Founder of Outdoor Afro to Keynote The Play Conference 2016

The U.S. Play Coalition is proud to announce that Rue Mapp, founder of Outdoor Afro, will be a keynote speaker for The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play, April 3-6, at Clemson University.

Outdoor Afro is a community that reconnects African-Americans with natural spaces and one another through recreational activities such as camping,hiking, biking, birding, fishing, gardening, skiing – and PLAY!  Learn how this cutting edge concept grew from Rue’s modest blog in 2009 to a national network that has captured the attention and imagination of millions through a multi-media approach, grounded in personal connections and community organizing.  Rue will share the Outdoor Afro model for creating opportunities to build community and leadership by PLAYing together in nature.

In 2010, Rue Mapp was invited to the White House to participate in the America’s Great Outdoors Conference, and subsequently to take part in a think-tank to inform the launch of the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She was appointed program officer for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment to oversee its grant-making program from 2010-2012.

Since that time, Mapp’s work has been featured in publications including The Wall Street Journal, Backpacker Magazine, Ebony Magazine, Sunset Magazine, NPR, and many others.

Rue’s ongoing work has been recognized with numerous Awards and Distinctions: The Root 100 as one of the most influential African Americans in the country, Outdoor Industry Inspiration Award, 2014 National Wildlife Federation Communication award (received alongside President Bill Clinton) and in May 2015, Family Circle Magazine selected Rue as one of America’s 20 Most Influential Moms.

Rue is proud to serve on the Board of Rails to Trails Conservancy, American Camp Association, and the Outdoor Industry Association. Most recently, Rue was appointed to the California State Parks Commission by Governor Jerry Brown.

A graduate of UC Berkeley (with a Degree in Art History), Rue’s skills and background make her a unique voice via the programs she has instituted through OA and enlightened a diverse community to the wonders and benefits of the outdoors. Rue resides in Oakland CA, and is the proud mother of three active teenage children.

We are thrilled that Rue will be with us for The Play Conference 2016! Learn more about the conference by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

Founder of Free Range Kids to Keynote The Play Conference 2016

The US Play Coalition is thrilled to announce that Lenore Skenazy will be the first keynote speaker for The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play, April 3-6, at Clemson University.  She is founder of the book, blog and movement, “Free-Range Kids”lenore collage, which launched the anti-helicopter parenting crusade.  Her keynote presentation, “Free Range Kids: Raising Safe, Self-Reliant, PLAYFUL Children without Going Nuts with Worry,” will examine our culture’s obsession with risk, and how to flip it to an obsession with play.

A public speaker, Lenore Skenazy has lectured everywhere from Microsoft headquarters to the Sydney Opera House. She’s also a frequent guest on talk shows and has written for everyone from The Daily News (where she was a reporter for 14 years) to Mad Magazine. Yep. THE Mad Magazine (She’s funny!).  Skenazy has been profiled in The New York Times and The New Yorker, and was recently featured on The Daily Show with John Stewart.

The goal of Free-Range Kids is “fighting the belief that our children are in constant danger from creeps, kidnapping, germs, grades, flashers, frustration, failure, baby snatchers, bugs, bullies, men, sleepovers and/or the perils of a non-organic grape.”

A graduate of Yale and Columbia, Lenore Skenazy lives in New York City with her husband and teen sons who are half-Free-Range and half social media addicts. Then again, so is she.

Learn more about The Play Conference 2016 by clicking here.

Early bird registration is now open!

The VERY FIRST to register for The Play Conference 2016 is…!

The VERY FIRST to register for The Play Conference 2016 is Sarah Cosco from British Columbia (seen front and center in the boxes pictured right). The three time Play Conference alum says this about why she keeps coming back: “What I love most about the conferences: the people and the energy! There is so much passion about play and it comes from within people from all different backgrounds. The interdisciplinary lens captures the magnitude of play’s influence across the lifespan, and across the globe, and having the opportunity to connect with experts in play from all of these different backgrounds brings our collective learning to a whole new level. But we don’t just talk the talk at the conference, we walk it too! I have so much fun playing with so many people, and each time I go I meet new friends and get to reconnect with familiar faces. It honestly feels like coming home. I can’t wait for next year’s conference, I’m so excited to see what everyone has been up to and what playful shenanigans we can get into while we’re there!”

Join Sarah and hundreds of other play advocates at The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play.  Early bird registration is now open! 

Helping Teens Understand the Importance of Play

This month our executive director, Stephanie Garst, has had a few opportunities to share the importance of play with teens.

As a guest for the Clemson University Summer Scholars program on “Environmental Sustainability through Parks and Recreation,” Stephanie spent the morning with high schoolers from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and even New York.  They trekked to two local parks near campus to learn about the importance of play as a valuable and necessary part of a healthy and productive life, including its role in obesity prevention, education, and promoting connections with the environment. Tying in parks as areas for play, the students played childhood games and explored the playground, reflected on their respective childhood play experiences, worked with each other to invent and play new games, and discussed why PLAY is important in their lives.

Stephanie also welcomed over 100 South Carolina 4H leaders to Clemson University for their 2015 State Congress. She led them in a rousing version of Boom Chicka Boom, facilitated this epic game of RoShamBo Rock Star and challenged them to bring PLAY into the work they do for 4H.

Squaring the Round

Squaring The Round Photo“Squaring the circle”* has been a challenge for geometers for centuries. This challenge was my inspiration for “Squaring the Round” — a new game of skill.


  • Cylindrical container (e.g., oatmeal tub, ice cream bucket, large ricotta cheese container, large deli container)
  • Boxes – enough to encircle the container (e.g., saltine box, cereal box).NOTE:
  • Boxes must be as tall as the container
  • Scissors
  • Measuring stick or tape
  • Duct tape or masking tape
  • Marker
  • Tape ball or bean bag

To Make:


  • Arrange boxes around the cylindrical container until a desirable fit has been achieved.
  • Avoid creating a space large enough for the ball to slip through.
  • Measure the height of the cylindrical container. Use this measurement for the height of the boxes; mark and cut.
    Using tape, cover the cut edges of the boxes.
    Place boxes in predetermined arrangement around the cylindrical container. Tape together where possible.
    Using marker assign points to each section.

Tape Ball:

Wad newspaper into a ball. Wrap with tape.
To Play:
In an open area set target on the floor or ground. Determine the distance from which the ball or bean bag is to be thrown.
Determine what constitutes a “win” (e.g., highest/lowest number of points in ten throws; first person or team to reach 20 points)
*The objective of “Squaring the Circle” is to construct a circle, calculate its area, and then construct a square with the same area using only a compass and straight edge.

2016 Play Conference Gets a REBOOT

The US Play Coalition is beyond excited to announce that next year’s conference is NEW AND IMPROVED! In fact, it has been REBOOTED!  New Dates, New Approaches, New Opportunities.

The Play Conference 2016: Rebooting Play is April 3-6, 2016 at the Madren Conference Center in Clemson, SC.

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

Round tables will feature knowledgeable facilitators around critical issues and trends in the field. Fireside Chats and Coffee Talks will harness the organic opportunities for networking, collaborating and research. And “Play Talks,” our version of TED Talks, will be a series of 15-20 minute dynamic, entertaining, enlightening, engaging, inspiring, informative talks by thought leaders in the play world. These new components, coupled with traditional presentations and our epic PLAY breaks will make The Play Conference an event not to be missed. Be sure to mark your calendars!!

While you are marking your calendar, you may want to reserve your hotel room.  The James F. Martin Inn is attached to the Madren Conference Center. A block of rooms has been reserved for conference attendees for only $109 per night (does NOT include breakfast). A block of rooms is also available at the Holiday Inn Express in Clemson for $99/night including breakfast. We will have a regular complimentary shuttle from there to the conference and back.

Sponsorship opportunities are available. Email Stephanie Garst at for more details. A call for Presentation Proposals will be out in early September.

Plastic Jug Jai Alai

2 plastic half-gallon jugs that have handles
Masking tape
Newspaper (optional)
Tennis ball (or make a tape ball)

To Make:
– Remove the bottom of the plastic jug.
– On the jug’s edge that has the handle and at least one inch below the handle, draw a curve that will angle down towards the bottom of the jug. Do the same on the other side.  NOTE: If you cut the jug so that the handle is in back (where the edge is higher), it will be easier to throw overhand. If the handle is in front (under the lower edge), you’ll have a scooper that will make it easier to throw underhand. (Trash to Treasures, Chicago Tribune, April 17, 2007)
– When you are happy with the shape of the scoop, cut.
– Wrap several layers of tape around the spout to secure the lid.
– Repeat with the second plastic jug.
– Make your own Tape Ball by wadding newspaper into a ball. Wrap with masking tape.

To Play:
Using only the scoop, toss and catch the ball between players.
For added fun, form teams and play versions of baseball, football, lacrosse, or hockey using the scoops.

DIY Sidewalk Chalk

PFS - Sidewalk chalkAhhhh spring!  Spring brings a different set of outdoor activities to enjoy: 4-Square, hopscotch, ball hockey, marbles, tirar frijoles, circle tag.  Make sure you are ready with your custom made sidewalk chalk.

Supplies needed:

  • Toilet paper tube
  • Small square waxed paper
  • Rubber band
  • Recyclable/Disposable plastic container (e.g., deli container)
  • Craft stick

  • Plaster of paris
  • Corn starch
  • Tempera paint (Optional)
  • Water

Secure a double thick piece of waxed paper at the end of a toilet paper tube with the rubber band.

In the plastic container mix ½ cup plaster of paris and ¼ cup corn starch. Slowly add ¼ to ½ cup water while stirring with the craft stick.  Add tempera paint until the desired color is achieved.

Put mixture into prepared toilet paper tube.  Set the tube upright (waxed paper side down) on a plastic lid or newspaper until it hardens – generally overnight.  Once it hardens/dries, peel off the paper tube.  It is now ready to use!

IMPORTANT: Do NOT rinse cup in the sink!!  This stuff hardens and will clog sink!

Play Conference Reboot is Coming April 3-6, 2016 @ Clemson University

Mark your calendars because you will NOT want to miss this!!  After five years, the Conference on the Value of Play is getting a reboot!  Starting with a change in dates – because April showers are way more fun than power outages and sleet – there are BIG PLANS for the 6th Annual Play Conference.  Keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked because spring has sprung – and so have we!  More details to come!

Lily’s Game

This version of a ball-n-cup game was created by nine-year-old Lily, who was an attendee at a summer play table.

Supplies: single serving plastic yogurt cup (exclude Yoplait), 2 pieces of string (6-8 inches long), 2 pieces of aluminum foil (6”x6”), hole punch

To Make: Punch a hole just below the lip/rim of a clean yogurt cup. Directly across, punch a second hole. Take one piece of string, thread it through one hole and tie a knot to secure one end on the cup.  Do the same with the other piece of string and other hole.  Put the non-tied end of the string in the middle of one piece of foil; wad/crunch the foil into a ball with the string inside.  Do the same with the other string.

To Play: Hold the cup in one hand and try to flip both foil balls into the cup.