Research Associate at Boston Children's Hospital,
Lecturer on Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School,
Founding Director of Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood


"Given what's at stake, don't we all have a moral, ethical, political, and social obligation to provide children with the time, space, and tools to generate play? Since our capacity to play is inborn and used to develop naturally, it seems strange that we now have to make a conscious effort to ensure children opportunities for make believe".

A psychologist, Susan has written extensively about the effects of media and commercial marketing on children. Her book, Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, has been praised in publications as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, and Mother Jones and helped launch the movement to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers.

An award-winning ventriloquist and children's entertainer, Dr. Linn is internationally known for her innovative work using puppets in child psychotherapy. She pioneered this work at Children's Hospital Boston and the Children's AIDs Program, where she used puppets to help children cope with illness, hospitalization, death, loss and other life challenges. She has lectured on the importance of creative play, the impact of media and marketing on children, and the use of puppetry as a therapeutic tool in venues throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East.

Among other honors, Dr. Linn received an UNIMA-USA citation for excellence, A Champion of Freedom Award from the Electronic Privacy Information Center; The Creative Leadership Award from the Puppet Showplace Theater: and a Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for her work on behalf of children. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, 60 minutes and the Colbert report.

The case for make believe: A window into children’s hearts and minds

Play is the foundation of learning, creativity, and constructive problem solving.  It’s also a window into children’s hearts and minds – how they wrestle with life to make it meaningful. Given the time, space, silence and inspiration, children play about their experiences, about their feelings, and about their hopes and fears. Yet, modern society seems to do everything it can to prevent children from playing. Drawing on her years of experience using puppets to help children talk about difficult issues, and her work as an advocate for limiting commercial marketing that interferes with their development, Dr Linn will explore the ways creative play provides opportunities for self-expression. She also discusses how it helps children gain a sense of competence in coping with life’s challenges, and what parents and early childhood professionals can do to ensure that all children have opportunities for make believe.