Sunday, 30 December 2012

A Wonderful Pop-Up Year

By Zan

At the end of every year, the holiday festivities always gives us a moment to look back on the last 12 months and reflect. For Pop-Up Adventure Play, this really has been some year!

In the US: 
We did training in Largo, Florida which amounted to a city-wide play day! We've also done lots of little play events across the country including places like in New York and in Boston. We can't forget that we popped up in MoMA and became an art installation for a day! We've also made lots of friends in the US and have encouraged others to go advocate for play in their own way.

In the UK:
We set up our Pop-Up Adventure Play (UK) charity and have begun fund raising. We also ran very successful Pop-Up Play Shops in Cardiff and in Paignton. Around the UK we also did Mini Pop-Ups to celebrate various occasions like Sports Relief and the Queen's Jubilee! Oh, and have we mentioned we might be in a book? More to come soon!

Our Global Network:
As the importance of play is spread across the world, so too is the name of Pop-Up Adventure Play. By the time Morgan came back from a training week in Belgium we had gained contacts in Costa Rica, Colombia, Egypt, Turkey, Italy, Mexico, Tanzania and Canada, as well as Belgium, UK and US of course. For us, this is completely amazing - our little organisation is only beginning to find our feet and people are already helping us to run! We can't be thankful enough!

We really was a great year for us at Pop-Up Adventure Play. We thank each and every one of you for your encouragement and support as we ready ourselves for another wonderful Pop-Up year.

Happy New Year from Team Pop-Up Adventure Play. And the two little people in a box.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Adventures in Belgium

By Morgan

I went to Belgium! It was as part of a Youth In Action-funded international training program and followed on from a trip I made to Leuven last February.

The organizer, Joost Capiau of C.I.S, invited me to help with the training portion, and together we led participants from Macedonia, Montenegro, Belgium and Malta through a range of theories, approaches and experiences towards work in play and games.  We leaned heavily on a grid we'd developed together in Leuven, because it was such a useful way of showing how such different approaches as ours (educational games and playwork) were still connected.  I am writing more on the grid, and some of the theories and experiences we discussed during this week, on my other blog.

The training week itself was amazing and so much fun to do! 
Here are some images from the "indoors" portion, when we did group exercises, and talked about the various roles and responsibilities a playworker might assume.

Here are some from the outdoors, when we practiced staging a play space, and had some much-needed running-wild time of our own.

And here are some, from when the children came.  The mud fight was pretty epic but soon swept aside by a MONUMENTAL PAINT WAR.  They built mazes and forts, played at being monsters and doctors and adventurers, and looked at us baffled when we failed to understand Dutch.  Here are some of the children, quickly wiped and handed their snacks, before we put them back on their bus.

For exciting ideas and adventures from Pop-Up Adventure Play, please join our facebook page. For more about Morgan's adventures in play, please visit her wonderful blog!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Giving Thanks for Our Charity

By Zan

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm very pleased to announce that Pop-Up Adventure Play (UK) is officially a charity. After a whole year of seemingly endless paperwork and craziness, Pop-Up Adventure Play's resident Brit (me) and half Brit (Morgan) have formed Pop-Up Adventure Play (UK), Registered Charity Number 1148987. Personally for me, it's been a long year with lots of hurdles, but being able to have formed the charity in such a short time is something that has really made my year!

The plan going forward now is to look at funding to expand our training and consultation work, as well as build our Global Network.  It's all very exciting, and very new!

On behalf of Team Pop-Up Adventure Play, we truly thank you for your support throughout this process. Hopefully together, we can continue to support child-directed play, one cardboard box at a time!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Pop-Up Adventure Play on the Go!

By Morgan

Greetings from London!

I'm feeling tres international fabulous today, having rolled into London from Belgium.  We're working with C.I.S. on a Youth in Action EU-funded project called Play(ce) To Be.  It's intended to bring together people in the overlapping fields of games, play, children and youth work from across Europe to share ideas and best practice.  Participants are coming from Belgium-Flanders as well as Montenegro, Estonia, Malta, Macedonia - and yes, the UK!

It's a tremendous week, with participants representing the full spectrum from educational games to free play.  The project funds 70% of travel costs, as well as all accommodation and food.  There are a couple of spaces free for UK residents, so if you're available from 24th November - 1st December, email me!

Tomorrow, I'm off to the Adventure Playground of the Year Awards, and visiting as many friends and colleagues in London while I'm here.

For more about Morgan and her busy playwork life, please visit her blog! For more up to date information about Pop-Up Adventure Play, please go to our facebook page.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Global Cardboard Challenge

By Morgan

Have you seen the Caine's Arcade video? Since April of this year it's been viewed over seven million times, and accumulated nearly $250,000 in donations for a scholarship fund for Caine.

What makes this story so popular is the story at its heart, of one boy's extraordinary creativity and passion.  From his base in the back of his father's autoshop Caine works alone, building an arcade from cardboard boxes and hoping for customers. One day that a filmmaker comes along and, inspired by what Caine's Arcade, uses the internet to gather the community that Caine has been dreaming of.  

Imagine what would be possible, if every child had the freedom to envision, create and share that Caine has! What if everyone had someone listen to their stories and try out their constructions, if every child had an audience of people eager to join in play?

Now, the good people at the Caine's Arcade Imagination Foundation are helping to spread the word about play through their Global Cardboard Challenge, this October 6th. There's a map of all of the happenings and you can register your own event online. We couldn't be more excited, because this fits so well with Pop-Up Adventure Play's own beliefs and approach to supporting children's play.

That's why we're using this date to expand our Global Network, and supporting independent organizers in Costa Rica, Colombia and Egypt to deliver Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds to join in this international celebration of play. Each of these organizers are passionate, dedicated teachers seeking to welcome families into their schools, and to reach out to builder stronger networks with their communities. Carolina, of Bellelli Educacion in Costa Rica, has been one of our biggest fans from the very beginning, and I was lucky enough to meet her during her recent visit to Boston. The others are new arrivals, and very welcome additions to the international Pop-Up Adventure Play family!

Carolina and myself in Boston - the beginnings of a Pop-Up Adventure Play Global Network.

And here's Bellelli Educacion's poster for their Cardboard Challenge day! Do you see our logo at the bottom there?

To see the photos from the Global Cardboard Challenge and to find out more information about our work, keep an eye on our Facebook and our website! To read more about Morgan's adventures in play, please visit her awesome blog

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Mini Pop-Up In Action...In Manhattan's Lower East Side

By Sharon

Yesterday, I had the great honor of helping our friend - artist Laura Nova ( - with a mini pop-up celebration in her Lower East Side neighborhood's summer festival. For those of you unfamiliar with our pop-up adventure playground model, mini pop-ups are the small-scale version of what we do and are geared towards play at home and in neighborhoods. As one girl explained to both her mom and friend, "This is a play station."

As you can see, we kept our materials to a minimum.

Laura and I collected some boxes, made a $20 trip to the local dollar store to buy some awesome, odd ball items such as butterfly-catching nets, party streamers, wooden craft sticks, and crayons. I contributed a bunch of old, clean socks that were about to be thrown out, and we stopped at Laura's tailor for some scraps of fabric. The blustery wind, too, was a wonderful player on this day and the kids also enjoyed flying the party streamers in the air (and the limbo dance, of course).

Boats and cars were made, played in and seat belts attached.

This boy unravelled a whole roll of tape. YES, this is part of what makes our work so special. And why? As one parent remarked, "Because it's fun! Didn't you ever want to know how much tape was on that thing?"

Well, we set out to run the site from 1 to 3:30, and ever so gradually the kids took their special creations home (cars and boats and many other things). By 4:00 pm, the space was back to normal. The memory of the play that happened there will always occupy a special in place my mind and leave a very fond memory in my heart.

Thank you to Laura and Gabe for such a beautiful afternoon!

"I was really happy to bring the community together in a child centered way using materials from our recycling center." -- Laura Nova
AND, Guess what?!? We've got a very special mini pop-up starter kit in the works... just for you. Sign-up for our mailing list at to pre-order your gift copy today!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Pop-Up Play Shop Paignton

By Morgan

Another Pop-Up Play Shop flowered recently, in Paignton, Devon. Play Torbay had invited us down to be a part of Children's Week - an annual celebration of and for children, that has been going for 60 years!

Most of Children's Week happens along the seafront, with donkey rides and cooking classes, puppet shows and go-cart races.  There were even mice on tight ropes!  

Our location was in town, a satellite of Children's Week for the local residents who didn't fancy the tourist-packed boardwalk, and for families seeking a playful interlude during a days' shopping.  We were open Monday - Friday, and on our first afternoon were visited by the cast of Star Wars!  When they arrived one child, whose Mum had been making a Dalek outfit all day, cornered Bobba Fett in a telephone box and bleeped at him without mercy.

Our base was in a little canopy, giving us shelter from the sun and occasional bursts of rain.  We decorated it, and the square around us, with all kinds of recycled materials for play.

The gorgeous Pond Cafe next door provided seating and refreshments for parents, as well as an indoor space when the weather turned torrential on Friday.  With their hospitality, and the public conveniences on the other side of the square, we were in an ideal place for popping up!

Some children came every single day, and we had large numbers of children on the autistic spectrum as well as those who simply preferred a quieter place to play.

It was a wonderful week of play at the annual Children's Week in Paignton. We are looking forward to working more with the lovely people at Play Torbay!

The Pop-Up Play Shop was piloted by Pop-Up Adventure Play in October 2011. For more information about the Pop-Up Play Shop project, please visit the Shop's website or drop us a line by email or on facebook!

Friday, 31 August 2012

Pop-Up Adventure Play @ MoMA

By Sharon

What could be better than visiting the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)? Well, when you're allowed to do whatever you like with what you find… and when the security staff are totally on your side!

On August 10, 2012, Pop-Up Adventure Play collaborated with some of the wonderful staff at MoMA - for Pop-Up Play @ MoMA! Held in conjunction with the exhibition, Century of the Child: Growing by Design, 1900 to 2000, we carried forward the notion that children's adventure/junk play is still alive and well. With every Pop-Up Adventure Play event there is, we remind ourselves how simple play can be. This is why we work hard to support child-directed play everywhere!

On this day, over 300 people attended and, for over 5 hours, we all played. We had some great feedback too! Some highlights included the fact that this was our first pop-up underneath a red race car hanging on a wall. Also, parents kept saying how amazing the experience was for them and their kids. Of course, we felt happy that all our hard work over the past couple of years led to such a successful event... at such a prominent NYC arts institution. And finally, the MoMA staff had a great time and were super pleased in the many ways kids were engaging with the materials with so much creativity and gusto. One staff member said that this event really made her week!

We had lots of fun and our client was happy... we are so proud!

For more information about working in collaboration with Pop-Up Adventure Play, feel free to get in contact with us through our website, or by leaving a comment on our blog.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A Jubilee Street Party with Pop-Up Adventure Play

By Zan

Our family has lived on this road for around 15 years. There are 11 houses and noone has ever thought to get the 11 families together to do anything! So I took it into my own hands to get my immediate community together, popped round to all of their houses, and then decided together that we would have a Jubilee Street Party to celebrate community, neighbours and the Queen!

Here's what happened:

As Pop-Up Adventure Play, I helped to apply for road closure, and made the signs to ensure everyone was safe.

Everyone had a look around at home and brought out tables and chairs that we could spare.

The children started early, and asked me to get into a huge box with them.

Everyone brought out some food and then tucked right in!

My street is super multi-cultural, so we all brought delicious things that we were familiar with to share - vegetarian style!

Here is a flag-waving box man!

The kids loved the Pop-Up Adventure Playground!

Look at this amazing house - I only helped to cut the door and the window under their complete direction!

"This is food"

Noodulz, blooberiz, sdorberees, kookumberz, tmartoaterz, plumerz, orinj, apul, peech - "I've know another one, potatos!!"

Children played freely on everyone's front gardens

And them someone arrived with lots of tea - complete with teapot and mugs! How British!

The adults had some time to hang out.

The children also had plenty of time to make new friends.

All of a sudden, spontaneous dancing - adults at play!

Children, young and old played together all day.
The Jubilee party was an amazing day! The adults had fun, the children had play, and it was just an amazing experience overall. Many of the parents came to me and expressed how intrigued and impressed with the idea of playing with boxes, and were surprised at how their children understood the concept so well and came out of their shells. Although it seemed that the party was for the adults, the children were the ones who owned the space. It was a wonderful event, and everyone went home smiling from a day of sun, food and play in their own way.

It's the first time my street has ever got together to do anything as a community, and it's going to be the first of many. I'm so happy to be able to instigate this get together, and I hope that all my neighbours will be talking about this for years to come.

To hear more on Suzanna's Jubilee Day and how she organised it, visit her blog or contact her via

Friday, 18 May 2012

Spirit of Adventure Play Conference 2012

By Zan

Morgan and I were lucky enough to attend the Spirit of Adventure Play Conference this year, and we were both very excited. Play Wales organises this conference every year, and it is arguably the best playwork conference in the UK. I know I had a lot of fun there, and met a lot of people and was so busy that I almost forgot to take photos! I only have very few photos, but here they are:

Excitement about the conference
Morgan and Grant Lambie,
Morgan and me just after our second workshop
Me and Bob Hughes!
Important Pop-Up paperwork :)
The Pop-Up Adventure Play hosted Pop-Up Play Shop workshop went very well - Morgan lead on this presentation and I contributed here and there. We got a lot of really good feedback, (and a few fist bumps!) and everyone was generally very positive about the project. I was very pleased, and Morgan was beaming!

I can't speak for Morgan, but I know I learnt a lot about playworkers during the conference. I also learnt a lot about playwork, and about myself. What a wonderful place to be inspired in this way! I'm really looking forward to going to Spirit 2013, and am really excited to reconnect with some of these wonderful people!

For more of Suzanna's thoughts about the conference boogie on over to her blog. She'd be delighted to have you visit!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Pop-Up Adventure Play on Earth...Part 2!

by Sharon

The butterflies have been swooping and dancing outside my 14th floor window for the past couple of days. I think they want to play! So, here we are... Last weekend witnessed some pretty fabulous Earth Week, pop-up adventure playgrounds -- one in Austin, TX and the other in New Rochelle, NY. Based mainly on using recyclable and repurposed materials (cardboard boxes, fabric, yarn, tape, wood), these events were perfect for an Earth Week celebration. Had these pop-ups happened at the same moment in time, we would have connected them by video chat. Are you curious about how these events turned out? Keep on reading to find out!

Pop-Up Adventure Playground on  Saturday - April 28, 2012
in Austin, TX – at Día del Niño Verde 2012 
at The Magellan International School 

This independent pop-up adventure playground was organized by Green Coach Sayuri Yamanaka and Little Miss Recycle with The Magellan International School. We proudly supported this pop-up! 

The Magellan Green Team members write:

The Pop-Up Playground was one of our premier activities. Parents who had never seen a pop-up in action were instant converts as they watched the adventure unfold. The children inspired each other and us with their spontaneous joy and pride in their pop-up playground creations, building a fort, tearing it down to construct a space craft, inviting friends to join them on a ride, then working together to build an airplane, complete with propeller. They neither needed nor wanted adult help. In addition to the creative free-for-all going on on the playground, Spanish music classes for babies and children were enjoyed by many families, and adults had the opportunity to learn a plethora of tips on how to make their homes and lifestyles greener. Families took home organic produce from Green Gate Farms, a local family farm, enjoyed Whole Foods' healthy fare and browsed among the fair trade and local eco-art on display.

Twenty-five organizations supported the event and more than 200 people came together to learn and play at The Magellan International School's Día del Niño Verde 2012, a unique and successful community celebration.

Hiram playing a guitar (courtesy of Sindy Rodriguez)

Mateo flying a plane (courtesy of Sindy Rodriguez)

Pop-Up Adventure Playground on Sunday - April 29, 2012

in New Rochelle, NY – at Family Fun Day in Celebration of Earth Week 
at The College of New Rochelle 

Earth Week Family Fun Day was co-hosted by Heather Caplan and The Castle Gallery at The College of New Rochelle in partnership with Pop-Up Adventure Play and Naomi Gams-Towers and Patrice Schwartz (retired early childhood teachers with over 70 years combined experience). Held in conjunction with The Castle Gallery's Westchester Biennial 2012, families were invited to enjoy the exhibition throughout the afternoon. With sponsorship from the New Rochelle Council of the Arts, Pop-Up Adventure Play supplied printed materials about child-directed play and pop-up adventure playgrounds.

We echo the experience of Austin's pop-up. Kids played by themselves, though many also were directing the play within their own family units. Forts were built (with the requisite outhouse) and defended, and there was sewing of pillows, painting on canvas, wood and cardboard, and sword fighting. One rocket ship was launched...many times. A boy spent quite a long time making a train track on a flattened cardboard box. Another made a tent for his cat.

To fuel our play, we had some delicious, healthy offerings. There was a table full of veggies, fruit, and pretzels. My friends at PlayHarvest made a special appearance with their green smoothies (yummmm not yuck!) made by blending either kale, spinach or dandelion greens with a mix of bananas, mango, pineapples and ice. PlayHarvest also supplied ingredients for Sodexo's bicycle-powered blender (see video below!).

Family Fun Day was a smashing success with over 115 people attending, and the weather was incredible (clear blue skies and mid-sixties). This was the second pop-up I've hosted in collaboration with the Castle Gallery and can't wait to do more!  (Click here for photos from the first.)

Next up, I have some exclusive, raw footage from New Rochelle for you!

Our wonderful volunteers helping to unpack the pop-up.

Sodexo's bicycle powered blender in action,
with a glimpse of PlayHarvest's green smoothie table.

A pop-up adventure playground within 
a pop-up adventure playground...

After learning safe practices for sawing, 

these two boys wanted their own cardboard saw horses. 
One of the little boys said, "I need to saw..."

In the box...

Supporting environmental activism, the arts, and family fun are all great reasons to make child-directed play the heart of your community celebration!

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