September #WePlayChat: Creating a Healthier Life by Participating in Play

Join us Thursday, September 28 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Darryl Edwards; Creator of the Primal Play Method™ to our #WePlayChat on “Creating a healthier life by participating in play.

Darryl Edwards, is a Natural Lifestyle Educator, movement coach and creator of the Primal Play Method™. Darryl developed the Primal Play methodology to inspire others to make activity fun while getting healthier, fitter and stronger in the process.

Darryl is the author of several award-winning books including Paleo Fitness and Paleo from A to Z. His work has been published in titles such as Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Elle Magazine, Men’s Fitness and he has featured on the BBC documentaries Eat to Live Forever and Doctor In The House.

Feel free to connect with Darryl at PrimalPlay.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/DarrylFEdwards Twitter @fitnessexplorer, Instagram @fitnessexplorer

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:
Q1. How does play lead to positive health benefits?
Q2. How does play support positive mental well being?
Q3. What challenges exist which prevent people from playing?

Q4. Can playing influence other areas of your life? I.e. relationships? work

#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 8 countries, spanning 4 continents – all tuning in to connect around PLAY.  This FREE professional learning opportunity is a great way to connect with fellow play enthusiasts, teachers and experts from across the globe.

We love sharing the voice of play on Twitter through our #WePlayChat.  We have our chats at different times on different days to get the most involvement across our membership.  You will not want to miss them! Tune in and to join in the conversation around the value of play.


#WePlayChat: How Communities Can Promote Play

Join us Tuesday, August 29 at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Carly Demanett of the Eugene Civic Alliance to our #WePlayChat on “How Communities Can Promote Play.”

Carly Demanett is the Media and Communications Manager for Eugene Civic Alliance (ECA) in Eugene, OR. ECA was established to build and operate a community sports and entertainment venue to benefit the children of Eugene. 

It’s about kids and how we as a community provide for their basic physical fitness. It’s about how healthy activities affect our community and economy. It’s about the resilience of a community, despite setbacks, to play on.”

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

Q1. What are your local communities doing to support play?
Q2. What are the secret ingredients to supporting sustainable play initiatives?
Q3: What is the best way to effectively communicate the importance of play within a community?
Q4: How can partnering with other orgs/businesses/schools/etc. help promote play?

#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 across the globe.


Book Review: Playing it Up– With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds

Book Review by Dr. Debora B. Wisneski (University of Nebraska- Omaha) with Melany Spiehs and Carol Burk (Omaha Public Schools)

Almon, J. (Ed.)(2017). Playing it up– With loose parts, playpods, and adventure playgrounds. Annapolis, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

Debora: In 2014 in Vancouver Canada, I was able to listen to the Canadian environmental activist Severn Cullis-Suzuki give an impassioned speech on the future. She was speaking of building a better world for our children’s future. Part of her presentation included her reminiscing of her involvement in the environmental movement. She recalled in her younger years feeling the need to fight- against policies harmful to the earth and against corporations who polluted. However, she had made a transition in her career from fighting to one of building. She came to the realization that when the powers- that-be would one day come to the realization that harming the earth is unsustainable, they would need to turn to those who know how to live in earth-friendly and sustainable ways. Thus, Cullis-Suzuki began to focus her efforts on creating a sustainable community where she lives and raises her family. In the process, she also came to the realization that the Utopia she dreamed of currently would not exist at a national or global level, but she discovered that there was a network of such communities that already existed around the world. These communities created a sort of web that spread across the globe that could stay connected though so far apart.

Cullis-Suzuki’s description of the state of her cause, reminded me of the plight of play in American schools and lives. It is easy to get discouraged when fighting against school policies and practices that hinder children’s play in education; however, I have become more hopeful when I have turned my attention to collaborating with others to build play spaces in schools and communities. While every city or school does not support play, there are many places and people around the world that are building play spaces. Joan Almon’s new book “Playing It Up- With Loose Parts, Play Pods, and Adventure Playgrounds” is a wonderful documentation of the work of play advocates and playworkers around the U.S. who are building play spaces and expanding our network of play communities. In Almon’s edited book each chapter is written by a play leader who describes in detail innovative ways play spaces are being designed and what materials are being organized and used in these spaces. The book opens with a ringing endorsement by Dr. Stuart Brown.

Melany: The first chapter begins with Almon describing the state of play in the U.S. and her concerns for children. She displays a deep respect for young children and her message is one of urgency but not hopelessness. Due to our current society filled with lawsuits, safety is a major concern in schools. She states, “Society’s fear of play, with its various physical and psychological risks, remains a major obstacle that needs to be overcome, or at least minimized, if children are to play freely again” (p. 3). Children use play to deal with stress and anxiety and with the decrease in play children are displaying an increase in obesity, depression, hyperactive disorders and autism. Yet, Almon trusts that children are naturally risk aware and a good at assessing risk and thus, advocates for loose parts, playpods and adventure playgrounds to support their play.

Debora: The second chapter, written by Rusty Keeler, offers a reflection of the state of free and risky play in the U.S. and his recognition that play is returning to the world of children. As he states, “The world is changing because we are consciously evolving it. We are consciously choosing to say “yes” to the play opportunities we believe children need” (p. 15) The following chapters are written by the play leaders from around the U.S. describing the unique aspects of their play spaces and providing evidence of this play evolution. Along with the stories, there are beautiful high quality photographs that make you want to be in these spaces and extensive biographies and websites of the contributors which is extremely important when we are striving to make connections within this movement. The first section of stories focuses on the process of starting up play projects and the practical details necessary for success. The second section highlights various examples of adventure playgrounds- the risky child-initiated wild spaces with loose parts and minimal adult intervention that were considered taboo in American culture. On these pages, these fantastic spaces come to life. The third section describes play pods in parks and schools- smaller outdoor spaces but with a multitude of recyclable and reused materials for building and pretend- changing how children play during traditional recesses. The fourth section illustrates the movement of bringing play back to nature. The book concludes with calls to advocate for play and essential lists of resources, play advocacy groups, and the principles of playwork- all the tools one could use to begin his or her own play project. And this is the real power of the book- it inspires one to action. It is contagious as two of our reviewers who are preschool teachers discovered. Here, they describe how Almon and her co-authors inspired action at their preschool and elementary school:

Melany: At Spring Lake (Elementary), we have an abandoned outdoor classroom on site. It is a large area blocked off by a chain link fence. Inside there are trees, small sheds and overgrown raised beds. The weeds have taken over and there has been no one to take care of the area since it closed down many years ago. I have had my eye on this space since I started at Spring Lake back in August. After talking to my team and my administrators I have been given permission to lead a resurrection of this outdoor classroom. Seeing Joan Almon’s photos of children playing in nature and reading the play stories encouraged me to take this leap of faith. She was that gentle nudge that I needed to be an advocate for outdoor play at my school.

Carol:
We read Joan’s book before we opened up our outdoor classroom. Her words about risk assessment helped us to remember that children are capable and can do their own assessment. It made for a more authentic experience for everyone. We noticed there was minimal re-directing from adults, almost no conflicts between children, and children resolving, negotiating, and compromising with each other.

Reviewers Carol Burk, Debora Wisneski, and Melany Spiehs

“Playing It Up” can be ordered from amazon.com and is available at no cost online at allianceforchildhood.org. We recommend this book as essential for the play movement today.


#WePlayChat: “The Role of the Adult for Children’s Play” Featuring Play Ambassador Matt Leung

Join us Friday, July 28th at 3:00pm EST as we welcome Matt Leung to our #WePlayChat on “The Role of the Adult for Children’s Play.”

Matt Leung has spent over 10 years working with children and youth in the recreation sector. Matt is a Master Trainer with DANCEPL3Y, and the original Play Ambassador at Vivo for Healthier Generations, a local recreation centre in Calgary. Matt has facilitated play-FULL trainings and workshops across Canada and leading up to the 2017 International Play Association conference being held in Calgary, he sits on the steering committee for YYCPlays, a committee of professionals invested in building Calgary’s capacity for play.

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

1. What is the role of an adult in children’s play?

2. How can adults best support the child’s right to play?

3. Where do adults have the most influence on a child’s play?

4. What are some great examples you’ve seen of positive adult impact on play?

#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 across the globe.


IS IT POSSIBLE TO JUST “PLAY”?

This summer we are launching a blog series by our new Play Ambassadors.  Enjoy the first installment by Brian VanDongen

July is National Parks and Recreation Month, and this year’s theme is “Get Your Play On.”  I think this is a perfect theme.  Parks provide a great place to play, and recreation departments should embrace that and market their parks to their residents and to the public at large.  As a parks and recreation professional, I want people to use our parks.  They are a place to relax, a place to get exercise, a place to explore, a place to enjoy the fresh air, and, most importantly, a place to play.  But is it possible to just “play?”

 

The word is getting out about play and its benefits.

1. Play provides much needed physical activity and helps children build healthy bodies.  By participating in physical activity and play, children can get valuable time improving their cardiorespiratory system, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and bone strength.  Active play can help children reach the CDC-recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity and help them become physically literate and healthy.

2. Play helps build creativity and imagination.  When children play, objects take on new forms.  A frisbee may become a UFO, pots and pans become a drum set, a log becomes a boat.  These “loose parts” are what makes play great and help children build creativity and imagination.  Children also take on various roles, from firefighter to superhero to baseball player when they play, sometimes all within the same play time!

3. Play advances social skills.  Children playing with building blocks together learn teamwork.  When kids disagree about who will use the green soccer ball or who will be the goalie, they are learning how to settle disagreements and compromise.

The benefits I mentioned about play are generally well-accepted as the cornerstone benefits.  Of course, there are many more — countless more — benefits that I could discuss.  When we talk about the benefits of play, however, most of them are focused on free play.  In my opinion, this type of play gets phased out as we age.  Free play turns into competitive play.

Play turns into having rules, formalized goals, and a point system.  Teams (or individuals) compete against one another to win.   Free play is reduced or eliminated and turns completely into a sport.  Now I’m not saying that sports are bad or that as children get older that they and adults should not participate in sports.  There are a great number of benefits — physically and socially — that children and adults derive from sports participation.

But this competitive way of thinking eliminates “free play.”  It limits the imagination.  It limits creativity.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes older children need to slide down a slide, toss a football around, or hop on rocks across a river without an end goal.  Just to do it.  Just to play.  I know it can be hard.  As a golfer, I want to keep score every round; I want to know how well (or poorly) I played.  I crave that number at the end.  But sometimes you get so caught in trying to win, that you forget why you started in the first place.  You forget how to let loose and just play.  There are benefits of play for adults too.  Some mirroring the benefits for children: social interaction, creativity building, and physical activity.  However, some benefits pertain just to adults and older children including stress reduction and improved cognitive function (especially imporant in older adults).

Societal conventions and stereotypes need to be proven false.  Adults and older kids can swing on a swing set, climb across the monkey bars, or build a sandcastle.  It is possible to just play.  We all can “Get Our Play On” this Parks & Recreation Month — and every month.  But in an almost counterintutitive way, as we get older we have to try harder to not try and to just play.

Featured Image: Happy Max by makelessnoise   CC BY 2.0

Meet Play Ambassador/Guest Blogger Brian VanDongen

Brian is a parks and recreation professional in Hillsborough Township (N.J.). Through his experiences working in parks and recreation and studies in Exercise Science and Physical Education as well as Sport and Exercise Psychology, Brian has observed and learned many things in community recreation and youth sports. Brian believes that all children deserve to have a positive and fun youth sport experience regardless of ability. Also, all children and adults should have access to high quality recreation programming and parks providing passive and active recreational opportunities to lead a happy, healthy, and active lifestyle. He has a regular blog called The First Quarter. Brian joined the Play Ambassador team in 2016.


2017 Grant Winners Announced

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $47,000 in funding to date.   At the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play the new grant winners were announced.  The review process was challenging as we had a record number of outstanding submissions this year.

Each year a $3,000 research seed grant is awarded to a researcher or group of researchers who present empirical research at the play conference to support new, innovative and thoughtful work on the value of play.  This is seed funding in support of longitudinal or future research in diverse topics related to play, and grant recipients’ work reflects great potential for expanding knowledge in the field.

The 2017 Research Seed Grant was awarded to Shan Jiang, PhD, from West Virginia University for her project, “Healing through Play: Play Opportunities as Positive Distractions at Pediatric Healthcare Environment.”

In addition to the research grant, $1000 action grants are awarded to support creative and innovative proposals to engage groups in play or to educate about the value of play. This year we had two partners supporting our action grants, IPA-USA and Partners for Parks.  We also had funding from our Giving TuesPLAY initiative.

There were three projects that each received a 2017 Action Grant:
– Britt Stetson for Harper’s Playground at Arbor Lodge Park, a playground for children of all abilities in in Portland, Ore.

– Debora Wisneski and Miriam Kuhn for “Building a Community of PLAY Through an Interdisciplinary University Collaborative” at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

– Gregory Manley from City of Play in Pittsburgh, Penn., for Ludovia, a weekly class for young professionals and working-class minorities to foster play through physical, emotional and social communication. 


PlayCore and GameTime Take Research to a New Level with Recognition Program for Communities

PlayCore’s Center for Professional Development is uniquely committed to sound research and best practices to advance play and recreation through programs, publications, continuing education, and advocacy. Their unparalleled network of esteemed scholars provides them with the validated research to compose best practice resources and help inform the design of products created by their brands, like GameTime. With their National Demonstration Site program, PlayCore recognizes communities for designing spaces using best practices outlined in the research.

The National Demonstration Site program was created to recognize thoughtfully planned outdoor environments that ensure people can be physically and socially active through play and recreation. Communities are recognized in a number of ways, including an online map,  and the positive attention gained can attract additional partners, funding, and serve as a model environment for others to replicate and share.   With a total of five National Demonstration Site programs for inclusive play, nature play, playful pathways, youth fitness, and adult fitness, PlayCore and GameTime are helping communities get the recognition and exposure they so richly deserve.

GameTime’s inclusive parks at Hugh Mac Rae Park in Wilmington, NC and Havens Gardens Park in Washington, NC are two of many parks being recognized as a National Demonstration Sites for following research-based best practice principles in inclusive design.


Research also informs many product designs, like the Expression Swing, the only swing where parent and child can swing together in complete attunement.


March 22nd #WePlayChat: Play to Support Growth and Well-Being

Join us Wednesday, March 22nd at 1:00pm EST as we welcome Kimberly Hart to our #WePlayChat on “Play to Support Growth & Well Being.” Kimberly (@KimberlyEHart) is a mother who is passionate about being active and healthy. She is a content developer at AAAStateofPlay.com. Growing up in Indianapolis, Kim has always been dedicated to staying healthy and being active especially after having two children. With the obesity epidemic on the rise, Kim makes a conscious effort to involve her children in playful activities like baseball, hiking, and enrolling them in camp during the summer. At times Kim volunteers at the camp, helping out with the daily activities for all the kids. In her spare time she offers personal trainingKimberly Hart for those looking to help improve their health goals.

Here are the chat questions that will guide our dialogue:

Q1: Do you believe that play is an integral part of a child’s growth and well being? Why?

Q2: In what ways does play support the emotional health of children? Are there kinds of play that nurture mental well-being?

 Q3: How does free play support physical growth and well-being? In what ways does this differ than the benefits of organized sports?
Q4: What role does recess play in a child’s growth and well-being? 
#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.

FREE CEUs, AIA Learning Units, and LA CES credits Available to Registered Attendees at The Play Conference

US-PLay-Round-TablesWant a PLAYful way to earn CEUs?!  Come to the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play, April 2-5 at Clemson University.

Clemson University awards CEUs for your participation in sessions at the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play. All keynotes, featured and educational sessions are 45 minutes in length.  Participants can be awarded .05 CEUs for each of these sessions attended. There is no additional fee for CEUs at this conference.

NEW THIS YEAR!  Several of our sessions qualify for AIA and LA CES credits.  There are 4 hours eligible for AIA learning units and 16 sessions pending LA CES approval (though we have been assured it is just a matter of time).  These credits will also be available at no additional charge to our participants.
Special registration options are available for schools, non-profits, and government agencies looking to send 4 or more delegates.  Contact Stephanie Garst for more information.

Register today for The Play Conference!


Inaugural Lineup of Pre-Conference Play Institutes Announced

The moment you have waited for has arrived!  Check out our inaugural lineup of Pre-Conference Play Institutes for the 2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play.

These Play Institutes are 3-hour topic-specific trainings that take place on Sunday, April 2 from 11:00am-2:30pm (includes a 30 minutes break).  Registration is required.  Cost is just $25 for the institute of your choice.  Click on each of the titles below to learn more.

Play Facilitator Certificate of Completion
Ellen O’Sullivan, PhD., CPRP
President, Leisure Lifestyle Consulting

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

Effective Playground Protective Surfacing – The Elusive Goal
Rolf Huber, Canadian Playground Advisory Inc.
Ken Kutska, International Playground Safety Institute, Inc.

These Pre-conference Play Institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option. Cost to attend an institute is $25. Pre-registration is required.