Saturday, 20 January 2018

Prioritizing Play Conference 2018: Registration Now Open

By Zan

In partnership with KOOP Adventure Play, we are pleased to announce that registration for the first ever Prioritizing Play Conference in Urbana, Illinois on 3rd-5th May is officially open. We've been working with Kelsey and Naomi of KOOP for a few years now, helping train them in the basics of playwork theory through the Playworker Development Course, and talking with them about what that means in practice. We know that between our two organisations, we have created an exciting opportunity for folks to get together and talk about play and playwork with keynote speakers Peter Gray and Pop-Ups very own Morgan Leichter-Saxby.
"Play is a necessity for children and youth. Yet with each passing year, the time, space and freedom children have allocated to self- directed play is infringed upon.  This May, those who work with children or are interested in play in their communities will gather to review why play is important, hear about the current movement towards prioritizing play and to learn about how the field of playwork is crucial in today's world."
You can register here, and some information is below. We look forward to seeing you there!


Date: 3rd-5th May 2018 
Location: Illini Union Hotel, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. 
Keynote Speakers: Peter Gray and Morgan Leichter-Saxby

Early Bird Rate: $350 USD
Full rate: $450 USD

Limited financial assistance is available. More information can be found here with more details to follow. If you have any questions please email

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

New Pop-Up Year: New Pop-Up Tagline

By Morgan

There's a small thing that's irked us for ages. It's probably a common feeling to folks in playwork, given how we struggle to explain this work to outsiders. As an organization that positions itself as a kind of 'welcome mat' for adventurous play, we always wanted a tagline that felt right and reflected who we are. Finally, we've got a phrase we love. 

Play at the heart of communities.

Those communities may be personal or professional, in person or online, temporary or lasting the rest of our lives. We help weave play through existing communities, or building new communities around play. Wherever we work, children's play remains our top priority, the beating heart of all we do.

There's another phrase we wanted to share, as part of our excitement about the upcoming year. If a tagline is 'what we do', this is 'how we do it'. It's our intention, which we're setting carefully and sharing with you now.

In 2018 and beyond, we want to be your online play association.

This means a lot to us, and likely not much to you just yet. Most of the people we work with around the world have never had a local play association. These groups exist to support other initiatives, the ones doing work on the ground. Many UK play associations are struggling or have closed, but we're still drawing upon a long tradition of regional support for local play initiatives. Here's what we think a good local play association ought to be:

  • responsive, tailoring both approach and content
  • supportive, providing access to targeted resources
  • collaborative, linking people together and sharing ideas
  • positive, welcoming new members to the field and encouraging those who have been here for awhile
  • inclusive, working with people in schools, hospitals, parks, families and everywhere that children can be found.

That's what we've always tried to do, but we wanted a phrase that made it a bit more 'official'. We know what it's like to struggle, to search for information that seems hard to find, to feel alone. We feel honored to be serving new and practicing playworkers. Whether it's through resources, social media, online courses, or simply answering questions over email, we want to help you do the very best job you can, of improving the world for children's play.

To find out more about our work, check out our facebook, our twitter and our website

Monday, 25 December 2017

End of Year Reflections - So Long, 2017

By Morgan

Since founding Pop-Up Adventure Play, we've worked in two main arenas - to share playwork ideas as widely as we can, and to help both new and dedicated playworkers connect with one another.  This year, those efforts felt at times more important than ever.

Perhaps you heard we held a Campference?  In February, nearly one hundred of us gathered to talk and play, share and plan. Of course, we were nearly washed away by the state-emergency level storm and flooding, but playworkers are resilient folk!

Maybe we met you in Canada?  This summer, the little yellow car made its triumphant return as it took three of us coast to coast!  One courageous board member visited in Calgary, where we caught up with international friends and fellow playworkers at the IPA Triennial Conference.  We drove 10,000 km to deliver training public workshops and screenings of The Land, visiting cities and rural communities where this information is needed most.

If you're a student on the Playworker Development Course, you might be interested to know we now have 236 students in 18 countries.  We're very proud to have students that represent or began some of the best playwork programming around.

Lastly, our latest online professional development opportunity is Playful Schools Online.  This is a new, online-only course designed for anyone supporting play at recess or in after-school provision.  This is a powerful opportunity to impact the lives of so many children, as well as a tricky situation to navigate.  Our course provides case studies of projects we've supported, and guidance around several common barriers.

As always, we've continued to offer a steady flow of articles and links to encourage and connect you to all that's out there!  This is an interesting time in play, without a doubt.  Since 2010 we've seen a dramatic rise in interest in adventure playgrounds and adventure play, and we're proud to have a role in locating playwork at the heart of that conversation.

All of this is for you, beloved Friend of Pop-Ups, and none of it would be possible without your curiosity, interest and hard work.  We support one another, to keep on supporting children's play.

In short, 2017 may not have always been easy, but it has been an honor.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Prioritizing Play Conference: Save the Date

By Zan

We are pleased to announce that together with our friends at Kid Owned and Operated Play (KOOP), we will be organising a play conference on 3rd-5th May 2018. Naomi and Kelsey of KOOP are both students of ours on the Playworker Development Course and we are delighted that they have asked us to help make this event happen next year. Anyone who is interested in exploring more about play is welcome to join us in Illinois, USA for the first ever Prioritizing Play Conference.

We have a few short months to do lots of things so watch this space for more. If you have any questions, please contact

Monday, 13 November 2017

Pop-Ups On Tour - Board Member Summary - Guest Writer

By Ricky Tsang, Board Member of Pop-Up Adventure Play

It was a warm evening in Vancouver and I had just been picked up in the little yellow tour car (with a surprising amount of leg room) and I was heading into the little known space of playwork. This was an adventure that I never thought that I'd have the chance to do, but as one of Pop-Up Adventure Play's Board Members, I was here and it was great!

For the first few nights, Pop-Ups contacts Zeke and his wife Erica had graciously put me up to help me get over my jet lag and ease me into tour life. He also drove us around to see the amazing sights in and around Vancouver while eating oysters, learning about inukshuks and admiring the natural beauty; it didn't feel like 8 years since the last time we spoke! I will definitely be back!

But between the sightseeing tours in Vancouver, I wholeheartedly threw myself into playwork and it was super fun. My first pop-up adventure playground was in Richmond with a Chinese-based community. It was great to see the children explore their play with cardboard boxes and a ton of forts, some built by the children and others with some help from me and the playworkers; I made my first "window" which was part of a fort designed by a kid who even built a shoe rack.

Our next stop was in Coquitlam, where the Pop-Up Adventure Play team sat on a panel alongside renowned Professors Dr. Mariana Brussoni and Helen Little following a screening of The Land and Project Wild Thing. The short movies were well received by the audience and I gained an insight into the mindset of the education community in adopting a playwork framework in BC. Fascinating stuff! I also got first hand experience in seeing how the team hold their own in situations where they are considered experts in the field (even though they won't admit it). And they nailed it.

Next, we ventured into Surrey to support a pop-up adventure playground for children around the age of 5 years. It was great to experience how children of younger ages play in their own way; they may not be able to build forts but, boy, can they play. We also had a runner! But he knew where the fun was and promptly returned. In the evening the same guys hosted a workshop where Zan, Morgan and Andy delivered an interactive workshop in playwork and also another showing of The Land. The participants were receptive of the playwork ideals and we had some good discussions, especially regarding some of the local barriers that they have experienced to date.

That was our last stop of business in BC before we moved on towards Calgary, Alberta. Along the way we stopped off at Hope, Salmon Arm and Golden, some of the most literal place names I have ever come across! We eventually arrived in Banff National Park where it was cold and wet but that didn't stop us from exploring the village and Lake Louise, among some of the most incredible views I have seen.

After settling into Calgary, we had an early start as the team were invited to speak at a workshop hosted by Calgary Child's Play along with Kirsty Wilson from Scrapstore PlayPods and Robyn Monro-Miller from the IPA. This workshop featured different approaches to child-directed play and had the participants thinking about how they can support play in their own communities including the use of Playpods and understanding how we can promote the children’s right to play.

We then ventured into 40 Mile county to the villages of Foremost and Bow Island (after a brief trip to see the incredible valleys at the Dinosaur Provincial Park). This was a very different experience to Vancouver and Calgary, to see the vast open prairies and experience life away from the urban developments. Despite these lifestyle differences, the children played all the same. Forts and castles and streamers everywhere! One particular moment that stood out for me was at first, there was a natural boy/girl divide with their own castles and their own rules. But after negotiations and bit of back and forth, they merged their castles to create one huge castle with multiple rooms! It was pretty awesome. Another moment that caught my attention was when a young boy who was very attached to his mother eventually discovered his instinct for play - the proud look in his mother's eyes was priceless. This situation came about because of how Morgan handled the situation, from engaging with the child and allowing him to discover his instinct for play - I'm pretty sure tears were *almost* shed! Finally, Andy was also threw himself into play - by becoming the children’s mannequin, draped in a sparkly shawl and feathery scarf - I’m pretty sure he was enjoying himself!

Overall, this Canadian tour was an incredible experience for me and with everyone that I met along the way, I could tell that this was also a great experience for them.  We are grateful for every host that invited us into the community, and every workshop participant who came along to hear the team speak on play - such a fundamental need in life. To be able to provide children with the space and materials to play their own way was clearly something that everyone valued. The hope is that our presence was enough to continue the conversation of play in Canada and provide the tools to ensure that children have that freedom to play their own way, everyday.