Summit Aims to Stress the Importance of Play in People's Lives

June 12, 2009

CLEMSON, SC – June 12, 2009 –  The benefits of play time are numerous and include exercise, the development of interpersonal skills and increased creativity. Educators, health professionals, park and recreation providers and policy-makers from across the country will discuss such benefits during the Summit on the Value of Play June 14-16 at the Madren Conference Center at Clemson University.

“When I was a kid I would be told to go outside and play after school,” said Fran Mainella, visiting scholar in Clemson’s parks, recreation and tourism management department and the former director of the National Park Service. “Most people over the age of 18 have a similar memory. Unfortunately, kids today are not getting that experience.

“Children under the age of 10 represent the first generation in years not expected to live as long as their parents,” Mainella added. “This is a startling expectation and a strong call to action.”

Borrowing from the well-known name of the federal education law, Mainella urges families to Leave No Child Inside. Her commitment and collaboration with summit co-chairman Brett Wright led to the creation of the Summit on the Value of Play, which will address the measurable benefits of play; highlight the current political, economic and social barriers that stifle play; and identify existing and new opportunities to overcome these barriers.

“We all are beginning to see the negative impacts from the lack of play among our citizens, including obesity, attention-deficit disorder and limited creativity, to name a few,” said Wright, professor and chairman of the parks, recreation and tourism management department.

The Centers for Disease Control and the Children & Nature Network report that 74 million children under the age of 18 are either dangerously overweight or obese. Forty percent of school children already show signs of cardiac risk and fewer than 25 percent of school children participate in daily physical activities as many schools are canceling recess.

Summit speakers represent what Mainella refers to as the best leaders in play:

  • Joe Frost, Ph.D., Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus in the University of Texas at Austin College of Education’s department of curriculum and instruction. Frost has more than 30 years of work experience on early childhood and children’s play environments;
  • Stuart Brown, M.D., president and founder of the National Institute for Play, instigator and executive producer of the three-part PBS series The Promise of Play;
  • Cheryl Charles, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Children & Nature Network, and co-chairwoman of the Commission on Education and Communication for the International Union for Conservation of Nature;
  • Hara Estroff Marano, editor at large of Psychology Today and author of “Why Doesn’t Anybody Like Me?,” “A Guide to Raising Socially Confident Kids” and “A Nation of Wimps, the High Cost of Invasive Parenting.”

An agenda and more information are online at

The summit is being used as a think tank to produce several products that will serve to highlight the importance of play and playfulness throughout people’s lives.

Mainella said a result will be to develop a compilation of abstracts describing the leading research projects and education, health and leisure programs. They will start and maintain a directory and network of professionals working to promote play. All participants will be asked to contribute to an annotated bibliography of the literature on play that will serve as a key reference for professionals, students and scholars. Finally, participants will develop calls to action and implementation strategies to continually promote the value of play.

Summit sponsors are the National Recreation and Park Association, Landscape Structures, PlayCore/GameTime, Vortex, the International Playground Equipment Manufacturer’s Association, BCI Burke and PlayPower/Little Tikes.