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2016 US Play Coalition conference

The annual US Play Coalition’s Play Conference 2016 took place last month at Clemson University and focused on the importance of outdoor play of all types, including manipulative and nature play. Other central themes of the 2016 conference included redefining play, culture and community.

The highly anticipated industry event brought together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, landscape architects, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents to discuss and promote the value of play for people of all ages and abilities. In addition to the keynote speakers, the Play Conference 2016 included networking opportunities, dozens of educational sessions and other presentations. My coworker and Playworld distributor in Singapore, Patrick Lee, spoke on how play is being managed outside of the USA.

This year’s theme was “rebooting play” and the latest research, initiatives and practices in the field of play were presented. One hot topic at the conference was ensuring play is available everywhere for everyone – even in unexpected places like pop-up playgrounds and closed-off streets. In fact, my friend and colleague David Flanigan, director of grants management for KaBOOM!, introduced the idea and truly crystallized the play everywhere concept. If you haven’t already heard, KaBOOM! recently launched The Play Everywhere Challenge, a national competition that will award $1 million in prizes for the best replicable, scalable innovations in city redevelopment and design that help make play easy, available and fun for kids and families.

I was honored to have the opportunity to speak about making parks relevant.

Communities change continuously. If their parks and outdoor spaces do not change in parallel, societal needs and what is offered for outdoor recreation will be mismatched. My presentation focused on the trends that affect outdoor spaces, park and recreation funding trends and I shared examples of low cost ways to change the perceived value of outdoor recreation to the community.

Unlike some events where there are people from the same field discussing various issues, this conference continuously brings together professionals from different disciplines to discuss the important issue of play.

What issues related to play concern you the most?