The 2016 conference is NEW AND IMPROVED! In fact, it has been REBOOTED!  Building on the energy and innovation that came from our snowy and sometimes “power-free” 2015 conference, there are new elements for the 2016 conference – round tables, fireside chats, coffee talks and “Play Talks.” The dates have also been changed to April to (hopefully) avoid the snow!

Lenore Skenazy is founder of the book, blog and movement, “Free-Range Kids”, which launched the anti-helicopter parenting crusade.  Her keynote presentation, “Free Range Kids: Raising Safe, Self-Reliant, PLAYFUL Children without Going Nuts with Worry,” will examine our culture’s obsession with risk, and how to flip it to an obsession with play.

Rue Mapp is the Founder of Outdoor Afro, the nation’s leading, cutting edge network that celebrates and inspires African American connections and leadership in nature.

Through Outdoor Afro, Rue shares opportunities to build a broader community and leadership in nature. Her important work has generated widespread national recognition and support.


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

Dr. Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College.  His recent research focuses on the roles of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves, through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his recent book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books, 2013). He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine.

Peter’s PLAYtalk is titled, “Play Deficit Disorder:  A National Crisis and How to Solve it Locally.”

Nickelodeon’s Jean Margaret Smith, is Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Administration for Nickelodeon.  For more than a decade under her direction, Nickelodeon championed Worldwide Day of Play, an unprecedented annual event in which all Nickelodeon channels suspend programming and the network and its partners host grassroots events with the message: “get up, get out and go play.” (In 2015, the US Play Coalition became a partner in the WWDoP initiative!)  Smith will speak on this groundbreaking initiative in her PLAYtalk entitled, “Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play: Its Impact and Its Future.”

Justin Bogardus’ short Nature Rx films (over 25 million views through Facebook and Youtube) have entered the world vernacular with their unique dose of laughs and the outdoors – two timeless prescriptions for whatever ails you. Nature Rx parts 1, 2, and 3 have appeared at over 50 film festivals worldwide, garnering several best short awards, and national attention from Outside Magazine, National Geographic, Sierra Club, Wired Magazine, Upworthy, and others.

Justin’s PLAYtalk will be “Does Nature have a Marketing Problem?”

Featured Speakers

  • Debbie Rhea, “The Liink Project: Going Against the Grain of Testing through Play and Character in Elementary Schools”

  • David Gould, “Play, Passion, and Purpose: A New Arc for Education”

  • “The Play Lady” Pat Rumbaugh, “Help Change the World, Invite your Community to Play”

  • FIRST NORTH AMERICAN Sneak Peek of the new Award Winning Documentary NaturePlay

  • Bob Johnson, “The Bcube Experience: Accelerating Organizational Performance”

  • Ken Kessler, “The Play Rx: This is Your Brain on Play”

  • Play Panel, “Breakthroughs in Play: Community Projects Featuring Loose Parts, Playwork, Risk, and Adventure”

  • Lisa Bailey-Davis, “Health and Well Being- Why Play Trumps Precision Medicine”

  • Patrick Lee, “Singapore – A Great Place to Play”

Coffee Talks & Fireside Chats and ROUNDtables

Coffee Talks and Fireside Chats will harness the organic opportunities for networking, collaborating and research.

ROUNDtables will feature knowledgeable facilitators around critical issues and trends in the field.

FREE CEUs Available

Clemson University awards CEUs for your participation in sessions at The Play Conference 2016. 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.

Educational Sessions

Educational Sessions are opportunities to share and discover innovative play strategies and play research. Our goal is to bring together diverse perspectives to facilitate the advancement of the play movement. Click here for a schedule of all the sessions.

usplaycoaltionPLAY Workshops

PLAY Workshops are hour-long, hands-on, interactive PLAY learning sessions. 2016 PLAY Workshop presenters included Playworks North Carolina and Play-Well.

2016 Event Schedule

  • Play Conference Program

  • Schedule at a Glance