November 28th #Weplaychat Featuring Maryland’s Own, Patty Stine!

Join us on Wednesday, November 28th at 12:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Patty Stine of Pure Play Everyday Inc. out of Maryland to our #WePlayChat on “Engaging Volunteers at Play Based Events”.

Patty Stine began her professional career in promoting play as a child delivering play structures manufactured by her family business with her parents. Since then she has worked as a play environment designer, preschool teacher, and child care, professional trainer. She learned through all of this that play has the power to positively influence the self-image and development of children. Patty also serves as a US Play Coalition Play Ambassador. Patty’s commitment to demonstrating simple ways in which children and youth can experience maximum benefit from their play is contagious and we are grateful to have her perspective as she drives our November #weplaychat!

Here are the questions Patty will be covering during #WePlayChat dialogue:

Q1: What are the elements (time, space and materials) of a “play based event”?
Q2: Who can/should be invited to volunteer at your play based event?
Q3: What are the benefits of having volunteers at your play based event?
Q4: Are there policies or forms you need to have in place before hosting your “play based event”?

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


October 22nd #Weplaychat with Play Ambassador & Educator Gina Ruffcorn

Join us on Monday, October 22nd at 9:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Gina Ruffcorn of West Harrison Community School to our #WePlayChat as we discuss, “Learning While Moving: Incorporating Play & Motion Into The Classroom.

Gina is a Skype Master Teacher Founding Member, Skype Master Teacher Mentor, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert. Gina also has been honored with ambassadorships from Go Noodle, Spelling City, Kahoot and Pen Pal Schools. She has a Bachelors Degree from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa and a Masters degree in literacy and 21st Century Technologies from the University of Nebraska in Omaha. She currently teaches a 5th grade self-contained classroom at West Harrison Community School in Mondamin, Iowa where she also serves as the Technology Integrationist for her school district.

Here are the questions Gina will be covering during #WePlayChat dialogue:

Q1 What are your favorite ways to incorporate movement and play into your school/work days?

Q2 How do you tie-in play and movement within your curriculum standards?

Q3 How do you give your students voice and choice in activities?

Q4 What tips and tricks do you have for incorporating movement during transition times?


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


US Play Coalition partners
with Nickelodeon for the
15th annual Worldwide Day of Play

Nickelodeon is inspiring kids to embrace the transformative power of play and lead active lifestyles with its annual Worldwide Day of Play on Saturday, September 29.

2018 marks the 15th year of Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play (WWDoP).  Once again, the US Play Coalition is a partner with Nickelodeon for this important and FUN-omenal endeavor!  This year, the US Play Coalition helped to craft the official 2018 Partner Playbook, a planning guide for grassroots play events, complete with tips on ways to celebrate play and play activity ideas from US Play Coalition and other national partners like Afterschool Alliance, Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Girl Scouts of the USA, Kiwanis; Laureus Sport for Good, National Fitness Foundation, NFL PLAY 60, Playworks, Police Athletic League, Special Olympics, The Aspen Institute and USA BMX.

So get inspired by WWDoP and plan a Play Day in YOUR community!  It doesn’t have to be September 29 – Play Day can be any day!  Visit http://www.worldwidedayofplay.com/ for tips on ways to celebrate play and the official 2018 Playbook to help plan your own Worldwide Day of Play activities.

Check out the US Play Coalition’s Road to the Worldwide Day of Play event…!

4th Annual Clemson Community Play Day
Saturday, September 22, 11:00am-2:00pm
Nettles Park, Clemson, SC

The US Play Coalition and Clemson Parks and Rec are teaming up again for our annual Clemson Community Play Day as part of Nickelodeon’s Road to the Worldwide Day of Play. Our friends from Clemson University, the Outdoor Lab and Pickens County First Steps will be there too!  Join us for inflatables, games, crafts, photo ops and more!!! There will be a designated toddler play space AND opportunities to get wet!!  It’s FREE fun for all ages! Pack a lunch and stay for a while!  GET UP, GET OUT & GO PLAY!


2018 Grant Winners Announced

Grant funding is a distinctive feature of our annual Play Conference, and we are proud to have awarded $52,000 in funding to date.   At the 2018 Conference on the Value of Play: The Many Faces of 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 2018 Research Seed Grant was awarded to Muntazar Monsur, Ph.D., Nilda Cosco, Ph.D., and Robin Moore from NC State for their project entitled “Transitional play: Exploring the Play Value of Classroom Indoor-Outdoor Relationship of Space.”  The team plans to research transitional play and investigate the play value of transitional semi-covered space in an early childhood classroom to find out if it increases outdoor play time for children and increase children’s diversity in play.

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 action grants, supported by funding from our Giving TuesPLAY initiative as well as from action grant partner the Foundation for Sustainable Parks and Recreation.

There were two projects that each received a 2018 Action Grant:

– “Loose Parts Play Builds Tight Communities” – Patty Stine and Cheryl Simpson, Co-Founders of Pure Play Every Day, Inc.

– “Unequal Playing Field – A Panel Discussion on the Importance of Accessing Equal Play for Girls and Girls of Color” – Starr Jordan & Nichole Myles from Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry


I Used To Think Play Was _________. But Now I Think Play Is _______

After teaching the “Benefits of Play in Child Development” course for the last 10 years, I have read this opening line in students’ reflection paper many times. This year my thoughts about play have also changed. I used to think that play was something I could teach my students but now I think that play is something we need to experience to be understood. The focus of my teaching has always been to help college students understand the benefits of unstructured play by helping me organize a Play Day; a community event where families play with used and recyclable materials. The students create the games or activities for the Play Day but this summer I changed the theme to an Adventure Playground. For those of you reading this, and have just crawled out from under a pre-fab playground set, an Adventure Playground provides children with loose parts and encourages them to engage in freely-chosen, child-directed play.

But…before I could host my first Adventure Playground Play Day, I had to rethink my own thoughts about what an unstructured Play Day would look like. Then I had to convince my students that an adventure playground was the way to go, and finally I had to pull it all together, and get the community to show up.

Thinking Playful Thoughts

Although it was not difficult to image what an adventure playground could look like, kids playing with ‘junk’, it took me some time to accept the idea that an unstructured Play Day could work. At the time I was reading a book about playful intelligence; in fact I had the pleasure of meeting the author at the US Play Coalition Conference in Clemson SC last April. I serendipitously pre-ordered the book by Anthony DeBenedet titled Playful Intelligence: The Power of Living Lightly in a Serious World, and discovered after getting home from the conference, and finding the book on my doorstep, that I had met the author at the conference.  Anthony’s book helped me to look at play from a different perspective, the adult point of view. As a university professor, I teach students about children development from a play perspective. My students will one day work with children as a teacher, counselor, occupational therapist, or child life specialist. I am also the parent of two kiddos who love to pretend that they are puppies. I am so steeped in teaching and advocating for children’s play that I forgot to consider adult play! Some of the key points in Anthony’s book helped me to realize that I needed to change things with my play class. That I can use my sense of wonder to rediscover and embrace my imagination; to think about a Play Day that could be different. I knew that play is for all people; I just had to remember that I also needed play.

I think she might be crazy?!

While the students were curious to learn more about adventure playgrounds, they were not sold on the idea, yet. One student thought I was a bit crazy to bring junk to a nature center and let kids play with boxes, pallets, and tubes. After reading parts of Penny Wilson’s Playwork Primer and talking with Morgan Leichter-Saxby co-founder of Pop-up Adventure Playground, the students were beginning to think of themselves as play workers instead of event planners. The role of the play worker is to provide the loose parts and allow children opportunities for risk and child-directed. However, moving to the play worker mindset takes some practice. The students who worked at daycare centers and summer youth programs, had a “safety first” mentality. Students realized they did not have to rush to help children at the Play Day; that in fact they should think of themselves as a resource and not as a remedy. Students appreciated our conversation with Morgan, and were fascinated at the scenes from the documentary “The Land.” They were completely surprised at the level of trust the play workers had with the children as we watched the kiddos use knives, build fires, and scale trees. One student reflected, “Now I know that by telling a child to be careful in the middle of their play, it restricts their play, and I’m not going to do that.”

If you build an adventure playground, they will come?

When I first started hosting Play Days I would make a flyer, post them around town at different businesses and childcare facilities, and hope for the best. Within the last 5 years, I have noticed that the more social networking sites that I posted my event to, it has increased the attendance at the Play Day. I always contact local media outlets to promote the event, however, even after I tell my students about my efforts, and encourage them to post to their social media pages, they are still unsure if anyone would show up. However, it always works! About 60 people came to the Adventure Playground Play Day. Not only was the kiddy-pool filled with mud a favorite, the children were eager to paint their toes, legs, and faces. The parents appreciated the chance for their children to get messy without having to worry about cleaning up the space, that was our responsibility.

The students were concerned about the mess afterwards, however they noted that it was a mess worth cleaning up. They suggested that for “next time” I should warn students about the mess. Although I do plan to give the future student a heads-up, I also want them to experience the Play Day in their own way. If someone had told me, 15 years ago, after I helped my colleagues Joyce Hemphill and Laura Scheinholtz arrange a Play Day, that play would be the focus of my research, advocacy, and teaching philosophy I would never have believed it. You cannot warn people about some things in life, you just have to let them experience it for themselves.

 

About the Author

Heather Von Bank, PhD, is Chair and Associate Professor of Family Consumer Science at Minnesota State University-Mankato.  She teaches and advises in the Child Development and Family Studies area. Her specialty areas include research on parent–child relations during the stage of adolescence and family life issues. Dr. Von Bank is co-author of the book “The Power of Playful Learning.”


August 21 #WePlayChat:
“Playable Infrastructure”

Join us on Tuesday, August 21 at 9:00am EST as we welcome co-moderator Meghan Talarowski of Studio Ludo to our #WePlayChat on “Playable Infrastructure.”

Meghan is the founder and director of Studio Ludo, a non-profit dedicated to building better play through research, design and advocacy. She has degrees in architecture and landscape architecture, over fifteen years of experience in the design field and is a certified playground safety inspector. Her research focuses on how the design of play environments impacts physical health and social behavior. She has presented at conferences for the American Society of Landscape Architects, Child in the City, the International Play Association, The Association for the Study of Play, and the US Play Coalition. She was a winner in the 2016 international Play Space design competition, a winner in the 2016 Kaboom Play Everywhere Challenge and a finalist for two projects in the 2015 Knight Cities Challenge.

Here are the questions Meghan will be covering during #WePlayChat dialogue:

Q1: What kinds of play memories do you want your kids to have? Is there anything keeping those experiences from happening?
Q2: How would you define playable infrastructure? 
Q3: What infrastructure do you encounter each day which supports play?
Q4: What does the future of “playable infrastructure” look like?

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


Meet Joyce Hemphill,
the “Queen Of Play”

Hello! This is Joyce Hemphill, and I am one of guest bloggers for the US Play Coalition.

So who am I? Many of my colleagues refer to me as the “Queen of Play.” I think of myself as a Play Advocate – someone who promotes the value of play. Simply put, I am passionate about play. AND I want others to be equally enthusiastic about play.

My background in and expertise on play comes from two sides – my personal side as the parent of two sons, now grown, and the professional side as a professor of child development. The mom side has 28 years of hands-on experience watching my sons. I was fascinated by the ways they learned about their world and gained an understanding of who they were through their various adventures in play.

The professional side of me holds a doctorate in developmental psychology and almost 30 years of college classroom experience teaching infant and child development as well as cognition and learning. While at the University of Wisconsin-Madison I developed and taught a course on the Importance of Play in Child Development. The course included a service learning component whereby my students and I offered a “PlayDay,” a community play event.

After retiring from UW spring 2012 I began writing “Playing from Scratch” columns for the US Play Coalition and co-authored The Power of Playful Learning (2014) with Laura Scheinholtz and Heather Von Bank. In addition, I started giving workshops for teachers, parents, families, youth groups, and care providers on ways to create playful learning activities. These hands-on experiences have been complemented with my involvement with the Coalition, as well as the American Association for the Child’s Right to Play, The Association for the Study of Play, and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Construction Junction at Madison PlayDay

As a guest blogger I will share my thoughts on the different types of play, the various benefits of play, and the way play changes as a child grows and develops. Included will be tips, suggestions, and helpful information for parents and care providers. I also hope to increase my understanding of play from your questions and your insights of children’s play behaviors. So until next time, I leave you with a quote from American poet and essayist, Diane Ackerman, who said, “Play is our brain’s favorite way to learn.”  


YiP (Yours in Play)
Joyce


Reclaim Reality: Building Community and Sense of Self Through Play

A powerful hero lives among us that society often takes for granted. Play. 

Play is an experience that goes beyond a book or a device. Play takes many forms, and holds endless possibilities and latent power. 

However, the almighty and powerful digital media, where you can be transported anywhere in the world while hiding underneath your bed sheets, consumes our minds. Given the rise and societal dependence on the digital world, play has become increasingly essential. And for some reason we deny it—deny it in schools, deny it in work, deny it from day to day, because it is viewed as frivolous. Play is silenced before we can even understand its significance.

Neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp devoted time to studying the value of play and the brain determining, “the function of play is to build pro-social brains, social brains that know how to interact with others in positive ways.”

Digital media implicates play as a threat. Why? The virtual world gives us permission to ret

reat, while providing the illusion of community. When that becomes the norm, play becomes counter intuitive.  The question is how to we reconcile the relationship of play with the virtual world? More importantly, 

how can children develop a sense of self when they are unable to challenge themselves to experience childhood through a less filtered lens. 

Play allows for discovery. Social interaction. And accountability. Anonymity defeats accountability in the virtual arena. Logic would suggest we must encourage play in all facets of development given the extensive research to support that. A beautiful thought. Let the fanfare begin. Alas, we retreat from schools yards and parks, narrowing the definition of play, framing moments rather than discovering them.  Moments of carefree laughter sprinkled throughout the day—a curious rather than an expected sight. 

What is the culprit? 

It is not entirely the fault of the evolving virtual world. 

Play is vulnerable. 

It removes barriers because it requires us to be present. Vulnerability can be scary. Our ideas, thoughts, humor, our pain, our insecurities are exposed face to face. Play encourages children to interact. Human interaction though is becoming less relevant with social media. It makes sense that children would shy away from play, when they have an alternative escape. It is suppressing our natural instinct to play. It may be easier, but not necessarily healthier or productive—more the reason for schools to promote the play, beyond the technological shackles.  Let’s compliment this virtual arena with the freedom of play.

Allowing children to be in playground, in a park, on a field, surrounded by boxes, creating art, building a fort, outdoors, indoors, exploring, wherever it may be, influences their intelligence. Collaboration and negotiating occur in times of play when children share ideas face to face. These skills naturally evolve when in an environment that promotes play. 

The question then becomes, do we want to live in a society where we eliminate social interaction? That goes against human nature. Who does the education system benefit when we deny our human need for social engagement? It may be easier to avoid people nowadays, but we cannot escape them. 

Play is at the core of development. It is pointless to build a home on foundation on quicksand. Let’s not allow the maturing brain to become the quicksand under what we expect to carry adulthood. Allow play to flourish. Allow play to provide balance. Let’s treat play with the respect it deserves and no longer take it for granted.

 

About The Author

​Greg is the Founder/Executive Director of Artcentricity Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit project based Arts Organization, geared towards child development. He is also an Author and US Play Ambassador. He currently resides in New York and has a strong passion for Visual and Performance Arts. Connect with Greg here.


July 24 #WePlayChat: “The Social and Emotional Benefits of Play”


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Join us on Tuesday, July 24th at 7:00pm EST as we welcome co-moderator Tracy Lockwood, Owner of PLAY Education, to our #WePlayChat to discuss the topic, “The Social and Emotional Benefits of Play”.

Tracy Lockwood is a certified K-12 PE Teacher and has over 25 years of experience as an educator. Her teaching experience includes working with K-12 students in Alberta & Abu Dhabi. Tracy was employed as an Education Consultant for nearly 10 years where she facilitated hundreds of workshops for thousands of professionals at the local, provincial, national and international level. Her consulting role brought many opportunities to write, edit and review resources and curriculum for numerous organizations and government ministries. Tracy is a Master Trainer for the National Coaching Certification Program & DANCEPL3Y (dance-play). She has her Masters in Educational Leadership and has a passion for all things physical education, physical literacy and physical activity. Through her many years of teaching, coaching, and facilitating, she has discovered her greatest passion!  Today, Tracy runs a successful business, PLAY Education, and works with thousands of children, youth and adults every year around the world to empower and inspire them to move, laugh, connect, and smile, while learning new ways to be physically active and develop physical literacy.  Visit her website – www.playeducation.ca  Check out her new adventures on Twitter this Fall in Asia, where she and her husband will be living and working. Please join us in welcoming Tracy to our monthly #WePlayChat on Twitter. You can connect with her prior to the chat @PLAY_Educator.

Here are the questions Tracy will be covering during #WePlayChat dialogue:

1. What is Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and why is it important to be more intentional about teaching SEL skills?

2. When should we teach SEL skills? 

3. How can we teach SEL skills across multiple settings? 

4. What resources are available to support SEL through 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 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 and contribute to the conversation around the value of play.


#PlayTakeOver By Brian VanDongen: Summer Camp Gives Kids The Time They Need To Play

Play is crucial in a child’s physical, social, and emotional development.  But most of the year, kids don’t get enough time to play. Summer camp needs to be a time where children can play.

Threats to Play

There are two major threats to play. The first threat is the amount of time children spend being physically active is decreasing. Compared to previous generations, children now spend more time sitting than moving. Schools are adding classroom time at the expense of recess and physical education. There also have been large increases in screen time use in children. A National Institute of Health study 2016 reported that the average child spends approximately five to seven hours per day using a screen. This is nearly – or more than – double the amount of time children used screens according to a 2007 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation study. An increase in sedentary time is a threat to play because most play requires movement and action.

A second threat to play is the lack opportunities for children to improvise or use their own resources for play. Parental concern for safety has led to an increase in the use of toys and games that have a directive nature because of the parental fear of letting children playing unsupervised. Many toys and games now come with a set of instructions or rules. This hinders creativity and the opportunity for free play. For example, if a child has a doll or action figure from a TV show, that toy has a pre-defined personality, story, and character. However, a generic doll or action figure has none, so the child is able to create his or her own story and character for the doll or action figure.

The Role of Play At Summer Camp

Because of the threats to play in a child’s life, play takes on a role of increased importance at summer camp. Camp allows children the time to play: while many activities at camp are organized and directed by the counselors, ample time for free play should be included in a daily summer camp schedule. Campers can create imaginative scenarios and explore together while the counselors either watch over them or actively engage in the child-driven play. Campers may ask their counselors to play a role in their scenario. Good camp counselors will take on that role and be fun!

Many parents are concerned – and rightfully so – about their child’s education and the lack of formal schooling during the summer months. However, free play is crucial to a child’s development. Higher levels of school adjustment, increased social development, and increased literacy skills are all benefits of free play. If children aren’t getting the amount of play they need during the school year,

While children’s opportunities for play and physical activity being reduced in their “normal” world, there needs to be ample time for play at summer camp so children can experience the benefits of free play.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “it is a happy talent to know how to play.” This talent is crucial for child development, and every child should have the opportunity to acquire the talent to play. There are countless benefits of play; however, many can fall into four main categories: physical, emotional, social, and cognitive.

In today’s increasingly sedentary world, play and physical activity help children become physically fit. Children learn movement control, acquire body-spatial awareness, develop fine and gross motor skills and increase flexibility and balancing skills when they play. In addition, when children are involved in physical activity, they build stronger muscles and improve bone density, improve heart and lung function and prevent obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol. Children who are physically active at a young age and enjoy that physical activity are more likely to become physically active adults.

The physical benefits of play are easily noticeable. However, there are internal benefits of play that are not so easily identified but that are crucial to a child’s development, such as emotional development. Play often times allows children to experiment with physical challenges – such as climbing and hanging; these opportunities encourages them to evaluate and take risks. By taking that risk and overcoming that challenge, children develop a sense of accomplishment, leading to higher self-confidence and self-esteem levels.

A key reason children look forward to play is the opportunity to spend time with their friends and the change to make new friends. These social interactions are important. In group play, children learn social roles and cultural rules and develop appropriate cooperation skills. Group play teaches children about real-life relationships; when children develop and test relationships, they learn self-control and negotiation skills. These skills help children prepare for a lifetime of interacting with others.

Experts agree that play is critical for a child’s brain development. In play, children develop language and reasoning skills. Play encourages independent thinking and problem solving abilities and often can improve a child’s focus. Children develop verbal skills, judgment and reasoning and creativity.

We are the adults we become because of our play experiences as children and the skills we learn when we play.

Good summer camps offer children to opportunity to play. Because at camp, and with play, children grow, explore, learn, and have fun – all without even realizing it.

 

About the Author

Brian VanDongen is a parks and recreation professional in Hillsborough Township (N.J.).  He has extensive experience working in parks and recreation and an educational background in Excercise Science and Physical Education as well as in Sport and Exercise Psychology.  Brian is a play ambassador for the US Play Coalition.  Check out his blog “The First Quarter.”

 

*Photo of children playing on bars courtesy of Brian VanDongen