Play's the Thing: Facilitating Play & Therapeutic Aspects of Play - CANCELLED for 2020




It could be argued that active play is so central to child development that it should be included in the very definition of childhood." –American Academy of Pediatrics, 2012

This five day program, explores developmental, clinical and cultural aspects of play in children’s lives. It brings together professionals and graduate students who work with children in diverse contexts: educators, social workers, child life specialists, parks and recreation workers, children’s museum staff—anyone interested in learning and advocating for the importance of play.

The first weekend is an introduction to developmental and cultural aspects of facilitating play for young children—including observations of play, participation, and reflection in both our Early Childhood Center and during a CAPE for the community. The second weekend addresses therapeutic aspects of play in clinical, early intervention, school and hospital settings, for children with special needs and those exposed to trauma and violence in their lives.

Sarah Lawrence College is an Approved CTLE Sponsor and offers 35 CTLE hours for this program.

Optional graduate credit is available, please e-mail for more information.

Thanks to generous support from M&T Bank and the Seth Sprague Education and Charitable Foundation, scholarships are available. Please contact us at for more information


Looking at Play: Preparations for Observing & Recording Children’s Play

Barbara Schecter

This session will introduce participants to the field observation process, which will take place at the Sarah Lawrence Early Childhood Center. We will provide a template for observing and recording observations, which will serve as the basis for discussion on such topics as: What functions do different forms of play serve for the child? What is the shape of a “play episode”? How do children collaborate in play? Are there different kinds of imaginative activities that serve differing functions? Can we identify the sources of themes revealed in the children’s play?

Play in Cultural Context

Kim Ferguson

This session will address the intersection of play and culture, focusing on the ways that contexts (defined broadly as family, cultural norms, social expectations) influence the nature of play and attitudes that adults hold toward the meaning and uses of play. We will think particularly about play in Southern and Eastern Africa, focusing on examples from South Africa, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Tanzania. We will also discuss the implementation of community adventure play experiences (CAPEs) in Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

The Meanings of Play: Developmental Perspectives

Barbara Schecter 

This session will bring together observations we have made over the first two days about different kinds of chidren’s play. It will include a viewing of the film When a Child Pretends, made for public television by Jonathan Diamond Associates in association with the Child Development Institute. We will then consider the kinds of activities that are called “play” and their differing roles in the lives of children. Using the film as a basis for discussion, this session focuses primarily on imaginative or pretend play. An introduction to psychological theories of play highlights social, emotional, imaginative, and cognitive aspects of play and serves as a foundation for understanding the importance of play for the child’s development.

Blocks in Play

Sarah Phillips Mathews 

This session offers an exploration of blocks as a central medium for young children’s play. Block play allows children explorations in math, science, social studies, and language arts and involves problem solving, experimentation, negotiation, and other abilities crucial in child development. Focusing on unit blocks, but also including other building materials, we will examine through both discussion and experience how blocks play into these areas and abilities.

Making Space for Play

Emily Pinkowitz 

As educators, we have the ability to create and hold spaces for creativity and imagination when the physical space does not yet exist.  With the right environmental and program planning, play advocacy can be folded into a place over time, transforming it from the inside out.  Using the High Line as an example, we will explore how this design and advocacy has been accomplished and discuss how it can be used as a model in other settings.

When Playing is Therapeutic: An Overview & Play In and Out of Therapy

Jan Drucker 

This session will serve as an introduction to the varied clinical presentations today by offering an overview of the many ways play processes are used in therapeutic interventions with children. Central questions to consider include the definition and scope of play in a given therapy, the functions play is seen as serving for the child in therapy, the special nature of playing in the therapeutic context, and the role(s) the therapist may play in working with the child. All of these factors vary depending on theoretical orientation, goals of the therapeutic intervention, and pragmatic aspects of the situation. The rich and often simultaneous multiple functions of play in therapy will be highlighted.

Play Therapy: A Jamaican Experience

Marie Reynolds 

In the summer of 2007, Marie Reynolds introduced play therapy to the Child Abuse Mitigation Project in Jamaica. Since her return to Jamaica she has continued to expand awareness of and advocate for the value of play and play therapy through her clinical practice, lecturing a graduate course in play and art therapy, and conducting workshops for teachers and parents. With the support of anecdotal and case references, from her Jamaican experience, Marie will discuss play therapy within a cultural context, including how this is shaped by child socialization and patterns of parent-child interaction.

Introduction to the DIR/Floortime Model: Fostering Early Stages of Engagement and Purposeful Communication

Jessica Loughlin

This session introduces the basic concepts of the “Developmental, Individual Differences, and Relationship Based” (DIR) model of assessment and intervention and illustrates how to encourage affect-based developmentally appropriate interactions for children with special needs. The aim of this presentation is to provide a general overview of this model, its theoretical base, how it is implemented, and how it incorporates various therapeutic modalities to support the health and wellbeing of children with developmental difficulties. Video clips of clinical material will be used to illustrate the application of the model in the context of a private practice, school, and home settings, and take into account developmental, spatial, and cultural considerations.

Play Memories, Adventure Play, and Setting the Stage for “Loose Parts” Play

Barbara Schecter 

This workshop will explore the phenomenon of adventure playgrounds and the profession of playwork, which developed in the UK after World War II. Adventure playgrounds use loose parts— materials such as wood, sand, water, cardboard boxes, string, fabric, and other recycled materials. We will consider how these materials and the site itself contribute to the children's play. This session will lay the groundwork for the afternoon event of setting up and carrying out a Community Adventure Play Experience (CAPE). 

Loose Parts Play for Children Special Needs: Through an Occupational Therapy Lens

Kimberly Wilkinson

This session will describe how the theory of loose parts play can be incorporated into working with children with special needs and how occupational therapists can offer a unique perspective on facilitating these play experiences for children of all ability levels. We will explore how facilitated loose parts play may improve playfulness in populations of children who show decreases in playful behaviors when compared to typically developing peers. Drawing from an example playgroup run in a graduate class in the Ithaca College Department of Occupational Therapy, concepts related to universal design, inclusion, and the importance of providing children with differing abilities access to opportunities to make and create will be open for discussion.

Additional workshops to be announced!


Lorayne Carbon, BA, SUNY Buffalo. MSEd, Bank Street College of Education. Director, Sarah Lawrence College Early Childhood Center, 2003-present. Former early childhood teacher, director, Oak Lane Child Care Center, Chappaqua, NY, and education coordinator of the Virginia Marx Children's Center of Westchester Community College. Former adjunct professor, Westchester Community College. As an advocate for play and its place both in and outside of the classroom, Lorayne has been a workshop leader at seminars and conferences on early childhood education including NAEYC and CCNY In Defense of Childhood, and engages in outreach at local area schools and community organization's through the Child Development Institute's Speaker's Bureau. Special areas of interest include social justice issues in the early childhood classroom and creating aesthetic learning environments for young children.

Jan Drucker, BA, Radcliffe College. PhD, New York University. Director, Child Development Institute's Empowering Teacher's Program, clinical and developmental psychologist with teaching and research interests in the areas of developmental and educational theory, child development, parent guidance, clinical assessment and therapy with children and adolescents, and the development of imaginative play and other symbolic processes in early childhood and their impact on later development. Professional writings have centered on various forms of early symbolization in development and in clinical work with children. Sarah Lawrence, 1972-present

Kim Ferguson BA, Knox College. MA, PhD, Cornell University. Psychology (2007-present) & the Art of Teaching (2010-present) faculty. She is a developmental and cultural psychologist with special interests in sustainable, community based participatory action research, cultural-ecological approaches to infant and child development, children at risk (children in poverty, HIV/AIDS orphans, children in institutionalized care), health and cognitive development, development in African contexts, and the impact of the physical environment on child development. Author of articles and book chapters on African and American infants' language learning, categorization and face processing, the built environment and physical and mental health, and relationships between the quality of southern African orphan care contexts and child development and health.

Jessica Loughlin is a Social Work Clinical Supervisor at New York Center for Child Development in Manhattan. She works directly with children and their families through EI and CPSE using the Floortime/DIR model.  She has worked with children ranging from those on the Autistic spectrum to children who have experienced trauma. For two years, Jessica also worked as a Mental Health Consultant in Harlem at a Head Start program working closely with the teachers to increase understanding of socio-emotional development.  She has a MA in Child Development from Sarah Lawrence College and an MSW from NYU.

Sarah Phillips Mathews, a graduate of Vassar College, also holds a Master’s degree in the Art of Teaching from Sarah Lawrence College. She is currently the Lead Teacher in the Fours Class and runs the Afternoon Twos Class and Parent Discussion Group at the Sarah Lawrence College Early Childhood Center where she has also taught Threes during the past twenty years. Her previous experience includes research at Children’s Hospital in Boston on early brain development, as well as teaching at the Harvard Law School Childcare Center and the Bank Street School for Children. Her main areas of interest are separation; conflict resolution and community building in the classroom; and block play, on which she leads a yearly graduate seminar.

Emily Pinkowitz has leveraged education and engagement strategies to build equity in public spaces for fifteen years. Currently, as Director of Programming & Engagement at WCS, she works with teams at five parks across the city to implement an inclusive, audience-driven approach to STEM education that serves hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year.  As Director of Programs & Education at Friends of the High Line during the park’s first six years, she initiated multi-disciplinary programs for all ages and worked to develop both programmatic and structural opportunities for play on the park.  She worked with Abby Ehrlich and Cas Holman in the creation of the Children’s Workyard Kit, a mobile crate of kid-friendly building materials that enable young visitors to build larger-than-life construction on the park, and consulted with the High Line Design team in the design of the Beams, the High Line’s first dedicated play feature.  She also developed a roster of drop in family programs that served more than 10,000 children and caregivers from 2009-2015.  She has worked as an educator and researcher at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Queens Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum of California, Four Freedoms Park, and the Exploratorium.  She holds an MA in Museum Studies from NYU, where she was a Museum Studies Fellow and an American Alliance of Museums Diversity Fellow, and served on the Board of the New York Museum Educators Roundtable from 2013-2017.

Marie Reynolds is a clinical Social Worker and Paediatric Psychotherapist at Caribbean Tots to Teens, a multidisciplinary allied health centre for child and adolescent health and wellness in Jamaica, where she uses play, sandtray and other expressive therapies to address children’s emotional, behavioral, developmental and family concerns. She also uses filial play therapy to strengthen attachment and parent-child interaction. In her dedication to increasing children’s access to play and play therapy, Marie co-developed and delivered a graduate course in play therapy at the Mico University College, and has conducted a range of seminars and workshops for professionals and parents. She received her MSW from New York University, and also holds an MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Counseling Psychology emphasis) from the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology.

Barbara Schecter is Director of the Graduate Program in Child Development at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a developmental psychologist with a special interest in cultural psychology, developmental theories, and language development. She is the author of "Development as an Aim of Education: A Reconsideration of Dewey's Vision" (Curriculum Inquiry, March 2011), as well as author and researcher on cultural issues in development and metaphoric thinking in children. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College and her MA and PhD from Teachers College Columbia University.

Kimberly Wilkinson, PhD, OTR/L is an assistant professor in the department of occupational therapy at Ithaca College. She has worked as a clinical pediatric occupational therapist for almost 20 years specializing in feeding intervention, sensory integration, and working with children with autism spectrum diagnoses. Dr. Wilkinson was a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellow at the University Center for Excellence in Development Disabilities (UCEDD) at Children's Hospital of Los Angeles. She completed her doctoral training in Ayers Sensory Integration and Occupational Science through the University of Southern California where her dissertation research focused on the mealtime experiences of mothers of children with autism spectrum disorders and feeding challenges. During her graduate studies, Dr. Wilkinson served as a research assistant on a longitudinal, ethnographic study of health care disparities for African American families with a child with special health care needs. Her current research focuses on describing the play of children with and without special needs from an occupational therapy perspective including snow play, loose parts play, and the risky play of infants.