2017 Conference on the Value of Play: Where Design Meets Play

This annual conference brings together leading play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the country. The three-day event includes keynote and featured speakers, PLAYtalks, PLAYinstitutes, research symposium, educational sessions, roundtables, grant opportunities, networking, and opportunities for play.

Innovative Play Space Designer Matthew Urbanski is a landscape architect and Principal of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates in New York, NY. He lectures regularly on design of play spaces in the landscape and how spatial complexity, particularly when combined with plants and other natural materials, supports an integration of active and imaginative play.

His keynote remarks will examine lessons learned from designing play spaces. His presentation is called, “Designing for Fun: Making Play Spaces that City Kids (and Parents) Love”

Power PLAYer Panel

Tackling the landscape of play from research, health, youth, parks and governmental perspectives, this is a discussion NOT to be missed!

Fran Mainella – Co-Chair, US Play Coalition & Former National Park Service Director
Stuart Brown, MD – Founder of National Institute for Play;
Michael Suk, MD – Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery, Geisinger Health System;
Kim Moore Bailey – Executive Director for Youth Outside


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

Kimberly S. Clay
Founder & Executive Director, Play Like A Girl!®

Play Like A Girl!® is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women and girls to be healthy and confident through sport, physical activity, and active play.  Founder and executive director Dr. Kimberly Clay will share her passion for helping girls reach their full potential and her latest efforts to #bringbackplay – starting in backyards, neighborhood parks and schools across the South.

Dr. Kim has been named one of Toyota’s Everyday Heroes, Xavier University’s 40 Under 40, and one of 50 People on the Move by the Nashville Business Journal.

Dr. Kim’s kickoff PLAYtalk will be “The Value of Play: When Design Meets Play (and Playtime Imitates Life).”  



James Siegal

KaBOOM! is the national non-profit that seeks to give all kids the childhood they deserve filled with play.  KaBOOM! is dedicated to bringing balanced and active play into the daily lives of all kids, particularly those growing up in poverty in America.  Most recently, KaBOOM! hosted The Play Everywhere Challenge, a $1 million competition to helps kids access innovative play spaces.

For his PLAYtalk, James will discuss “Transforming Every Day Spaces into PLAYces”.

Pat Rumbaugh
The Play Lady

The name says it all…Pat Rumbaugh IS The Play Lady!  The co-founder of Let’s Play America, is on a mission to encourage joy, improve communities and connect neighbors through play.

Pat speaks all over the country about the importance of play.  She is frequent blogger on the topic as well, contributing to Psychology Today, Genius of Play, AARP and Play and Playground Magazine.  Pat is also author of a children’s book, Let’s Play at the Playground, published in 2013.

The Play Lady’s PLAYtalk is entitled, “Is Your Community Designed For Play?”

Featured Speakers

  • “Sometimes It Hurts: Designing Play Environments with as Much Risk-Taking as Possible and as Little Safety as Necessary”

  • “The Future of Schoolyards and Strategies to Work with School Communities to Get Things Funded and Built” – Bambi Yost, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture

  • “How Science and Research are Rocking the Play World” – Stuart Brown, Joe Frost, and Tom Norquist

  • “Using Empathy to Design School Based Play” – David Gallagher, Chief Program Officer, Playworks

  • “Ten Strategies to Get a C in Play” – Michael Bryant, Director of Educational Program Activation at Discovery Education

  • “Designing a Practice of Play,” Dan Harding, Associate Professor of Architecture and Community Design+Build, Clemson University

  • “Lighting with LED . . . The Opportunities and the Challenges” – Joe Crookham, CEO, Musco Lighting

  • “The Genius of Play: Designing an Integrated Program to Help Families Capitalize on Key Developmental Benefits for Their Children”

  • “BrandNewNoise: Where Design Meets Play” – Richard Upchurch

  • “Placemaking Leads To Playmaking: How Edible & Medicinal Gardens Make Serenbe More Playful” – Steve Nygren

  • “Playing Outside the Lines: Play As A Metaphor for Life” – Erik “Dr. E” Fisher

Play Research Symposium & Educational Sessions

The Play Research Symposium provides opportunities for a scholarly exchange surrounding play.  Our brand new Research Symposium Sessions will include several 15 minute presentations grouped by theme with a 15 minute Q&A to follow the series.

Educational Sessions are opportunities to share and discover innovative play strategies and play research. They are more interactive and aimed at practitioners. These Educational Sessions are 50 minutes long including Q&A.

Inaugural Pre-Conference PLAY Institutes

These PLAY Institutes are 3-hour topic-specific trainings that take place on Sunday, April 2 from 11:00am-2:30pm (includes a 30 minutes break).  These Pre-conference PLAY Institutes are available ONLY to conference attendees as an add-on option. Cost is just $25 for the institute of your choice. Pre-registration is required. Registration is required.   Click on each of the titles below to learn more.

Play Facilitator Certificate of Completion

Change Agents for Play: Program Design Starts with Understanding Your Audience

Effective Playground Protective Surfacing – The Elusive Goal

CEUs Available

Clemson University awards CEUs for your participation in sessions at The Conference on the Value of Play. All keynotes, featured, research and educational sessions are 50 minutes in length.  Participants can be awarded .05 CEUs for each of these sessions attended. Institutes are another CEU opportunity. New this year!  LA CES and AIA Learning Units will be awarded for select sessions within the “Landscape Architecture, Architecture & Design” track.

usplaycoaltionPLAY Workshops

PLAY Workshops are hour-long, hands-on, interactive PLAY learning sessions.

2017 Event Schedule

  • Schedule at a Glance

  • Conference Program