarding to get educators moving and having fun while they are learning. I recently led a training for principals and had them play “Simon Says” during a break; by the end, we were all laughing, our moods were boosted, and everyone was engaged.

Seth: Some of the cornerstones of the framework we use to guide our work revolves around physical activity and physical education – a field of work that I have specialized in for almost 6 years. I couldn’t imagine guiding adults through our framework of best practices without incorporating play and activity. Just as it was in my physical education days, learning through play is such a powerful way to deliver content. As I move into developing workshops and events for the districts involved with Diabetes Free SC, I am exploring more dynamic ways to communicate and deliver information and opportunities. For example, I plan to work with PE professionals within the districts to record fitness challenges that can be done at home or after school for students, staff, and families.

Thank you to Courtney and Seth for sharing their experience and tips on how to integrate play into wellness initiatives. To learn more about Healthier Generation’s work in South Carolina, sign up for the Healthier Generation e-news or reach out to Courtney and Seth via LinkedIn.


About the Author: Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, where he manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school time sites as they work to achieve national standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Daniel oversees community-based and out-of-school partnerships at the Alliance.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2021 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts.  PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here!  In July, Noah Lenstra, Director of Let’s Move in Libraries, will highlight public library play initiatives for several key demographics.  In August, Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, will blog on “PLAY for Healthier Communities.”


Nature Play and Health: Tips for Parents from a Science Educator

Summer Blog Series
PLAY for Healthier Communities #1

“Nature Play and Health: Tips for Parents from a Science Educator”

Last month in celebration of Park and Recreation Month, I had the honor of playing a virtual game of Kohl’s Healthy at Home Nature BINGO with my friend Pascale at GreatSchools.org and her 5-year-old daughter, Kamila. We discussed how healthy habits, like playing more outside, are also a great way to feel connected to each other and our amazing planet. In this article, I am excited to dive deeper into these linkages through a conversation I recently had with Samantha Wynns, a Science Educator at Cabrillo National Monument and If/Then Ambassador.

Daniel: Why is being a good steward of the environment important for our physical and mental health?

Sam: A healthy environment also supports our mental health. There is an abundance of scientific research demonstrating that getting outside lowers stress hormones, increases healthy hormones (like oxytocin), and decreases anxiety and depression. If we are to reap the mental health benefits of playful learning in nature, we need natural spaces to immerse ourselves in. This means we must first preserve and protect the environment around us.

What happens to one species happens to all and this includes humans! Here’s an example; honeybees have been experiencing something called Colony Collapse Disorder, which means their colonies have been failing and the bees have been dying off at a massive rate. Why does this matter? Because pollinators give us much of our food! At least 35% (a conservative estimate) of our crops require pollinators to produce nutritious foods like almonds, apples, berries, and tomatoes. Protecting pollinators by preserving native habitat and being mindful of pesticide use enhances food security for humans.

Daniel: As an educator at Cabrillo, how have you seen playful experiences in nature encourage children to care about themselves, each other, and the planet?

Sam: When we provide playful experiences in nature, we invite children to connect with the world around them. Without these opportunities, we see disconnections that result in bullying – a serious challenge faced by many youth, especially those in the LGBTQ community. It’s easy to bully an image on a screen or a social media handle that doesn’t seem connected to a real human on the other end. When you get children out into the beauty of nature and give them room to be curious and explore linkages on their own, it fosters a sense of connection on all levels.

I like to utilize a simple activity called, I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of… Ask your child to pause and make an observation, then notice, wonder and draw connections. For example, they might notice a plant’s strong scent, wonder why it has that scent and make linkages. Perhaps it reminds them of something in their own community garden or a flower at their grandparents’ house.

Building those connections helps children see how everything (and everyone) has a place and how everything is interrelated. These mindful experiences spark the thought that actions matter and that children themselves are an important part of caring for the cool place they’re exploring.

Daniel: What tips do you have for parents to help children feel connected to nature?

Sam: Oftentimes, all you must do is provide an opportunity for kids, and they will do the rest. Take them to outdoor spaces, when possible, and give them the freedom to notice, wonder and explore. Point out interesting things that you’re observing and ask them to expand on that. Outdoor spaces do not have to be distant mountain peaks, they can be your yard, neighborhood park, community garden, or local waterway.

There are many ways to feel connected to nature even when you don’t have access to it, like looking out the window and observing birds in a tree, finding a trail of ants or spiders indoors, or even growing your own windowsill plants. A couple of tools to help you slow down, be mindful and draw connections include nature journaling and apps like iNaturalist to identify plants and insects.

Daniel: Who can help families connect with nature?

Sam: Look for city, county, state, and national parks in your area; those parks will have websites that have information about special events or programs like hikes, outdoor field trips, bioblitzes (community science projects that are all about nature exploration), summer camps (some of them are free), and even volunteer opportunities! There are also many non-profits that can help you get connected. For example, we have one here in San Diego called Outdoor Outreach which connects underrepresented youth to nature through hikes and community events. I recommend Googling “youth nature non-profits + the name of your city” to find resources. Many cities also have a local foundation with a newsletter that you can join that will provide this information. I always recommend signing up for your local school district’s newsletter too!

Another method for finding folks to help facilitate nature connections is by finding a champion in your community. Maybe you know someone who volunteers in your community garden or a friend who hikes. Ask them where to start. People love to share their passion and would be more than happy to help.

And don’t forget! If you’re in the San Diego area, please get involved with me and my nature-loving team at Cabrillo National Monument! You can find information about our various projects on our website.

Daniel: Last question, is there anything else you would like to share with folks who read this article?

Sam: I just want to encourage folks with the statement: There is a place for you in nature. Depending on your lived experience, nature can often be interpreted as distant and, therefore, unattainable. But as I like to say, nature is really all around you – you just have to pause and observe. So even if you’ve never really thought of yourself as a “nature-person” before, I hope you give it a try. Just take the leap and get outside with your community, your family, or your friends – your body and mind will thank you for it!

Thank you to Sam for sharing your experience and tips! Ready for even more simple ideas to encourage playful fun in nature? Sign up for the Healthier Generation e-news.


About the Author: Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, where he manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school time sites as they work to achieve national standards for healthy eating and physical activity. Daniel oversees community-based and out-of-school partnerships at the Alliance.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2021 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts.  PLAY is important no matter what season it is…so NO SUMMER LEARNING LOSS here!  In July, Noah Lenstra, Director of Let’s Move in Libraries, will highlight public library play initiatives for several key demographics.  In August, Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, will blog on “PLAY for Healthier Communities.”


VIDEO: Power PLAYer Panel Discusses “PLAY IS SURVIVAL” through lens of
Diversity, Access, Equity and Inclusion

For our 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL keynote kickoff on April 2, we brought together three incredible thought leaders for our annual “Power PLAYer Panel.” Our three panelists tackle the 2021 theme, particularly as it relates to issues of diversity, access, equity and inclusion. The dialogue is rich and honest and thoughtful.  THIS IS A MUST SEE!

Power PLAYer Panel:
PLAY IS SURVIVAL

Meet the Panelists:

  • Laura Huerta Migus (moderator) is the now-former Executive Director of the Association of Children’s Museums in Arlington, Virginia, the world’s largest professional society promoting and advocating on behalf of children’s museums and children’s museum professionals. Throughout her career, Laura has been devoted to the growth and education of children, particularly those from underserved and under-resourced communities. Under her leadership, ACM pursues innovative and effective partnerships to leverage the power of children’s museums worldwide.  As of July 19, Laura is the new Deputy Director of the Office of Museum Services for the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • Lysa Ratliff, CEO of KABOOM!  In early 2021, Lysa M. Ratliff became the newest CEO of KABOOM!, the national non-profit that works to end playspace inequity. For good. Throughout her career, Ratliff has served as a champion for kids and their resilience, leading efforts to connect partners and make change for communities and kids across the country, and around the world. She was the Vice President of Partnership Development at KABOOM!, has held senior leadership roles at Habitat for Humanity International, Save the Children, and spent more than a decade in international marketing communications at several large corporations. Lysa has led both public and private fundraising teams, cause marketing and communications campaigns with large global corporations.
  • Dr. Christine Sims, Associate Professor of Educational Linguistics/ American Indian Education at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.  Dr. Sims specializes in indigenous language revitalization and maintenance issues, provides technical assistance to indigenous nations in language program planning, and trains American Indian language teachers. She established the American Indian Language Policy Research and Teacher Training Center at UNM in 2008. The Center engages in public advocacy and training support to Indigenous language maintenance and revitalization initiatives in New Mexico and has sponsored several international language symposia with funding support from the National Science Foundation. Dr. Sims is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Acoma and resides with her family on the Acoma Pueblo reservation in northwest New Mexico.

Below is the full recording of the keynote session
Power PLAYer Panel: PLAY IS SURVIVAL

 

This is one of the 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations from the 2021 Virtual Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY IS SURVIVAL – all recorded live earlier this year. Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!

Register for the REBOOT of the 2021 VIRTUAL Play Conference by August 31 — this will give you ON DEMAND access through December 31, 2021.

 

 


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual professional development 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 80+ headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations, networking and much more – all online from April 1 through December 31, 2021.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!