Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My Playwork Moment: Guest Writer

By Justine Walsh

Justine is one half of Journey into Play, an Australia based Professional Development group that's working with Malarkey, who we have just finished touring with. She is a student on our Playworker Development Course and spent a lot of time with us when we were in Australia, discussing and reflecting on playwork. We are really pleased and thankful that Justine has taken some time to write us a blogpost about her most recent playwork moment.

I was made aware that Playwork existed in 2012 and from the moment I heard about it, it just made so much sense to me. Children directing their own play, which I had been striving for, for years within my own practice, and a space where play was play for play’s sake. No other agendas, actually people actively working towards leaving all their agenda’s behind, other than the play needs of the child. I had been moving away from the idea of ‘teaching’ and ticking boxes, towards a space where play is the most important thing, where we facilitate play above and beyond anything to do with us.

I am calling the following account, my Playwork moment (even though I am not a trained playworker) and I am owning every second of it. Has it changed my life? Quite possibly. It has certainly made me want to do, reflect and work towards more of these moments.

My playwork moment occurred during a training session myself and my business partner Nicole were facilitating. Our business, Journey into Play, runs professional developments for people within the Early Childhood Sector. This particular training included people having the opportunity to play with a variety of loose parts.

Some delicious loose parts for the participants at our training session

There was one particular participant who was playing with a shiny tubular piece of insulation type material. As I walked past her she asked if there were any scissors. I went and retrieved her a pair. As I handed them to her she asked, “Can I cut this open?” to which I replied, “of course”.

I then walked away and watched from afar. She cut the tubular material down one side and then opened it out flat. A couple of other people joined her and they started to flap the material like a parachute.

Parachute like movements

This play then changed and I saw the material start to get wrapped around someone’s head at first, and then her body. It was when the wrapping started to happen that I thought to myself, they are going to need to hold the material in place with something.

Without saying a word, I picked up a roll of tape, walked over behind the group and placed the tape slightly behind where they were engaged in their play. They wrapped, they unwrapped and then I could see one of them holding the material with her hand, as she looked around, for what I presumed was something to hold it together. She needed the material to stay in place.

As she turned to look, there it was…the tape! She reached for it! She grabbed it and then started to use it! Too exciting for me!

That was it, that was, my playwork moment. It was a moment where I felt triumphant. Where I had anticipated someone else’s play needs and quietly gone about providing the material that was needed. I had done this with my cloak of invisibility on. My play ninja moves. There was no need to ask her what she wanted, I had anticipated it. I didn’t have to interrupt what she was doing to ask.

All wrapped up

This is how we can be with the children who we engage with. There is no need for us to constantly interrupt or question. If we step back and watch we can get a feel for what is needed.

This is a moment I will not forget.

This blogpost was originally written for Justine's personal blog which can be found here. To find out more about playwork, you too can be part of our Playworker Development Course. Get in contact to find out more! And finally, we will be seeing Justine again in October - if you want to find out more about our next Australia trip, please get in contact with Team Malarkey.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A HONAZ Immersive Experience

Have you been wanting to learn more about playwork? Are you curious about what goes into the management and delivery of a truly adventurous playspace?

It's nearly the second anniversary of our Playworker Development Course, an online opportunity for everyone seeking a foundation in essential playwork practice. We designed the course to have broad application, meaning that parents and professionals in all sorts of settings are encouraged to weave more opportunities for children's play into their current practice. You don't have to be a playworker, to use these approaches!

At the same time, we know that there's nothing like a good adventure playground – a long-term site, staffed by dedicated professionals and attended by a core of children who feel a true ownership of their environment. In our travels, and our book, we've highlighted some of the most exciting examples of these locations. For the past three years, we've provided one with on-going staff training and are so proud and impressed by how they've developed in that time.

So, it is with great pride and excitement that we announce a new collaboration with Ithaca Children's Garden's Hands-on-Nature Anarchy Zone!


For the first time, students will be able to take the Playworker Development Course as part of on-site, immersive experience. Theory and practice will be embedded within a rich culture of play support, and located in glorious Ithaca, NY! We are very excited for the summer ahead and are looking forward to meeting the students.

The Playwork Immersion Course @ ICG is now accepting applications! Please contact ithacachildrensgarden@cornell.edu for more details.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Our Adventure Down-Under

By Zan

Morgan and I been home from Australia for exactly 2 weeks now, and life went back to normal a little bit to quickly. I found myself day dreaming about being warm, and imagining what it's like if it could be sunny in the UK all the time. People would want to be outside a lot more in the UK if the weather was better.

This photo was taken in Swan Hill, VIC where the weather went crazy hot. We had a Pop-Up Adventure Playground in 40°C but it didn't stop the kids. The adults were a bit warm though so they sat in the only shade we had.
It was funny to discover that a country with such good weather could have so many problems getting children outside. I can't imagine being in a lovely country like Australia and not wanting to explore the outdoors, even if the mosquitoes chase after me constantly. But as we have seen in many countries, getting children outside is becoming more difficult because of skewed ideas around safety and legislation, and because it's so much easier to put them in front of the TV for a couple of hours. I guess it is just the on going competition that child-directed play is up against.

One of the workshop participants enjoyed some box time. Soon after this photo, we discovered that she had got herself stuck inside the box and had to help her out!
I've also been thinking about the wonderful people we met when we were in Australia. There was such enthusiasm for play, embraced at every level, and people are finding ways to re-introduce the idea that child-directed play has a place in every day life. People invited us into their communities and welcomed our message of play, and it was humbling to hear how people are working around the barriers of play to allow play to continue.

We popped up in a school where they were very flexible about how we used the trees. The children loved this.
We are so thankful that we had this opportunity to go to Australia. Both Morgan and myself have reflected on how our little organisation started just as one small event, and now reaches 14 different countries through training and event support, and reaches over 10,000 people every week on our social media. We're not sure how we've gone from one little local event to travelling the globe on trips to Australia, but we are really thankful that we've had so much support over the last 4 years.

This is a pic taken from our Pop-Up at The Venny Adventure Playground.
Quite wonderfully, our adventures also allowed us to meet some of the students on our Playworker Development Course. As a distance learning course with students from 12 different countries, we haven't had the chance to meet many of our students before. We were really pleased to see 4 of our students in the same location on one day, and absolutely had to take a photo:

With tutors from 3 different countries too, an opportunity for a photo like this might not come again for a long time!
This trip would not have been possible without Team Malarkey who put us up in their headquarters and made sure we were fed and watered everywhere we go. They organised the logistics of the whole trip for us, and we are really grateful for all that time spent with us, accompanying us on our adventure. Thanks especially to Justine and Donna - such lovely ladies with a passion for play.

You can see Donna and Justine in this pic with Marc Armitage at their first Malarkey birthday! Hoorah!
And of course we have news! We're going back to Australia in October! We're very excited to be visiting this beautiful country again and really hope that the message of play and loose parts will be embraced just as much as it was during this trip. We had a lovely time and are really looking forward to coming back in October!

To follow Pop-Up Zan's adventures, please visit her personal blog. For more on our next Australian tour, please go to the Malarkey website. And for more on Pop-Up Adventure Play, please go to our facebook page, or visit our website www.popupadventureplay.org

Saturday, 7 March 2015

National Playwork Conference

By Andy Hinchcliffe

Andy is a member of Pop-Up Adventure Play's wonderful board of directors. He has been working in the playwork field for many years, and has many stories to tell. We are very pleased today to have him re-post his reflections on our blog about his adventures in Eastbourne.

Well, what a crazy, fun-filled week! I've been to Eastbourne and attended the 13th National Playwork Conference and what a privilege it was. I met so many interesting people, engaged in some fantastic, mind-boggling discussions and came away feeling revived, energised and ready to dive into some new playwork adventures!

I attended the conference on behalf of Pop-Up Adventure Play (privileged director duties) as Suzanna and Morgan are currently playworking alongside Malarkey around the south east of Australia.


During the conference I attended several workshops, my first with Tim Gill discussing his latest piece of research 'The Play Return' – where the discussion focussed on whether evidence on play benefit is a 'gateway or a trap' in moving forward in the playwork sector - Professor Phil Jones followed Tim and offered a critique on Tim’s research. During Phil's session Tim was present which made the debate all the more interesting. We explored issues around play benefits and children's rights and agreed that they are generally discussed as separate issues when, in fact, they are one.

I attended sessions with Adrian Voce discussing play policy at a government level and a humorous skype interview with Professor Peter Gray which involved several technical problems and a visit from his nurse!

During the hectic schedule I still managed to have some time to reflect on some of the discussions I'd encountered. It was great to have some real thinking time and what a beautiful reflective backdrop  I had!


Tuesday evening saw the 6th National Playwork Awards and what a grand celebration it was! Pop-Up Adventure Play was shortlisted for two awards 'Training Provider' and 'Playwork in Other Contexts' - and although we didn't win this year it was fantastic to see Pop-Up being given rank alongside some leading, well established playwork organisations across the country in recognition of all their amazing work!

The awards commenced and we were greeted by entertainers and magicians and fed some wonderful food. The evening was filled with fun, laughter, drinks (and lots of it) and some invaluable discussions. The atmosphere was buzzing with excitement and enthusiasm and, as I have said previously, an amazing experience to be in a room with over 300 people, all there because of their love and dedication to the playwork sector!


My favourite session of the conference was with Bob Hughes, the room was crammed with people waiting to hear his wisdom. He spoke for around 30 minutes and then handed the floor to the audience.  The discussion that emanated was fantastic – it jumped from quantum physics to modern art, dreams, ritual, and unconsciousness amongst other bizarre thoughts! The most thought provoking item for me was a passing comment made by Wendy Russell about dreams. This played on my mind a lot - the uncontrollable, unexplainable, bizarre, personal, spontaneous nature of dreams, and it's link to children's play. This discussion has sparked some serious thought and reflection for me as a playworker and something I plan to pursue further, so watch this space!

What a jam-packed few days! I've loved it - Thank you Pop-Up Adventure Play for sending me, Thank you Meynell for organising it and thank you to all the amazing playworkers I met along the way who have refuelled my playworking drive - I can't wait for next year!

To read more about Andy, please visit his blog. To join in with more Pop-Up Adventure Play fun, find us on Facebook and twitter, or visit our website, www.popupadventureplay.org.