An evening with Peter Gray

A Forum on Protecting our Children from Play Deficit Disorder

Presented by Nature Play QLD and Protecting Childhood


How to support your children’s learning through unstructured outdoor play with an evening with Peter Gray

– Professor of Psychology from Boston College (USA).

Friday 13 October, 6.30pm. Brisbane

Presented by Nature Play QLD in partnership with Protecting Childhood and Inspired EC.



Join us for this keynote talk with Peter Gray on protecting our children from play deficit disorder and a Q&A forum discussion on 'how does outdoor play prepare children for learning?'

Suitable for parents, educators, play advocates and other industry professionals.



In this fast-paced world, what space is afforded to the voice of our children?

Demands grow; more school, more extra-curricular activities, more stuff. While opportunities for kids to be directors of their world shrinks; less space, less freedom, less choice, less friends, less movement, less community, less fun.

How are they going? Are they overloaded? Are they more stressed, anxious, nervous? What role does outdoor play have in amongst all this busy-ness?

During this child centred discussion, we hope to answer the question: ‘In childhood, is LESS MORE?

Be a part of our audience. Submit a relevant question for discussion. Let’s leave no stone un-turned and grow the community discussion and actions to give children the freedom to play, especially outdoors.  

Event details

Event format: A keynote talk with a Q&A forum discussion

Where: St Laurence's College, McElligott Theatre, 82 Stephens Road, South Brisbane.

Cost: $35 (inc GST) + booking fee. 10% discount for group bookings of 5 people or more  Purchase now 

When: Friday 13 October, 6.30pm to 9pm

  • 6.30pm arrival: Peter Gray will be conducting book signings
  • 7.00pm: Peter Gray talk on unstructuring childhood
  • 8.00pm: Q&A Forum– How does outdoor play prepare children for learning? Discussion with Peter Gray, Hyahno Moser (Nature Play QLD), and YOU! Submit a question you would like to discuss when you book your ticket.


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About Peter Gray

Peter Gray is an American psychologist and research professor in the Department of Psychology at Boston College. He is most well known for his research concerned Book: Free to learn with children's natural ways of learning and the role of play in children's development.

He is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books, 2013), author of Psychology, a highly regarded college textbook, and he writes a popular blog for Psychology Today magazine entitled "Freedom to Learn".  


Peter Gray Tedx Talk

In this talk, Dr. Peter Gray compellingly brings attention to the reality that over the past 60 years in the United States there has been a gradual but, overall dramatic decline in children's freedom to play with other children, without adult direction. Over this same period, there has been a gradual but overall dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, feelings of helplessness, suicide, and narcissism in children and adolescents. Based on his own and others' research, Dr. Gray documents why free play is essential for children's healthy social and emotional development and outlines steps through which we can bring free play back to children's lives.


 Q&A forum discussion: 'how does outdoor play prepare children for learning?'  Panelists:

Peter Gray PH.D

Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor at Boston College, is author of Free to Learn (Basic Books, 2013) and Psychology (Worth Publishers, a college textbook now in its 7th edition). He has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He did his undergraduate study at Columbia University and earned a Ph.D. in biological sciences at Rockefeller University. His current research and writing focus primarily on children's natural ways of learning and the life-long value of play. His own play includes not only his research and writing, but also long distance bicycling, kayaking, back-woods skiing, and vegetable gardening. 

Dr Nicole Grant, Principal Occupational Therapist & Director of Gateway Therapies

Gateway Therapies is a leading allied health practice servicing Brisbane and surrounding areas. During her 15 year + career as an OT with additional qualifications in psychology, Nicole has worked closely with parents, early educators and schools to support children with additional needs. She writes regularly for a number of publications, including academic journals, and online parenting blogs and forums. Nicole has also presented at a number of national and international conferences, and has achieved recognition for her work in supporting families with children on the autism spectrum, including receipt of the Dean’s Award for her doctoral studies. Nicole is a passionate advocate of natural play spaces and play-based learning opportunities, and is very excited to be part of this important discussion. 

Norm Hunter, Founding Principal of Hillbrook Anglican High School, Father and Grandfather, Chair of the Nature Play QLD Advisory Board 

Norm Hunter was a founding Co-Principal, then Principal, of Hillbrook Anglican High School, serving for a period of 21 years. His work in creating an inclusive school culture with a shared vision, along with his contribution to Queensland and Australia's education community has been recognised through national Fellowships of the Australian College of Educators and the Australian Council for Educational Leaders, the awarding of the 2006 Australian College of Educators' Biennial Queensland Medal, and the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2007 for his services to educational leadership. In 2010 Norm was awarded the ACEL Queensland Excellence in Educational Leadership Award, and in 2013 the ACEL national Nganakarrawa award for educational leadership.

Amy Cox-Youngson – Founder and Executive Team of Protecting Childhood

Amy is a passionate advocate for holistic, developmentally appropriate education. Protecting Childhood is an advocacy group opposed to standardised, one-size-fits all education and the push down of academics into the early years of school, at the expense of play.

She is a Mum of 3 boys who were “coping” with mainstream education, but were having constant emotional meltdowns and negativity towards learning. Their family life was full of tension, so after more than a year of research into child development and how to foster self-directed learners – she initially home schooled her two older boys, until she found and fell in love with a small independent school, a truly Integral Development model of Education. She was so inspired by what teaching and learning could look like, she began a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education.

Following Kathy Margolis’ viral Facebook post, in February 2016, she realised that “it’s not just us! Teachers see it too. We need to do something”. That something became Protecting Childhood which has over 11,000 followers today.

Kathy Margolis - Protecting Childhood Advocate

Kathy Margolis was a primary school teacher for over 30 years. She left teaching, angry and disillusioned with a system she says is broken. She felt she could no longer be a part of a system which was demanding she do things that were against her philosophy of what good teaching and learning was about. Upon retiring she wrote a Facebook post stating all the things she thought was wrong with our education system. This post went viral and was shared over 40,000 times. After this she joined the group Protecting Childhood as an advocate and has continued to speak out in the media about our system which is pushing children too hard and too fast, sucking the joy out of learning. As a mother of three sons, she is particularly concerned with the impact it is having on boys. One of the things she laments the most is the loss of play in what has become a formalised curriculum in the prep year.




Sandi Phoenix – Founding Company Director / Principal Facilitator, Phoenix Support for Educators

Sandi's coaching and consultancy style comes form a strengths-based perspective and is informed by a comprehensive understanding of the National Quality Framework  and underpinning theory. Sandi takes a positive approach to guiding expected behavioural choices within inclusive learning environments, following vast experience working with children with disabilities and children who display complex behaviours in both early childhood settings, youth care and school age care since 1998. Since 2009, Sandi has been involved in supporting educators and teams to implement the National Quality Framework through various roles. These roles range from individualised in-service coaching and mentoring, presenting at conferences, developing written resources and consulting in the design of software that supports efficient and effective curriculum planning and service operations. She is highly regarded nationwide as a speaker, coach, mentor and Professional Development facilitator for the education and care sector.  

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