The theme of this year’s US Conference on the Value of Play was “Advancing Play.” The theme speaks centrally to the core of everything we do on behalf of the Voice of Play and IPEMA. We were excited – as always – to join several hundred of our friends and colleagues in play for discussion, education and brainstorming about ways to advance play practices, science and theory.
On a side note – this year’s Conference had its logistical challenges. Every year, the organizers worry about attendees and speakers making their way through February storms to get to the conference location in Clemson, South Carolina. I have to admit that personally, coming from the Northeast, I always look forward to the respite from the harsh winter weather that South Carolina usually provides. Not so much the case this year, as the Conference had to contend with a rare Southern ice storm that caused a 12-hour power outage at our hotel. In usual fashion, we barely missed a beat! We bundled up, found spaces with natural lighting, nourished ourselves with fresh fruit and muffins and carried on with the discussions (the power did come on in time for dinner and networking in the Hospitality Suite – thank goodness)!
Some particular highlights of this year’s conference:
- The opening evening keynote panel discussion on Advancing Play with Fran Mainella, Martin LeBlanc, Hedda Sharapan, Kevin Ross Emery and Linda Rhodes – this influential group shared best practices to help set the stage for the following discussions
- Dr. Peter Gray’s keynote talk – delivered via Skype after weather conditions prevented his attendance – inspired us all to think critically about the ways children educate themselves through play behavior
- Featured sessions covering topics from: “The Fear of Play and Collaboration”; “National Guidelines for Creating and Managing Places Where Children Engage with Nature”; “Nature Passport Project: Using Technology to Play and Explore in Nature”; “Recycled Rubber Use in Sports and Play Fields”; “Play Outdoors – the Ultimate Sensory Experience” kept our brains buzzing about new ways to think about play and encourage the field of play science
- The new informational resources developed by the Coalition, including the Play Pulse, which surveys the state of play through trends in related indicators.
These, along with 2 ½ jam-packed full days of sessions, provided plenty of food for thought. But we also fit in some time for play – through structured and free play sessions (albeit indoors this year)!
The conference continues to be a highlight for all of us who care about play and the importance of play for kids. Congratulations to the US Play Coalition for another successful year and job well done.