(Image courtesy of US Play Coalition)
A few weeks may have passed since we’ve returned from the Play Conference, but there was so much to share, we needed to get our thoughts together. This year’s US Play Coalition annual Play Conference was filled with discussions of play—and fun, too! The theme, “Where Design Meets Play,” encouraged some much-needed discussion around playground practices, designs and the overall importance of play. The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and the Voice of Play were able to sponsor this conference yet again (and have since the beginning!), and have been delighted to see the audience and phenomenal speakers grow year after year.
This year was very special for IPEMA and the Voice of Play. One of the Board members for IPEMA, Dr. Joe Frost, was honored for his work with play deprivation with the US Play Coalition’s newest award named after him, the Joe L. Frost Award for Distinguished Research. He was also able to present on a featured panel, “How Science and Research are Rocking the Play World,” with his friends and fellow IPEMA Board members Tom Norquist and Stuart Brown. They discussed the benefits and history of play based on their own findings, and how both have improved the playground industry for the better. Dr. Stuart Brown was also a panelist on the “Power PLAYer Panel,” where he offered his insights on the landscape of play through his research with animal play and human play histories, which helped him understand just how important play is for humans.
The keynote and featured speakers brought enthusiasm and knowledge to their presentations, stimulating the audience and their minds with probing questions and discussion. Matthew Urbanski, a landscape architect who has planned and designed innovative play spaces in places like New York City and Chicago, kicked off the conference with a keynote presentation on lessons he learned from designing play spaces. After Matthew Urbanski spoke, Bambi Yost, assistant professor at Iowa State University, talked about the “The Future of Schoolyards and Strategies to Work with School Communities to Get Things Funded and Built.” During the Monday session, David Gallagher, chief program officer at Playworks, discussed how we can use empathy to design school based play. At the Tuesday session, Dan Harding, an associate professor of Architecture and Community Design+Build at Clemson University, taught the audience how to design a practice of play. Other notable speakers included three tremendous play gurus who presented “PLAYtalks,” like TED Talks for the world of play: Kimberly S. Clay, Founder & Executive Director of Play Like A Girl!® nonprofit; James Siegal, CEO of KaBOOM!; and Pat Rumbaugh, co-founder of Let’s Play America and The Play Lady, who all provided insights into play spaces.
A conference this educational and fun could not have been made possible without a large group of sponsors to back it. IPEMA members from Playcore, GameTime, Landscape Structures, Little Tikes Commercial Play Structures, BCI Burke and Playworld came together to offer their intelligence and support through sponsorships.
IPEMA and the Voice of Play made this year’s conference a bit more exciting by releasing the results of a survey that reveal parents’ attitudes on the importance of play behavior and frequency. Find some of the key findings from our 2017 Survey on Play.
Clemson University proved to be the usual sunny host to the Play Conference for another year. Thank you for the incredible keynote and featured speakers, PLAYtalks and more! The calendar has already been filled with next year’s Play Conference dates. See you in 2018!