Plenary Sessions

A plenary session will be held on each of the first three days of the conference. These 90-minute sessions gather the entire group of attendees to hear talks from several prominent speakers, who will address a play-related priority issue targeted for discussion each day. A question and answer period with the audience will follow the presentations.

Unleashing the Power of Play…in the 21st Century

Watch the Session here on YouTube

Day 1 – Wednesday, September 13

Today’s speakers will help to situate play in contemporary society. What is play in the 21st century context? Are play cultures and landscapes changing? What are the new opportunities and challenges for supporting children’s right to play?

The Decline of Play and the Mental Health Consequences of that Decline – Dr. Peter Gray

This presentation will define play as an activity that is freely chosen and structured by the players themselves;  present evidence for the dramatic decline over the past few decades in children’s opportunities and freedom to play; present evidence for the dramatic increase in mental disorders that have accompanied the decline in play; and describe the logic and evidence for believing that there is a cause-effect connection between the decline of play and the rise of mental disorders.

Dr. Peter Gray

Revisiting Childhood – Dr. Roger Hart

It has often been written by observers of children’s lives that childhood is being lost, and that a central part of this is the erosion of children’s play. Drawing from a current longitudinal study of changes in childhood over two generations in one town I will show that many parents also recognize that their children’s play is radically different from that of their own childhood and they are commonly disturbed by these changes, yet they feel driven to control and guide their children’s play. There are many factors that have transformed children’s play but a central part of the story is parent’s own changing understanding of the place of play in children’s lives and their role in this as parents. A key issue in our struggle to inform this debate as IPA members is the continued tendency of the general public to see children’s socialization as a one-way process of adults preparing passive children for the world through education, rather than seeing that when their children play with their peers they are actively self-organizing, inventing, and managing their activities and that through these processes they are flexibly adapting and transforming culture and thereby helping to produce the future with us. The presentation will include sequences of film of children’s play in the 70’s alongside commentary by the same children as parents today together, this with footage of the play of their own children. I hope to demonstrate that one of the most effective ways of enabling parents and caregivers to reflect critically on the place of play in children’s lives is for them to look back at play in their own childhood and to compare it with that of their children, in spite of the distortion that nostalgia commonly brings to this exercise!


Dr. Roger Hart

 Unleashing the Power of Play… in Situations of Crisis, Conflict and Challenge

Watch the Session here on YouTube

Day 2 – Thursday, September 14

In situations of conflict or disaster for children living with everyday hazards and poverty, play is crucial to their well-being, development, health and survival. Children display extraordinary resilience in creating space and opportunities to play even in the most extreme circumstances and many communities and organizations strive to continue to support play in situations of crisis. However, more needs to be done to ensure we fulfil our obligations to children in ensuring their right to play is realized. This plenary will share, for the first time, the findings of IPA Access to Play in Crisis 2016-17 research project and will introduce the new IPA handbook for practitioners, managers and policy-makers.

Theresa Casey
Theresa Casey

Dr. Sudeshna Chatterjee
Dr. Sudeshna Chatterjee

Maria Assi
Maria Assi

Santosh Maharjan Photo
Santosh Maharjan

Shalini Gupta

Khemporn Wirunrapan Image
Khemporn Wirunrapan


Unleashing the Power of Play … to Spark Change

Day 3 – Friday, September 15

Our final plenary session will help to chart a path towards systemic changes which will support children’s right to play through research, practice, policy and advocacy. Discussion will include how we can engage children, families and neighbourhoods in the work to restore and protect children’s play and play environments.

The Many Forms of Play – Using Play to Engage First Nations Young People in Advocacy, Policy, and Change

Watch the session here on Youtube

This plenary looks at how Play became a fundamental component of the Feathers of Hope Initiative that brings First Nations Young People together to address the issue of hopelessness in their communities in Ontario, Canada.

We often and incorrectly see play and fun as the opposite to addressing difficult issues.  However, in this plenary, we will focus on how play was critical to engaging First Nations young people in addressing their experiences and advocating for themselves to policy-makers, government officials and leadership.  We will look how play was used for coping, healing, teaching, connecting, and advocating.  Furthermore, we will touch on how First Nations young people see play as an important part of their development.

This plenary session will be presented by members of the Community Development Team which includes the Amplifiers, who are a group of First Nations young people hired by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth in Ontario to work on the Initiative.

Edwin Martinez Image
Edwin Martinez

Andy Lee Image
Andy Lee

Laura Arndt Image
Laura Arndt

Samantha Crowe Image
Samantha Crowe

Ray Hookimaw 

Stephane Friday Photo
Stephane Friday

How to Restore Children’s Play in Today’s World- Dr. Peter Gray

Watch the session here on Youtube

In this presentation Dr. Gray will reflect on some of the key ideas presented by others at the conference;  describe some ways by which families and neighborhoods have succeeded in restoring play locally for their children; and  outline a program that Dr. Gray and Lenore Skenazy (of Free Range Kids)  have initiated for creating play friendly cities, which will include a list of objective steps that cities could take to promote and enable children’s play.


Dr. Peter Gray