TASP originated in Minneapolis, Minnesota on April 14, 1973, when Alyce Taylor Cheska convened and chaired a meeting of more than thirty scholars then publishing research within the general rubric of play. This critical mass of interested scholars formed the Cultural Anthropology of Play Reprint Society, and Michael Salter organized the first official meeting of the new organization in London, Ontario, later that same year. There, playful academic folks interested in studying and writing about play came together, reorganized as The Association for the Anthropological Study of Play (TAASP), and elected B. Allan Tindall as their first president. The organization changed its name to The Association for the Study of Play (TASP) in 1987.

TASP conducts a scholarly conference each year. Meetings have been held throughout North America and in Europe, including in Paris and Salzburg. During its early years, TASP published proceedings of the meetings, but beginning in 1988, annual publications replaced the proceedings. Play & Culture and the Journal of Play Theory & Research preceded the current Play & Culture Studies.

Over the years, numerous prominent play scholars and leaders have served as president of the organization, and its leaders, members, and meetings have embodied the power and spirit of play in everyday life.