2022 Summer Blog Series – Making Space for Play

Summer Blog Series
Play and Design #1

Making Space for Play

In 2015, my family was transferred to London. We packed up ourselves, our one-year-old, our two cats, and embarked on an adventure in a new city for six months. Knowing no one, and with little guidance on how to transition from full-time career to full-time caretaker, I started researching my options.

Luckily for us, London is a city designed for families. There are black cabs with seats that fold up so you can push a stroller straight inside, plentiful buses and trains with priority seating, rooms in all public buildings for changing and feeding, well-designed and maintained playgrounds within walking distance of most residents, and my favorite of all, children’s centers in every neighborhood.

At that time, the British government believed strongly in supporting not only children, but also their caregivers. The environment of the city reflected that belief and investment. Things were zoned for us, designed for us, and considered for us. Most playgrounds had cafes, for caffeine and snacks, and restrooms with baby changes in all gendered restrooms. The children’s centers had structured play times for all ages, and adult support groups with tea and information on children’s development. A key part of that development is play, but the key to great play is happy caregivers that allow it to happen.

Making space for play is not just about creating a place for play to happen. It is about making space within ourselves, giving time and energy, showing children love and support, and engaging with them in a way that allows play to flow freely. But that engagement cannot happen if that caregiver is not filled up themselves. You cannot pour from an empty cup. And far too many caregivers are down to their last drop.

Shortly after returning from London, I started a non-profit, Studio Ludo, with the mission of building better play through research, advocacy, and design. Our studies of play behavior span over 100 play environments in the US and UK and include data on the play habits of over 60,000 people. Our biggest finding is that more than half of people in playgrounds are not children…but teens, adults, and seniors. This resonates with us in a big way. How do we support and bring joy to this undesigned for half? How do we replicate the types of environments and experiences that I had as a caregiver, helping them to fill their cups and give them space to play?

We believe that everyone deserves a great place to play. And everyone means not just kids, but caregivers too. We design playgrounds with whole families in mind, with restrooms, and benches in the shade, and cafes, along with open-ended scaled-up swings and climbing structures that invite adults in on the fun.

We also know that play can happen anywhere, which is why we recently opened our loose parts play library, the Playbrary, overflowing with art supplies, toys, recyclables, cardboard, games, and other loose materials (think baskets of pez dispensers and rows of typewriters). Interspersed in the fun are comfy chairs, free coffee, and staff trained in play and development, happy to provide some adult conversation or play with your child while you rest.

While this may seem like a little slice of play utopia for the young people in your life, we believe it is essential for the grownups too. Caregivers deserve care. They are in the trenches, raising a generation on very little sleep and reheated coffee. Let’s make space for them. They are deserving of all the praise…and maybe a little play too.

 


About the Author: Meghan Talarowski is the Founder and Executive Director of Studio Ludo. Meghan believes that play environments in the United States can, and should, be better. She has degrees in architecture and landscape architecture, almost 20 years of experience in the design field, is a licensed landscape architect, and a certified playground safety inspector. Her research focuses on how the design of play environments impacts physical health and social behavior of children and caregivers. She has presented at TEDx Philadelphia, ASLA, AIA, IPA, the US Play Coalition, and Child in the City. 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. She is a member of the steering committee for the US Play Coalition and a member of the board for Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2022 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts; Liz McChesney and Meghan Talarowski. Our experts will be sharing blog posts with you throughout the months of July and August.


Earn up to 9 credits with Online LACES Play Series through Aug 10

For our landscape architect friends, we are excited to announce the REBOOT of our Online LACES Play Series!  Earn up to 9 LACES credits online and ON DEMAND through August 10, 2022.

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 (2020)” plus a 2022 update! – Meghan Talarowski, MLA, CPSI, and Deborah A. Cohen, MD
    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.

The LACES series is part of the online reboot of the 2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY.


Earn up to 9 LACES credits!  Register for the Online LACES Series for ON DEMAND access through August 10, 2022.  (This will actually give you access to all of the content from the 2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY!)

If you are already registered for the 2022 Play Conference Online Reboot, 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


2022 Summer Blog Series – True Play and Literacy Connect at the Library

Summer Blog Series
Libraries & PLAY #1

True Play and Literacy Connect at the Library

Public Libraries across the country are pursuing play as a critical pathway to learning. Connecting play to the mission of the public library is just one of the many ways public libraries are moving beyond the bricks and mortar repository of books and into an active laboratory of experiential learning. This approach emphasizes risk-taking, problem-solving, and the four critical 21st Century Skills: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity. True Play is one of the most compelling forms of play in public libraries.

The idea of True Play—embracing the child’s deep and uninterrupted engagement in the activities of their choice— was developed by educator Ms. Chen Queqin in the public early childhood programs of Anji County, China. Anji Play, Ms. Cheng’s approach to early childhood education centers around five fundamental principles: love, risk, joy, engagement, and reflection. This philosophy asserts the right to True Play is essential to every child and profoundly respects the capacity of the individual child to play and work with others. Programs that embrace this approach provide children with large and open-ended materials like ladders, tires, and planks to play with as they wish. Educators, including librarians, follow this philosophy and seek to create “spaces of love” where materials, the environment, and adult decision-making all respond to children’s needs and abilities, particularly their need to play without adult guidance, direction, or interruption. For that reason, educators who put this philosophy into practice observe children playing with the adults “hands down, mouth shut, and ears, eyes and heart open to discover the true child.” This approach allows children to take authentic risks, including physical, emotional, social, and intellectual challenges, to experience joy and maintain meaningful and authentic engagement.

The Madison Public Library has pioneered this critical form of play in community-based settings at its “Wild Rumpus” events. True Play events come from years of research, visits to Anji County in China, and the creativity of librarian Carissa Christner and the Madison Public Library team who has worked to bring these events to life at her library.

Says Carissa, “learning happens when you can explore something interesting to you at your own pace and time. For us, this was a meaningful connection to the five practices of Early Literacy: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, and Play.” At Madison Public Library, finding meaningful intersections in how people learn while respecting individual diversity is critical. Carissa says: “Play is the most universal and accessible early literacy practice for a diverse community of learners. True Play is critical to our equity efforts.” Holly Storck-Post at Madison PL is thinking about how to develop elements of True Play inside the library that will be meaningful for babies and toddlers. She is helping to establish Play Labs which combine aspects of Anji Play into spaces for the youngest library users. “Creating open-ended experiences inside the library for our youngest children helps us make our spaces accessible to the entire community.”

True play is offered in libraries across the country, including Washington State where Kitsap Regional Library Director Jason Driver says, “approaching play from a place of true respect for the child and the child’s learning is at the heart of this approach and critical for its success.” In Kitsap, True Play Jamborees are planned to “develop early problem-solving, risk-assessment, and collaboration skills, all while having a blast.” Says “Emmon Rogers, Youth Services Librarian: “during COVID, kids have had limited social and learning connections. We wanted to tap into play to develop kids’ ability to form social bonds and take physical and social risks, all necessary for healthy human development and learning. Anji Play allows us to build all these skills and helps develop critical social networks that have gone missing these past two years.” Also critical to COVID recovery is helping parents and caregivers relearn how to stay flexible and allow chi

ldren to learn alternate paths to problem-solving. “COVID meant that only one pathway or tap root to social stability and learning was formed for kids,” says Emmon. “That was the family. At the height of COVID, our library’s greatest response was meeting basic needs like food. Now our greatest mission is fostering basic human social needs like connection, autonomy, agency, and social bonds.” Another aspect critical to the process of Anji Play is reflection. Reflection allows a child to close the learning cycle through digesting and understanding the play and its effects. Play stories are integral to the play process and can include dictation, writing or drawing the child’s stories, and photography or videography. Key to literacy development, the Play Stories develop numeracy, sequencing, vocabulary, inventive spelling, and narrative description. Professor Rebekah Willett, University of Wisconsin-Madison iSchool, and an observer of Madison Public Library’s True Play “The reflective component of Anji Play helps solidify some of the cognitive work that happens during play – both for the children and the parents. By pausing to observe and record play, participants can make explicit some of the implicit learning that happens during Anji Play.”

Bryan Wunar, CEO of Discovery World Science Museum in Milwaukee, WI, and noted STEM educator agrees: “Reflection allows learners to make meaning, analyze their actions and codify their learning. The type of reflection in True Play is also the habit of good STEM learners.” Reflection closes the learning cycle, and this process of Anji Play mirrors the Habits of Mind of a successful 21st Century learner. While True Play has many benefits for a growing learner, it is also a source of joy. Joy comes from risk-taking, problem-solving, working together, and being “in the flow.” Joy is intrinsic to learning and growing up to be a happy and well-adjusted person. Greg Mickells, CEO of Madison Public Library, may say it best: “True Play contains many elements fundamental to learning, including critical thinking, risk, and curiosity; but what I have witnessed with Anji Play is how important joy is to literacy. Having an opportunity that brings joy to learning should be an experience for all children.”

 


About the Author: Liz McChesney served as the Chicago Public Library Director of Children’s Services and Family Engagement, where she earned numerous national awards, including the American Library Service to Children Distinguished Services Recipient. She now serves as the Community Partnerships Consultant to the Laundry Cares Foundation, where she helps build early learning in everyday spaces such as laundromats, WIC Centers, and family courts. She additionally serves as a Senior Advisor to the Urban Libraries Council and is a Senior Fellow at the National Summer Learning Association. In all these roles, play is at the center of her work. She has two books with the American Library Association, Summer Matters: Making All Learning Count (2017) and Pairing STEAM with Stories (2019). Her first picture book, Keke’s Super Strong Double Hugs, was published in 2020 and her forthcoming book, The Path Forward: Serving Children Equitably is forthcoming.

About the Summer PLAY Blog Series: This summer we are featuring some great PLAY resources with our 2022 Summer PLAY Blog Series, starring two invited play partners as our content experts; Liz McChesney and Meghan Talarowski. Our experts will be sharing blog posts with you throughout the months of July and August.


VIDEO: Keynote Speaker
Dr. Drew Lanham Shares
“Passion as Playtime —
Why Loving What We
Do Can Save Us”

For our 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY keynote kickoff on April 3, J. Drew Lanham, PhD, shared his PLAY wisdom with his presentation, “Passion as Playtime — Why Loving What We Do Can Save Us.”  It is a powerful message about being re-inspired to play, about claiming our right to play, about play as activism, and about moving play to the position of mainline attention.  IT IS A MUST SEE!

Dr. Lanham is Alumni Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Ecology, Master Teacher and Certified Wildlife Biologist in the Forestry and Environmental Conservation Department at 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.


Below is the full recording of the keynote session:

 

This is one of the amazing presentations from the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY – all recorded live earlier this year. Want to see more great online professional development content like this?!  REGISTER FOR THE ONLINE REBOOT!!!!

The 2022 Play Conference ONLINE REBOOT features headliner recordings from the in-person conference PLUS new content, and virtual event opportunities that kickoff on June 29 and continues through July 31, 2022.


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  2022 Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY  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.


Sneak Peek of the 2022 IN PERSON Play Conference Sessions

(updated 2/14/22)

Check out this sneak peek of some of the amazing educational and research symposium sessions we have planned for the 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY, April 2-6 in Clemson, SC.

Below is an alphabetical list of some of the session titles.
The detailed conference schedule is coming soon!

          

  • AAA Play: Examining Play as The Linchpin to Learning
  • Active Play: What Role Did It Have in Our Evolutionary Past and How Vital Is It for Our Future?
  • Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, Who’s Not Ready Holler Eye
  • Authentic Learning and Play Through Intergenerational Connections in Makerspaces
  • Being Mindfully Curious to Discover Our Inner Play Being
  • Bringing Kids Imagination to Life in Outdoor Play Through Augmented Reality
  • Built and Social Nature of Neighborhoods Impact Women’s Play
  • Coming To Our Senses: Envisioning Spaces for Play on A University Campus
  • Community Edinburgh (Inspiration from Scotland)
  • Contextual Play Hackathon – Creating Meaningful Play Solutions
  • Controversial Play: Weapon, Fantasy and Risky Play-Why They Are Important and How to Support Them
  • COVID Roadblocks Disrupting Play Opportunities: Fighting Back
  • Creating Ecosystems of Play: The Synergies of Systems
  • Developing A Love of Learning and Health Through Nature-Based Play Spaces
  • Don’t Throw It Away! Make Something and Play!
  • Earth Tones
  • Experiential Spaces as Immersive Playscapes for Adult Players
  • Exploration In Forests of Learning: Play-Based Ecosystems
  • Get Up, Get Out, And Play Naturally!
  • A Glimpse Beyond the United States: Considering the Trajectories of Play Via The ‘Land Down Under’
  • How Global PLAY Has Influenced PLAY In the Early Years of Australian Schools
  • “It Felt like Complete Chaos…at First” – A Student-Led Play Day with Non-Profit
  • Just Playing: Towards A Universal Ethic of Play
  • Körperkoordinationstest Fur Kinder (KTK): Assessing Motor Coordination Differences in Children Recess
  • The Meaning of Play and Its Implications for Equitable Design in Outdoor Urban Spaces
  • Mindfulness in a Bag – Bringing Social/Emotional Learning to life through Brown Bag Play
  • National Study of Playgrounds
  • Naturally, It’s Child’s Play!
  • A New Perspective on Urban Playscapes: A Case Study Method
  • Parent Motivations for Enrolling Young Children in Early Enrichment Programs
  • Park Ranger Emergency Response Training Needs
  • Play As Liberation: Exploring Self-Directed Education
  • Play Protocols: Maximizing Learning Through Play
  • Playcemaking: Designing Nature Playscapes with Children
  • The Playful Life: The Power of Play in Our Every Day
  • Playful Literacy Instruction: Making Learning Joyful and Culturally Responsive
  • The Playful Remake: Repurpose Tried and True Activities to Make Them Playful
  • The Power of Play Therapy
  • The Power of Quality Recess: Why You? Why Now? And How?
  • Recess Policy Implementation: Beliefs and Perceptions of Site-Based Decisions-Makers
  • Second Nature: Technologies Enabling and Enriching Play in the 2020’s
  • The State of Play: The State of Children’s Physical Activity and Access to Community Opportunities for Play in The U.S.
  • Supporting Health Equity and Environmental Resilience Through Green Playgrounds
  • Teaching For Social Justice: Honest Teaching of History While Building Community Through Playfulness
  • Teaching Off Trail
  • Time For a Reboot: Prescribing Natureplay for Emotional Wellness for Children, Teens and Families
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Equity and Play
  • What Did You Do in School Today? Developing Class Books Around Children’s Play Experiences.
  • YES, I Have An IEP! Climbing, Forts and Snakes: Risky Playing My Way to College, Career and Beyond!
  • You Can’t Fall from That: What National Playground Standards Could Learn from Childcare Regulations
 

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 2022 IN PERSON Conference on the Value of Play: THE NATURE OF PLAY explores play across the lifespan, play in the workplace, play in the classroom and address universal issues of access, equity, inclusion and more.


Award Winning Play Bracelets Return for 2021 Holiday Season!

Our 10th anniversary play swag took home the “2019 Best Merchandise” Excellence Award from the South Carolina Festivals and Events Association at its annual conference in 2020.

The SCFEA Excellence Awards celebrate the best from South Carolina!  Our “PLAY FOR LIFE” cuff bracelet, featured at our 10th Anniversary Conference on the Value of Play: PLAY FOR LIFE, won the 2019 Best Merchandise award.  With the holidays upon us, we thought it was fitting for us to do an encore campaign with our 2020 and 2021 themes added to the mix!!

So order our LIMITED EDITION, AWARD WINNING PLAY CUFF BRACELETS – they make great holiday, birthday, graduation, thank you gifts or “just because” gifts!!

Made locally in Clemson, South Carolina. These very popular cuff bracelets are available in three colors – silver, gold and rose gold.

Each color can have one of three phrases:

PLAY FOR ALL

PLAY FOR LIFE

PLAY IS SURVIVAL

Support the US Play Coalition and PLAY by purchasing a PLAYful bracelet – or get one of each!!

Overview
• Handmade item
• Material: Aluminum, Brass, Copper
• Bracelet length: 6 Inches
• Bracelet width: 1/4 Inches
• Adjustable: Yes
• Style: Minimalist

Please note: Shipping is only available in the continental U.S. at this time.
Shipping in the continental U.S. is just $3.50. 
OR! Locals can save on shipping with pickup at the US Play Coalition office at Clemson University

 


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 31, 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 (2020)” – 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 31, 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!!!