Dr. Joe L. Frost

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Dr. Frost is the Parker Centennial Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for 34 years. He has authored or co-authored 18 books, several having been translated into other languages, as well as six volumes of original papers, reports and articles. Dr. Frost has also served as editor for many texts. He is known all over the world for his more than 30 years of work on early childhood and children’s play environments. He has also served as a consultant for playgrounds worldwide and is a past president of both the Association for Childhood Education International and International Play Association/USA.

Biography & Career

Joe Frost was born on a small farm in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas during the Great Depression. His early life was filled with work in the fields, tending livestock and church and extended family activities. His elementary school had no bought play equipment, but there was much time for free play throughout the day. Play included traditional games passed along by older children and adults, and children had virtually unlimited access to creeks and hills, farm animals, and wildlife. Frost developed a love of reading which was supported by his mother. His rich early play experiences and interest in books no doubt influenced his interest in collecting books on children's play and play environments.

Frost’s graduate work included studies in child development at the University of Arkansas, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. His first job after earning a doctorate at the University of Arkansas was Assistant Professor of Child Development at Iowa State University. After moving to the University of Texas in Austin in 1966, he directed the longest running (35 years) research project in the U.S. on children's play and play environments.

 Frost has published more than 20 books and numerous reports and articles on children and poverty, early childhood education and child development, including The Disadvantaged Child, co-edited with Glenn Hawkes, and Early Childhood Education Rediscovered.  His research in the area children’s play has resulted in several books including Play and Play Environments, with Barry Klein, When Children Play, with Sylvia Sunderlin, Playgrounds for Young Children, with Sue Wortham, Play and Child Development (four editions)with Sue Wortham and Stuart Reifel, Play and Playscapes, Children and Injuries, and The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds with Pei-San Brown, Candra Thornton, and John Sutterby. Several of his  books have been translated and published in Asian countries. In 2007, his article in Childhood Education, "The Changing Culture of Childhood: A Perfect Storm," was one of two Distinguished Achievement Award Finalists in the Association of Educational Publisher's Learned Article category. 

Frost retired from the University of Texas in 2000 but is still writing, lecturing, and designing play environments. He served as President of the Board of Directors of the Lutheran Outdoors Ministry of Texas. Frost also provides playground design assistance for public and private schools, government agencies, military bases, cities and universities in the United States, Europe and Africa.  He has received various awards and honors including appointment to the Parker Centennial professorship at the University of Texas, Teacher Educator of the Year by the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children, election to the Presidency of the Association for Childhood Education International, and election to the Presidency of the International Play Association (USA).  He received the Great Friend to Children Award from the Association for Children's Museums, the Patty Smith Hill Award from the Association for Childhood Education International, and the Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of the Incarnate Word. 

Frost’s culminating work, A History of Children’s Play and Play, was published in New York and London by Routledge Publishers in 2010.  The fourth edition of Play and Play Environments was published in China and the U.S. in 2011