Why it's important to play for life.

Key takeaways from the 2019 US Play Conference

As a proud sponsor of the US Play Coalition, Vortex has the opportunity to attend the Play Conference and sends every year a few different collaborators to be educated and inspired on the topic. Now that we are back from the conference, here are a few of our our key takeaways. The audience at the conference this year was very varied with many different professional bodies, all there to share their experience and expertise. There were doctors, landscape architects, educators, play equipment manufacturer, students and so on, all there for continued education on the topic of play.

Many parents can definitely appreciate how important and valuable play is to kids development and to their overall well-being. We found out that the benefits of play are not limited only to childhood but rather contribute greatly to form the adult these kids will become. It is rather eye opening to see how much research is invested in what was once considered ‘’the thing kids do’’.

Let us share with you a few of the key takeaways that will most definitely change the way play is looked at today.


Actually, this was presented as offering the gift of boredom to our kids and to ourselves. When we think of it, it seems to be every parent’s nightmare to hear our kids say ‘’I’M BORED!’’ – we instinctively think of things to do with our kids when we hear this. Actually, we should let kids get bored. It is when they are bored that they get creative. It is also the possibility of being still (not doing anything), that will give them the push and the desire to actually get things done. So let your kids (and yourself) get bored once in a while.

Animal Play

In January, an interesting article was published on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, a Canadian academic, science broadcaster and environmental activist, called The Power of Play. In that documentary he studies how animals play and questions the importance of this behaviour. The conclusion of this documentary is very enlightening and it shed a new light on Play in the fact that it is a developmental cross species fundamental building block. So, not surprisingly, this topic popped up at the conference this year. During the conference, attendees would be invited before a keynote talk, for example, to act like a monkey would. In a bizarre way, this helped us calm us before the big talk.

Forest School

This is a trend that is popular in Europe. The principle of this school is just that – kids get to play and learn in the forest all day long. These classes have been proven to improve so many important skills like following directions and respecting boundaries. This movement is gaining momentum. A few countries in Europe have implemented these classes and they are making their way into Canada and the United States. Very inspiring results with the children who learn at a very young age to be resourceful and respectful. Don’t we all wish we had forest schools when we grew up!

Loose Play Parts

Did you ever offer a toy to a kid to find out that they seemed to enjoy much more the empty box than the actual toy itself? There is a movement out there that prone making loose parts available to kids. There does not seem to have any link between the elements themselves but funny part is that the kids, with the help of their imagination, will make magic happen and play with all types of parts if made available. So steer away from a specific use toy and let the kids have a ball with all kinds of things. You will be amazed by what they come up with.

All in all...

When discussing with other conference attendees, we realized that kids seem have to forgotten how to play. The current generation seem to be often just waiting around when there is a gap in their busy schedules. They are not allowed nor given the opportunity to just be and play. Between all the activity scheduling and restrictions to keep kids safe, they are losing that ability to entertain themselves. Parents are just too much in the way. Kids don't need much, they just need time and space. Our biggest takeaway is really just that, give them the time and the place and just get out of the way. Funny that bringing them to a Splashpad during those summer months can give them that opportunity.