Rusty Keeler Keynote Speaker

Remote Presentations available!

All topics can be presented online as a ZOOM event or series of events – fun!


Are you looking for an engaging speaker to inspire your group to connect children with nature, support unstructured free play, and say YES to play and risky play?



Rusty Keeler is the author of multiple books on play and playscapes and has been designing children’s environments for nearly 30 years. Rusty has presented all over the world in his quest to bring adventure and nature play back to the lives of children. His talks are fun, inspiring, and transformative!

Rusty was featured on the Katie Couric Show on a segment called “Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?”. Scroll down for an excerpt.

    • Rusty’s dynamic talks help groups to see the outdoors as a learning environment and understand the benefits of outdoor play in natural settings—all seasons, all-weather.
    • Rusty encourages audiences to make change in their environments and culture of play and Dream Big, Start Small, and Never Stop!
    • Rusty shares inspirational playscape examples from around the world to spark the imagination—spaces filled with trees, hills, gardens, sand and water, chickens and adults who have found ways to say YES to play.
    • Audiences will get tools and tips for how to bring adventure and risk-taking to children’s play with step by step techniques to feel more confident allowing children to access and assess risks and challenge themselves through open-ended play opportunities.

“Inspiring! Excellent!

Awesome! I loved it!”

“Rusty has an innate ability to draw you in the moment he starts talking.  His calm and collected demeanor coupled with his deep knowledge base in risky play create a dynamic atmosphere in his presentations.  Participants could be overheard discussing the nostalgia of their own early childhood play, how it has shifted, and how they would like to bring it back once again.  On the logistical end of things, Rusty is approachable, responsive, flexible, and very easy to talk to.  It was an absolute pleasure working with him!”

Aimee Pryba

NY Association for the Education of Young Children

“Want beautiful places for children to play?   Hills and hiding spots?  Ponds and trickling creeks?  Sand and climbing rocks?  Rusty Keeler has beauty in mind for children’s joy.  His designs are inspiring the playspaces of this generation. An enthusiastic, open-hearted speaker, Rusty gives  engaging presentations with a highly interactive delivery.  Audiences take away  ideas and energy.”

Mary Rivkin

Retired associate professor, University of Maryland, Author of The Great Outdoors

“I have been fortunate to hear Rusty speak at conferences three times, and am grateful we were able to have him as the keynote for our Annual Conference this April. In a world where worrying and anxiety are the norm, his work teaches us each to find our own comfort level with allowing children to take risks. I have observed participants move through their initial hesitations and fears as he speaks, from murmurs at the start to sharing fond memories of their own risky childhood play by the end. All children deserve the space to explore the world on their own terms and Rusty’s work exemplifies that.”

NYAEYC Staff Member

“Inspiring! Just What We Needed!
Ohio AEYC was thrilled to have Rusty Keeler provide a presentation for our first-ever virtual conference. Attendees were challenged to think creatively to “find their YES” regarding how they can allow risk, while removing hazards. Rusty conveyed respect for early childhood professionals by empowering them to create a culture of play—especially outdoor play—in their programs.” 

Kimberly Tice

Executive Director, Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children

“Rusty served as the keynote speaker for our first statewide training on nature play spaces in Maryland.  The audience included educators, administrators, park managers and facilities staff.  Rusty’s inspirational talk motivated the diverse group and helped to create a momentum for nature play in Maryland.  His presentation empowered the audience to create these nature play areas with such enthusiasm and expertise that the group felt it was just so common sense and achievable.  The crowd reaction to Rusty was overwhelming, and we in Maryland feel happy to have Rusty on our team for promoting nature play.  One of our favorite quotes from the day was “The entire conference should be Rusty!!!! He was so positive and engaging!”.  One attendee even created a new scale on the evaluation form in order to rank him higher.”

Sandi Olek

Maryland Department of Natural Resources

adventure playscape
kids digging

Why Play?

Rusty was featured on the Katie Couric Show on a segment called “Are We Overprotecting Our Kids?”.

Watch Erin Davis’s 22 minute documentary The Land about a current adventure playground with playworkers in Wales here

Partial Appearance List

Early Childhood

NAEYC National Conferences
Newfoundland AEYC
Texas AEYC
Puerto Rico AEYC
Upper Pennisula Early Childhood Conference
Boston AEYC
AECE Newfoundland and Labrador
Nevada AEYC
Vermont AEYC
Early Head Start Toddler Conference
New York AEYC

Upper Pennisula Early Childhood Conference


Cornell University
University of Texas at Austin
University of Binghamton
Kansas State University
Kent State University
East Tennessee State University
Huntington College
Dartmouth University
Paradise Valley Community College
University of Wyoming
Syracuse University
University of Cincinnati
Ithaca College


Practical Wisdom Conference—Bali, Indonesia

Evergreen—Toronto, Canada
IPA World Conferences:

  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Cardigg, Wales
  • Calgary, Canada

Point Preschool — Sydney, Australia
Natural Phenomenon Conference—New Zealand

International Montessori Congress
Inspired EC — Australia:

  • Hobart, Tasmania
  • Perth, Australia
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • Brisbane, Australia
  • Darwin, Australia
  • Canberra, Australia

Children and Nature

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Memphis Botanical Gardens
Maryland Dept of Natural Resources
Children and Nature Network
Tulsa Zoo
US Play Coalition
Association for the Study of Play
Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest
Memphis Botanical Gardens
Maryland Dept of Natural Resources
Bright Horizons
Nature Action Collaborative for Children
National Association of Regulatory Administration