CLEMSON — Play pioneers who were among the first US Play Coalition keynote speakers will be featured at the 10th Anniversary Conference on the Value of Play, “Play for Life.” The conference will be held at Clemson’s Madren Conference Center and Inn March 31-April 3.

The conference brings together leading play researchers and advocates from across the nation and world to share the latest research and practices in the field of play. It includes educational sessions, grant opportunities, dozens of renowned speakers and opportunities for play.

Photo of Dr. Stuart Brown

Dr. Stuart Brown was the US Play Coalition’s first keynote speaker in 2009.
Image Credit: US Play Coalition

Dr. Stuart Brown, who was the coalition’s first keynote speaker in 2009; and Peter Gray, the event’s first PLAYtalk presenter in 2016; will return to the main stage to tackle the theme of “Play for Life.” Stephanie Garst, executive director of the US Play Coalition, said the speakers will reflect on the last decade of the play movement and give insights into its future.

“This is truly a presentation by our play heroes!” Garst said. “It is also another first: the first time they’ve ever spoken together. This is definitely a must-see.”

Brown spoke at the 2009 Summit on the Value of Play, which was the precursor to the Conference on the Value of Play. Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, Brown first recognized the importance of play by discovering its absence in the life stories of murderers and felony drunken drivers.

Brown’s years of clinical practice and review of more than 6,000 personal play histories affirmed the importance and need for healthy play throughout the human life cycle. His independent scholarship and exploration of the evolution and neuroscience of human and animal play have led to the establishment of the National Institute for Play. Brown has produced series on play for PBS and the BBC, and due to his contributions to the field, he has been identified as the “practical champion of the knowledge of play.”

“Our species is built for play and built by play,” Brown said.

Photo of Peter Gray

Peter Gray was the US Play Coalition’s first PLAYtalk presenter in 2016.
Image Credit: US Play Coalition

Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College. He has conducted and published research in neuroendocrinology, developmental psychology, anthropology and education. He is author of Psychology, an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook that views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective.

Gray’s recent research focuses on the roles of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves through play and exploration. He has expanded on these ideas in his recent book, “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life.” He also authors a popular blog called Freedom to Learn for Psychology Today magazine.

Gray is a founding member and president of the Alliance for Self-Directed Education, a nonprofit aimed at creating a world in which children’s natural ways of learning are facilitated rather than suppressed. He is also a founding board director of the nonprofit Let Grow, which is dedicated to renewing children’s freedom to play and explore outdoors, independently of adults.


The Conference on the VALUE of Play
The Play Conference, as it is commonly known, is an annual educational conference presented by the US Play Coalition. The latest research and practices in the field of play are presented at the conference, which brings together play researchers, park and recreation professionals, educators, health scientists, architects, landscape architects, designers, planners, business and community leaders, psychologists, physicians and parents from across the U.S. and beyond. The three-day event includes keynote and featured speakers, roundtables on critical issues and trends, research symposium for academics, educational sessions for practitioners, action and research grant opportunities, PLAYtalks and PLAYinstitutes, networking, EPIC play breaks and more.