At Sunflower we firmly believe hands-on learning experiences through play, nature and the arts are absolutely essential for healthy human development. Does that mean we would all be healthier, happier humans if we played more, even as adults? Absolutely!!!!

Here’s how I remembered play recently at the 2015 US Play Coalition Conference on the Value of Play:

Picture a parachute absolutely bigger than a whole gigantic living room and kitchen put together.

Got it?

Okay, now imagine that you are holding onto a purple handle (did you know how much I love purple?) and a blue handle and you are running as fast as you can in a circle, and then you stop and lift that parachute as high as your arms can reach.

Now….Let go and run like crazy under the parachute to the opposite side just in time to grab the orange and red handles as they float down and then use all your strength to flip the whole thing up in the air again.

It’s up really high this time! Almost getting caught in the track lighting way above us. I think it might be burning a hole in the red section! You look down and spy a wildly grinning, beaming, white-toothed, long-legged college professor– or maybe she’s a county health administrator– ripping along under our billowing chute, madly churning on a tiny tricycle as we all scream “Catch her, catch her!” at the top of our lungs.

a GIANT parachute

Well, actually, it was just my voice screaming, “Catch her!”

Everyone else was looking at the hole in the parachute as it floated down, but I couldn’t help thinking how hilarious it would be to wrap her up in a giant parachute just when she thought for sure she would emerge unscathed!

Four square? No, I have never played. What! Get in that square and we will teach you!


A small purple rubber turtle (because I just love purple) sat balanced on the back of my right hand as 20 other educators, park rangers, improvisational theatre pros and just plain crazy folks grabbed and positioned blue and pink and yellow turtles on the backs of their hands. I was part of the small but mighty four-member purple turtle team. In a circle we put all hands and turtles in, all hands and turtles out, then Turtle WOO! I had to balance my turtle while trying to knock those silly other colored turtles off everyone’s hands. I got a pink one! Wooooo! Oops my turtle fell off.

Purple help, purple help, purple HELP! No luck. All purples were down. We were frozen in our tracks. Let’s play again!

I was determined to figure out what game two women were playing…they were swinging their arms, slapping their thighs and giving high fives in the middle of the lobby. I knew I would have my chance when I walked into Kerri’s session on Adult Recess and recognized that she was one of the women. We had a blast playing Turtle Woo, Robots and other seriously fun and creative games– at least one of which involved tossing a rubber chicken. (Did you know that I have always seriously loved rubber chickens?)

Finally, in the very last hours of my wonderful time at the Play Conference, Kerri spent the few minutes I needed to learn the Danish Clapping Game.

Is play important for everyone?

Do Danes know their clapping games?

You bet your sweet purple turtle they do!

Check out the video, then challenge me to a match. Let’s play!

Post by Susan Caruso
Photos courtesy US Play Coalition


Susan Caruso is Director/Founder of Sunflower Creative Arts. She is a specialist in guiding children and adults to discover their passions, realize their potential and develop a strong personal voice.