The 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play:
THE NATURE OF PLAY will be April 3-5, 2022, in Clemson, South Carolina.

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 leading play researchers, educators, health scientists, park and recreation professionals, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the globe.

“THE NATURE OF PLAY” is a PLAY on words, allowing for broad interpretation by presenters!  As always, the play conference will explore play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom, play in NATURE and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.

We are thrilled to have our first IN-PERSON conference since 2019!!  The event includes keynote and featured speakers, round tables on critical issues and trends, a research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, PLAYforums and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more. Check back often for updated conference details.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Please email for information.

“Passion as Playtime — Why Loving What We Do Can Save Us” — J. Drew Lanham, PhD
Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist – Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department. 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.

The second annual “Health & PLAY” Institute features leading healthcare professionals and researchers examining the synergies between play and health.
Speakers include:

  • Michael Suk, MD, Chief Physician Officer
    Geisinger System Services
  • Brooke Buckley, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital
  • Stuart Brown, MD, Founder of the National Institute for Play
  • Deborah A. Cohen, MD, Research Scientist, Kaiser Permanente Research and Evaluation
  • Meghan Talarowski, PLA, Founder and Executive Director, Studio Ludo
  • Matthew Browning, PhD, Asst Professor & Director of the Virtual Reality & Nature Lab, Clemson University
  • …and more!

Learn more…

Four incredible thought leaders tackle the 2022 theme, THE NATURE OF PLAY, for our annual Power PLAYer Panel:

  • Fran Mainella (moderator) – Chair Emeritus, US Play Coalition & Former National Park Service Director
  • Debora Wisneski, PhD, John T. Langan Community Chair of Early Childhood Education, University of Nebraska at Omaha & president of The Association for the Study of Play (TASP)
  • Deepti Adlakha, PhD – Director of the Natural Learning Initiative, Assoc Professor, Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning, NC State University
  • Sarah Milligan-Toffler – President & CEO of the Children & Nature Network

Featured Sessions

The Play Therapy Forum is aimed at practitioners but open to all.  It is a special series that kicks off our conference on Sunday, April 3. Learn more…

EXPO – “Making Adaptive Sports Accessible to All”
Jasmine Townsend, PhD, Associate Professor & Jeffrey Townsend, Lecturer with Mckenna Woodhead and Marsden Miller
Clemson University

“Playful Pandemic – How Play Clubs, Nature Play, and Extra Recess Are Helping Students Thrive!”
Kevin Stinehart, 4th grade teacher, Play Club Leader
School District of Pickens County

“Playing While Black: The Use of Storytelling For Play Inequity”
Courtashia Felton with Corliss Outley, PhD, Professor, Clemson University

“Every Child Deserves to Play…Baseball”
Jill Moore White, Inclusive Play Specialist, Landscape Structures, Inc
Stephanie Davis, VP of National Programs, The Miracle League

“The Global Healing Curriculum Project”
Edgar Klugman, PhD, Holocaust Survivor 
Dee Stegelin, PhD, Clemson University
Debora Wisneski, PhD, University of Nebraska-Omaha, Walter F. Drew, EdD, Institute for Self Active Education

“Active Play: What Role Did It Have in Our Evolutionary Past and How Vital Is It For Our Future?”
Darryl Edwards, Founder, Primal Play Method

“The Playful Life: The Power of Play in Our Every Day”
Julie P. Jones, PhD, Associate Professor of Education, Converse College and Jed Dearybury, Educator, Author, Illustrator

“COVID Roadblocks Disrupting Play Opportunities: Fighting Back”
Deborah Rhea, PhD, Professor, LiiNK Director

“Play is for a Lifetime – What is YOUR Play Personality?”
Stuart Brown, Founder of the National Institute for Play and Tom Norquist, SVP of Innovation and Business Development – PlayCore/GameTime

5 Resources to Foster Family Engagement through Nature-Based Play
Daniel Hatcher, Director of Community Partnerships & Seth Shelby, SC Program Manager, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Educational, Research & Poster Sessions

Educational Sessions are opportunities to share and discover innovative play strategies and applications. These sessions are interactive and aimed at practitioners.  Educational Sessions are 45 minutes long including Q&A.

The Play Research Symposium is aimed at researchers and academics. It provides opportunities for a scholarly exchange surrounding play.  Sessions will include several 15-minute presentations grouped by theme with a moderated Q&A to follow.

Poster Presentations will display from Sunday through Tuesday of the conference to maximize visibility. The formal Poster Session will be part of a reception on Tuesday where presenters will have the opportunity to speak to conference attendees about their poster display.

Check out the Conference Speaker Overview for a rough schedule of the Sessions lined up for 2022!

Session Themes

All our sessions will be classified into the following themes to help attendees find the sessions that most interest them:

Education & Play – Play is a vital part of the learning equation, both in and out of the classroom. The faces of those learning while at play are some of the most engaging! Consider play as a vehicle for learning through both traditional and nontraditional settings including schools, camps, afterschool programs, museums, zoos, aquariums, parks & recreation departments, faith-based spaces, and more.

Health, Recreation & Play – Play is a building block for healthy living. Examine health and physical activity trends related to play, healthy benefits of play, and the intersection of health and recreation to insure a healthy face of play.

Nature Based & Outdoor Play – The faces of play are often wet, muddy, and sun-glistened from hours spent outdoors. Focus on play in nearby and far away nature–backyards, parks, creeks, lakes, trails, wetlands, and beyond.

Accessible & Inclusive Play – Play should be accessible, available, and open to all. Advance the field for play for all abilities, all shapes, all sizes, all colors.

Multi/Intergenerational & Adults at Play – Promoting play throughout life is our mission. Explore how adults (college-aged to retirees) play and how adults share and benefit from play with children.

Designing for Play – Landscape architects, architects, designers, city planners, and civic groups are invaluable experts, practitioners and resources for PLAY. These sessions will be submitted for LACES CEU approval.

Emerging Trends in Play – Play is changing! The Play movement is growing! Explore the latest in play- technology, social media, politics, policies, and more.

International/Global Play – Play looks very different around the world. Share play practices, history, and culture from countries across the globe.

Nuts & Bolts – From play basics to play essentials. Share tips, trainings, techniques and tools for PLAY.


Continuing Education Units

Clemson University awards up to 1.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) for your participation in Play Conference sessions. If you would like to request CEUs from Clemson University for your participation, be sure to grab a CEU form to be filled out before and after each session you attend and turn in the completed form at the end of the conference. Your CEU request will be reviewed and the number of credits submitted to Clemson University for approval. Once approved by the university, you will receive a separate email with payment details (there is a $12 CEU processing fee). You will receive a PDF of your CEUs. Please allow 4-6 weeks for processing.