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 15, 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 $75!  Register for the 2021 Online LACES Series for ON DEMAND access through December 15, 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!!!


VIDEO Showcases Playful Activities to Support Whole Child Health

This session provides simple and inexpensive strategies to support children’s physical and social-emotional health. It emphasizes inclusive activities and partnerships to help caregivers engage children in PLAYful, language-rich learning opportunities.

“Playful Activities to
Support Whole Child Health”

This featured session explores playful learning resources to help caregivers support the physical and social-emotional health of children. Co-facilitated by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and Too Small to Fail, the session begins with a fun, virtual and active icebreaker. After quick introductions to the organizations and the “Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model,” Jane and Daniel share a series of playful activities that encourage movement and learning. Pausing for a group reflection and “check-in” with attendees, we’ll spend time discussing cross-sector collaborations to help all children thrive. The presentation will conclude with simple action planning and sharing of a resource list. Q/A will occur throughout the session.


Meet our Experts:

Jane Park is the Director of Too Small to Fail, the early childhood initiative of the Clinton Foundation, where she leads national partnerships with corporations, nonprofit organizations, and associations to support children and families across the country. Prior to her role with Too Small to Fail, Jane served as the Associate Director of Content in the Education, Research, and Outreach department at Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street. In that role, she helped develop the whole child curriculum on which the television series is based and worked across the organization, as well as with external partners, to integrate Sesame Street’s educational content across media platforms—including print, video, online, social media, and toy products. Jane also led Sesame Street’s “Healthy Habits for Life” initiative, as well as the development of community outreach resources to support families through challenging situations such military deployment, natural disasters, and economic and food insecurity. Jane holds an M.A. in developmental psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University and a B.A. in communications from the University of California at San Diego.

Daniel Hatcher, MPH, Director of Community Partnerships, oversees Healthier Generation’s cross-sector partnerships with key youth-serving programs and community-based organizations. A nationally renowned collaborator and trainer, Daniel manages technical assistance services and resources for out-of-school and summer programs as they work to achieve optimal healthy eating, physical activity and social emotional health for the children and caregivers they serve. Daniel has a BA in International Relations and a Master of Public Health, both from Western Kentucky University. You can follow Daniel as he speaks across the country on the topic of healthy communities via Twitter @hatchdw.


Below is the full recording of the featured session
“Playful Activities to Support Whole Child Health”


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!!!


VIDEO: “Play, Design and Mental Health” with Play Futurist Yesim Kunter

In a world of commercial toys, how can we design resources that support the mental wellness and health of children?

“Play, Design and Mental Health”
with play futurist Yesim Kunter

There is a growing need of resources that are playfully dedicated to the wellbeing of children. There is no question that there is a huge decline in children’s mental health. The risks are huge but resources are limited.

By playing we can learn to adapt and gain insights on how we can navigate in certain situations. Therefore it is crucial to be able to create the resources that children can experiment and learn through.

In order to design products that aim to deliver these insights one must understand children’s inner worlds and the attempt to translate them into a design language.  Collaborating with a diverse group of experts in a variety of fields is key. 

In this featured session, Yesim Kunter explores important design principles and shares relevant case studies.

This session was recorded live on April 13, 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 Expert:

Yesim Kunter is a recognized play expert and a creative strategist, understanding behavior of people to create new experiences and define new opportunities.

Yesim is an independent consultant; developing play experiences for various customers for product development, applying Play Philosophy to spaces, environments, communities, culture creation as well as market research with future scoping. She has been training organizations with diverse backgrounds from kids to professionals for leveraging Creativity and Innovation through Play Workshops.

Yesim worked more than a decade for industry leaders in various countries like Toys R Us, Lego and Hasbro. Her training as a toy designer and her passion to unravel the future to identify and define new experiences transformed her carrier to become a play-futurist.

Yesim was brought up in Turkey and lived in New York, Denmark, Billund and now in London, which gave her a multi-cultural perspective that helps her to become a keen observer in human behavior.


Below is the full recording of the featured session
“Play, Design and Mental Health”


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!!!


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!!!


You’re Never Too Old
to Play at the Library

Summer Blog Series – Libraries & PLAY #3

“You’re Never Too Old to Play at the Library”

Since 2008, Lifetime Arts, a nonprofit focused on creative aging, has worked with dozens of public libraries across the country to bring playful arts to older adults.

The Public Libraries Initiative works as follows:

“Led by professional teaching artists, libraries implement skill-building workshop series which foster mastery and promote meaningful social engagement through free programs in all arts disciplines. At each library, culminating events celebrate the achievements of every [older adult] participant.”

The reason Lifetime Arts gravitated to public libraries is because of libraries’ incredible reach. On May 5, 2021, the Wyoming State Library announced that it would be working with Lifetime Arts and the Wyoming Arts Council to develop “participatory, sequential, socially-engaging and professionally run arts programs” in 15 libraries across the state.

You can see more examples of creative aging in America’s public libraries in the reporting of PBS, which covers “How Library Classes in the Arts Are Changing Aging.

Libraries are Social Infrastructure

In small towns and urban neighborhoods, the public library is uniquely placed to support playful aging.

Some small-town public librarians call themselves “de facto senior centers” given the absence of any comparable infrastructure in these places.

Even in urban communities, public libraries are uniquely placed to support play among older adults. Brooklyn, New York’s Alice Baker, 74 years old,  told NPR’s All Things Considered that what appeals to her about public libraries is that she can attend activities for people her own age in a place that welcomes people of every age:

“They have exercise, they have classes for kids. It brings everybody in,” says Baker. “You can bring your family with you.”

Dancing the tango at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Sunset Park Branch as part of a Lifetime Arts’ Creative Aging Program ca. 2015. Image courtesy Brooklyn Public Library.

 

Baker was being interviewed as part of an NPR story entitled “Xbox Bowling For Seniors? Visit Your Local Library.

The idea of bowling at the library also captivated the attention of Columbia University Sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who in Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life focuses on the critical importance of older adults playing together at the library.

On June 7, 2019, he tweeted a video showing the members of Brooklyn Public Library’s Library Lanes in action. Check it out to see the power of public libraries as a playful social infrastructure for older adults!

In his review of Palaces for the People, former presidential candidate and current secretary of transportation Pete Buttigieg focuses on the importance of playful aging in public libraries:

“The new book’s exploration of this reality begins in the basement of a library in a low-income Brooklyn neighborhood, where an Xbox-based bowling competition pits local seniors against rival teams from a dozen library branches across the borough. The example of a virtual bowling league has particular poetic resonance two decades after Robert Putnam, the Harvard political scientist, raised fears of societal collapse in his study “Bowling Alone.” Where Putnam charted the decline of American communal participation through shrinking bowling league membership, Klinenberg’s basement of virtual bowlers illustrates how technology might actually enhance our social fabric — provided there are supportive spaces. Given what we have learned about the health impacts of social isolation among the elderly, lives may depend on creating more such opportunities.”

This vision of the technology-rich public library supporting place-based play among America’s aging population is remarkably optimistic.

Library Lanes Xbox Bowling at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Library in 2014. Image courtesy Gregg Richards, Brooklyn Public Library.

 

How can you get involved?

Not every community has a Library Lanes program, but almost every community has a public library. If you want to bring playful aging to your public library, start with a conversation. I’ve written five steps anyone can take to do more by “Partnering with public libraries.” Use that to get started.

You may also want to check out the American Library Association’s compilation of best practices for public librarians serving older adults. You’ll see Lifetime Art’s Creative Aging Toolkit for Public Libraries prominently featured, which suggests how widespread the ideas in this blog post have become.

Nevertheless, public librarians need your help. Librarians need people in arts councils, parks & recreation, and elsewhere, to work with them to complement what they may be able to offer by themselves. So reach out, start a conversation, and form a partnership, because you’re never too old to play at the library, and you’re never too old to start a conversation with your local librarians.


About the Author: Noah Lenstra, PhD, is Director of Let’s Move in Libraries and assistant professor of Library & Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Learn more about Noah at noahlenstra.com and follow him on Twitter at @NoahLenstra

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.”


Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out at the Library: Play for Teens and Emerging Adults

Summer Blog Series – Libraries & PLAY #2

“Play for Teens and Emerging Adults”

In 2016, the American Library Association published the book Adults Just Wanna Have Fun: Programs for Emerging Adults, which “shows how to draw emerging adults to the library using a mixture of play and engagement and then keep them coming back for more.”

Public libraries exist to serve all ages, and yet there is a stereotype that people “age out” of libraries before returning later in life when they have young children.

Given this reality, public librarians increasingly embrace play as a cornerstone of services for tweens, teens, and young, childless adults.

This trend is a bit more wooly and disorganized than the trend covered last week on Learning and Playing at the Library during Early Childhood. When it comes to supporting play among teens and emerging adults, public librarians do not have formal curricula like Every Child Ready To Read and Stories, Songs & Stretches. Instead, the landscape is populated by myriad local experiments.

In Dubuque, Iowa, on April 7, 2018, the public library celebrated “Five years of Nerf capture the flag,” a monthly after-hours program in which adults literally play capture the flag in the stacks of the public library.

Caption: A participant in the monthly Nerf Capture the Flag for adults program offered at the Carnegie-Stout Public Library in Dubuque, Iowa. Image courtesy The Telegraph Herald.

 

As public libraries re-open in Summer 2021, this program has started to return. In nearby Indianola, Iowa, the local radio station reports that “The Indianola Public Library Nerf Attack events are returning to the library on July 16, 2021. Nerf Attack is one of the most popular events, with kids in grades 6-12 having the run of the library.”

Three important facts help us make sense of something as seemingly bizarre as Nerf wars in the library:

1) These programs fit within the increasing identity of the public library as a community hub, offering, as a recent American Library Association reports puts it, offering free “activities and

entertainment you can’t find anywhere else in the community,” while also functioning as “a place for people in the community to gather and socialize.”

2) Public libraries are fundamentally local institutions, with nearly 90% of their funding coming from local sources. I sometimes tell my students, “If you know one public library, you know one public library.” One of the least appreciated facts about public librarianship is, as Eric Klinenberg recently pointed out in his book Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life “library staff ha[ve] more autonomy to develop new programming than I’d expected from an established public institution. Managers, it seems, assume the best of their librarians” (p. 52).

3) Given the long-standing idea that public libraries are not cool spaces for teens and emerging adults, radical thinking is needed to over-turn that stereotype. Milwaukee Public Library launched Library Loud Days focused on “changing the public libraries into lively, vibrant gathering places …. So come see what the new definition of a library is all about. And leave your inside voice at home.”

Caption: Adult Recess at the Public Library in Arlington, Virginia. Image courtesy Arlington VA Public Library.

 

As I present these facts, I often hear complaints from people who worry that the beloved libraries of their childhoods are going to be swept away by Nerf wars, rap battles, karaoke singers, and games of Twister and Quidditch.

That concern is misplaced. In all the libraries I have looked at, these types of loud play programs are typically offered sporadically, not continuously. They represent the type of playfulness that is quickly becoming the norm in public librarianship: Public librarians play with the identity of the public library, pushing on its boundaries and encouraging community members to join them in that experiment.

How can you get involved?

Want to increase access to play for tweens, teens, and emerging adults in your community? Start with the library! The best starting point is to look for individuals with titles like Teen Librarian. The national association representing Teen Librarians is the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) whose “mission is to support library staff in alleviating the challenges teens face, and in putting all teens ‒ especially those with the greatest needs ‒ on the path to successful and fulfilling lives.

Teen librarians have also pioneered library services for emerging adults. Typically, library services for adults in their 20s and 30s represents an extension of library services for tweens and teens.

YALSA’s website features a cornucopia of innovative resources around play and public libraries. For instance, check out this presentation on LARP at Your Library: Teaching Life Skills Through Play, presented by Shelbie Marks of Oklahoma’s Metropolitan Library System at a recent YALSA Symposium.

Spending some time perusing the YALSA website is a great way to inform yourself about how public librarians frame play as intrinsic to library services for this demographic.

You can then use that knowledge to reach out to your Teen Librarian, set up a time to talk, and see where the conversation takes you. Check out my guide on “Rules of the road: Partnering with public libraries for collective impact” to get started.

 


About the Author: Noah Lenstra, PhD, is Director of Let’s Move in Libraries and assistant professor of Library & Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Learn more about Noah at noahlenstra.com and follow him on Twitter at @NoahLenstra.

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.”


Learning and Playing at the Library during Early Childhood

Summer Blog Series – Libraries & PLAY #1

“Learning and Playing at the Library during Early Childhood”

Since 2000, public librarians across the United States have dramatically increased the number of programs they offer in support of early childhood. The Public Library Association states this new focus on Every Child Ready to Read (ECRR) transforms a pre-conception people may have about library programming: This new approach started not with reading, but with play: “We start with singing, talking, reading, writing and playing and then help [parents] see the connection to later reading.”

A team of researchers led by Susan B. Neuman, Professor of Early Childhood and Literacy Education at New York University, determined that public librarians trained in this ECRR curriculum “are much more likely [than those not trained] to include music and large- and small-motor movement [in their programs]—all contributing to a fun atmosphere that encourages parents and children to play together.”

As ECRR and related training programs, such as Stories, Songs, and Stretches and Mother Goose on the Loose, sweep the country, play has become central to how public librarians support early childhood.

Play spaces at libraries: Indoors and outside

This transformation effects not only public library programs, but also public library spaces. In Nashville, Tennessee, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, public libraries now have kid-sized climbing walls, with Studio Ludo working with the Free Library of Philadelphia to create what they call a “Playbrary: A new vision of the neighborhood library.

Nashville Public Library’s Crawl Wall in the context of its interactive children’s play area.
Image courtesy Nashville Public Library.

 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, public library spaces closed to the public, but public library support for play as a core component of early childhood did not end. In my research, I found public librarians increasingly utilizing outdoor spaces during Summer 2020 to continue supporting play. In “Reimagining public library programming during a pandemic” my colleague Christine D’Arpa and I found that about one quarter of U.S. small and rural public libraries created temporary outdoor play spaces and programs that could be experienced in a socially distant during the pandemic, including things like sidewalk obstacle courses and life-sized Candy Land games.

Based on this research, with public health colleagues from Baylor University and Johns Hopkins University, we presented at the 2020 virtual meeting of the Association for Rural & Small Libraries on how public librarians can and do support Play Streets initiatives, place-based interventions that involve temporarily closing streets to create safe places and free opportunities for physical activity.

The focus of public librarians on fostering outdoor play during the COVID-19 pandemic builds on a long tradition of public librarians as placemaking gurus, as documented and supported since 2000 by the Project for Public Spaces.

Prior to the pandemic, in 2015 Jenn Beideman of Healthi Kids teamed up with Patty Uttaro, the director of the Rochester [NY] Public Library, and the Strong National Museum of Play for a series of projects focused on infusing play into the built environment of this city. These efforts culminated in a Play Walk that connects the library and the museum. The soaring success of this and other library collaborations led Beideman to write for the Brookings Institution on June 10, 2021 that “resident-led advocacy in Rochester, N.Y. is creating a more playful city … [by] partnering with the Rochester Public Library system to pilot playful infrastructure and other play initiatives.”

How can you get involved?

As the above example suggests, public librarians do not do this work by themselves. Instead they are looking for help wherever they can find it! A study in Ontario led by a team of kinesiologists found that public librarians can be successfully trained to lead a Move 2 Learn program focused on play-based physical literacy skills among young children: “The results of this study demonstrated the feasibility of teaching staff without specialized training in physical education to implement Move 2 Learn.

More and more researchers, advocates, and policy makers are coming to the same conclusion: Namely that public librarians are the perfect partners in efforts to increase playful learning during early childhood.

What stands in the way of these partnerships? One factor is the rapid nature of this transformation. Although public librarians have supported playful learning for decades – think of the idea of getting out your wiggles after a storytime program — what is new is that now play is increasingly the central focus of library programs and spaces.

Many in the Play Community who have not been paying attention to this shift may need to start their involvement by educating themselves about the work public librarians now do to support early childhood. The easiest way to get started is to simply go to the website or social media of your local public library.

In preparing this blog post, out of curiosity I went to my local library’s website and clicked on the link for services for Children & Parents. This image was what I found:

Children’s librarian Pete Turner leads a play-based storytime at Greensboro Public Library.
Image courtesy: Greensboro Public Library.

 

Get started by simply seeing how your library describes its services in support of early childhood. You may find play allies you had never considered.

If you’re looking for collaborators look for librarians with titles like children’s librarian, early literacy librarian, or youth services librarian. I went to the About Us page for the Greensboro Public Library and easily found the contact information for Tanika Martin, the library’s Youth Services Coordinator. Find your community’s Tanika, set up a time to chat, and structure the conversation around the following: “Here’s what we’re trying to do. Does that sound similar to your goals? Where can we work together?”

If you’d like to learn more, check out my article on Rules of the road: Partnering with public libraries for collective impact.

In future blog posts, we’ll look at how similar transformations are taking place in public librarianship around library services for teenagers/emerging adults and for older adults. Stay tuned to learn more and to find ways to get involved!


About the Author: Noah Lenstra, PhD, is Director of Let’s Move in Libraries and assistant professor of Library & Information Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  Learn more about Noah at noahlenstra.com and follow him on Twitter at @NoahLenstra

 

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.”


Children’s Museums Mobilize with transformative programs to ensure that PLAY continues in the Isolation of COVID-19

One year ago, most children and families were thrown into sudden isolation – from the people and places they relied on for connection. Children’s museums were immediately impacted by COVID-related shutdowns but took adversity as an opportunity to ensure access for children and families most in need of the supports that play provides.

Wednesday, June 9, 11:00pm ET/10:00am PT
“Playing through Isolation: Children’s Museums Activating through a Pandemic”

This session features three museum leaders sharing their organization’s transformative programs:

Laura Huerta Migus (moderator) is 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.

Dene Mosier, Kansas Children’s Discovery Museum in Topeka – Transformed their Free to Play program that connects incarcerated mothers with their children for play-based visitation to a kit-based program.

 

Kathy Parham, The Children’s Playhouse in Boone, NC – Play Kit project partners with social service agencies and schools to delivery kits to families in very rural environments with low connectivity and in financial distress.

 

Deb Gilpin, Madison Children’s Museum in Madison, WI – Sidewalk Surprises program turned public spaces that families could access while facilities like playgrounds and museums are still closed into multicultural playscapes.

 

Learn the impact and reach of each initiative and their respective wellbeing motivations and outcomes. These exemplars are important innovations to help expand our thinking about the when and where play takes place. As we face future situations, due to climate, politics, or another public health crisis, these organizations now have important lessons to carry with them into the future to ensure children and families have access to play.


This session is part of the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play, featuring weekly live headliners and networking events, dozens of recorded educational and research presentations and much more – all online through December 31, 2021.  Registered 2021 Virtual Play Conference attendees will access the session in the Attendee Hub.

This presentation will be recorded and included in our 2021 VIRTUAL Play Conference content, so don’t fret if you miss the live session!

 

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 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 weekly live headliners and networking events, dozens of recorded educational and research presentations and much more – all online through December 31, 2021.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!


#BlackGirlMagic Monday Series Available ON DEMAND through Dec 31

Exploring the shared living experiences of Black girls and women through play is vital.  The hashtag #BlackGirlMagic is used to express not only excellence and brilliance of black women but has led young girls and women to inspire one another, activate contextual awareness and grow in power together.

#BlackGirlMagic Mondays

Join host Corliss Outley, PhD, for a series of presentations and conversations that explore the magic of Black Girls play, highlighting spaces where Black girls can experience freedom, autonomy, and joy and validate their experiences in today’s society.

Each presentation was recorded live and is available ON DEMAND through December 31.  Registration is required (details below).

Monday May 3 at 12:00 noon (ET)/9:00 am (PT)
“Empowerment, Play & Black Girlhood through History”
Corliss Outley, PhD, Professor, Parks, Recreation & Tourism Mgmt
with Anitra Alexander, MS, Clemson University
From backyards to schoolyards to community parks, play has been intertwined with racial and sexual violence against Black girl’s bodies throughout American history. This discussion will provide a glimpse into the lived experiences of Black girls and the significance of play as sources of hope, healing, agency, and justice across US history. This introduction discussion serves as the jump off point for a deeper understanding of the series.

Monday, May 10 at 12:00 noon (ET)/9:00 am (PT)
“Black Girlhood, Agency & Play in the Outdoors”
Aby Sene-Harper, PhD, Assistant Professor, Parks, Recreation & Tourism Mgmt, Clemson University
The outdoors has historically been viewed as beneficial to both our mental, physical, and spiritual development. At the same time, for many Black girls and women, the outdoors have also been spaces where sexualized and racialized violence was heaped upon their womanhood to enact and enforce a white supremacist social order. Yet, through it all Black girls and women have also reclaimed outdoor spaces to conjure up innovative Black diasporic cultural practices of resistance, survival and self-determination. This presentation will discuss how PLAY in the outdoors for Black girls can be rooted in this long legacy of cultural of resistance and self-determination.

Monday, May 17 at 12:00 noon (ET)/9:00 am (PT)
“Raising Strong Daughters: The Impact of Daughter-Father Relationships in Play”
Daphne Harris, PhD, Senior Lecturer, Educational Psychology, University of North Texas
Given the vital role of Black fathers in the lives of Black girls, this talk will interrogate the daughter-father relationship in play and how it is used as a mechanism for bonding, socialization, and empowerment. Special attention will be given to Black fathers’ conceptualization of play and shared activities and how they use this time to create space for Black girls to freely explore and make sense of the world around them.

Monday, June 7 at 12:00 noon (ET)/9:00 am (PT)
“Afro-centric Dance & Intergenerational Play”
Sharon McKenzie, PhD, Asst. Professor, Recreation Therapy & Gerontology, Kean University
Historically in the African Diaspora, dance has played an intricate role in the cultural nuances and expressions of its people. From a cultural lens, general movements, ritualistic movements, and dance performances have been a catalyst for intergenerational exchange particularly between young girls and mature women. We will facilitate a discourse of the multiple realms and vital roles of dance in the lives of young girls and women.

Monday, June 14 at 12:00 noon (ET)/9:00 am (PT)
“Black Girlhood and Play: Where do we go from here?”
Aishia Brown, PhD, Asst Professor, School of Public Health & Information Sciences, University of Louisville
Play spaces and activities have been recognized for their significance in combating oppression by serving as spaces for resistance as well as healing for Black girls and women. These issues are not just historical but contemporary and relevant as illustrated in the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic. Representing the last discussion in the series, this workshop concludes with an overview of the role race, gender, and age play in the lived experiences of Black girls within play spaces. It will finalize by presenting strategies in order to better serve this population through the development of new policies and practices that are viewed as vital to the future of the field of play.


#BlackGirlMagic Mondays is part of the 2021 VIRTUAL Conference on the Value of Play, featuring dozens of recorded headliners, workshops, educational and research presentations – available ON DEMAND through December 31, 2021.

Register for the full Virtual Play Conference or choose the #BlackGirlMagic Mondays ONLY option.

 

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 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.  We hope you will engage with us virtually in the interest of public health, wellness, safety and education!!!