Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Playwork Awakening - Embracing 2017

By Pop-Ups Andy

As I headed down the jet-bridge onto the plane, something hit me. Not physically, but emotionally. I had to take a moment to check-in with myself and regroup my thoughts. Through a deductive soliloquy of 'been there, done that' I ruled out nerves, new places and the task ahead as potential reasons. So what was the problem?

I never got to the root of the issue at the time, but now, as the same scenario looms in reverse, ten weeks later, a similar feeling is brewing. I'd re-confirmed that I still love travelling, I still love LA, SCV Adventure Play are awesome and Playwork is still, by far the best job in the world… so what then?

Then it hit me. Yes, of course! Risk. I’ve spent half my life talking and advocating about its necessity, but then struggle to recognise it when it's right there under my nose.

Maybe it wasn't the fear of what was ahead, but more what I was leaving behind? Prior to heading out to California I had recently undergone a significant change in my working circumstances. I had just jumped out from the comfort and safety of a fixed-site, salary and security and was parachuted into a situation where I had the permission to follow my own agenda, to adapt and respond accordingly, to be able to push myself into slightly uncomfortable situations, but under my own direction and control.

My time in California was fast-paced, eye-opening and taught me a lot. I presented at the NAEYC conference to over 100 professionals on incorporating the playwork approach into education. Together with SCVAP I ran Pop-Up Playgrounds with diverse groups of children and their families across LA County which were underpinned by a weekly session on Eureka Villa, where exciting things are unfolding and some real playwork magic is already  happening! As part of my work with SCV Adventure Play I was embroiled in the LA2050 campaign for a chance to win $100,000 to develop Eureka Villa. It was an exhausting but exciting period which created new friends and contacts from around the world. My final project in December was a spontaneous piece of work at a local charter-school which quickly snowballed into a possible research study and small-scale documentary, focusing on the impact of the Playwork within the US recess environment.

Anyway, to cut a long but very exciting story short: Following your own ideas and interests, in your own way and for your own reasons can be a really big deal, even for an adult. I took a risk and stepped outside my very safe and warm comfort zone, and it reminded me that my bubble was small and the need is big, that risks are scary, but fear is temporary and without sounding too much like an insert of 'Inspiration Daily', my most important reflection was reconfirming that playwork is my purpose.

So here's to 2017. Possibly the most volatile, unpredictable year in modern history. There is no time for comfort zones and inertia, it's time for advocacy and protest, to take risks and make change.

To find out more about what we get up to on a daily basis, check out our Facebook and Twitter. You can also keep an eye on this blog or visit our website

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Year of Playful Numbers

By Zan

This year has been a tough one for Pop-Ups Morgan and myself. We had set out to get our heads down and into our playwork PhDs but unexpected things happened and we both had to turn our focus onto our families. Nonetheless, we still have many things to celebrate this year.  It's amazing what change can be effected from the confines of your laptop!

10,000 facebook likes - the traffic on our facebook page has increased dramatically over the last few months, and the number of likes managed to double in a year! We are a little humbled by this following and want to thank you all for continuing to support our work.

2,000 twitter followers - although it's not nearly as large a following as our facebook crowd, we are still really pleased and excited to have amassed a lovely group of supports on our twitter. Thank you to those in the twittersphere!

200+ pop-up adventure playgrounds - we have been supporting independent organisers to host their own pop-up adventure playgrounds in 18 different countries. Together with the ones that we have helped to host, there have been at least 200 locations where we have popped up. This is super exciting for us - if you want to host one too, register here.

100% new Loose Parts Manual - we worked with Playground Ideas to produce The Loose Parts Manual which has been downloaded a gazillion times already. It's so very exciting to have such a reach and we are so very pleased to have had the opportunity to get all this playful information out there.

50% increase in staff - Morgan and I are so very pleased to be joined by Andy, officially making us an amazing little playwork crowd of three. In the short 3 months he's been with us, he's already finished his first project and we have loads more adventures planned for the future.

8 new guest written blogposts - we're so pleased to have 8 of our independent organisers write about their first pop-up. If you want to check them out, we have collected all our guest blog posts here for you to enjoy.

1 new addition to our board of directors - our behind-the-scenes support team has had a little change and now Ricky Tsang and Michelle Jones is joined by Amanda Richardson. We are super excited to have this small group of people around us and look forward to another fabulous Pop-Up year.

As the year draws to a close we reflect on another fantastic Pop-Up year. It wasn't quite so travel-filled as 2015, but it has been adventurous nonetheless. We want to thank everyone for their support and hope that you have a 2017 that's filled with your own amazing adventures and self-directed play!

Follow our adventures on facebook and twitter, or just keep checking back to this blog and our website

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

The Next Big Adventure: Pop-Ups Canada Tour 2017

By Zan

I can remember standing in the sun with my friend on a quiet beach in Vancouver, surrounded by purple sea shells and thinking to myself, "If I ever get the opportunity, I'd like to come back and spend more time in a country with purple shells."

It's been eight years since I thought about that day, but I think it's finally happening. Much like when we set up the USA tour in 2014, and the World tour in 2015, our friends in Canada are calling to us too. They are asking for us to visit them, to talk to them about play, and to connect them with playwork, a UK-based field dedicated to the study and support of children's play.

I am pleased today to be telling you about our next big adventure. Our Playwork Campference will be the one of the highlights of 2017, but standing in the spotlight alongside it is our next roadtrip: Ladies and Gentlemen, we'd like to announce the The Pop-Ups Canada Tour 2017!

Yes, Team Pop-Ups will be driving across Canada in the Summer of 2017 running workshops and play events. If all goes well, we will be starting on the east coast in Halifax, and we will be travelling west and finish at the Calgary IPA Conference in mid September.

We are also very excited to announce that our midway stop has been confirmed and we will be hanging out with Team Manitoba Nature Summit in Manitoba in August. We will be delivering a workshop and a pop-up adventure playground while we are there - stay tuned for more information about this little collaboration, and more!

Are you based in Canada and would like us to come and run a workshop and play event? Get in touch with me using and let's start talking about how you can be part of our 2017 Pop-Ups Canadian Tour!

Purple shell beach - I'm hoping to come and see you again!

To find out about our work, get in touch with us! You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram! And of course there's always our website too -

Monday, 5 December 2016

Pop-Up in SW Florida, USA - Guest writer

By Julia Kroeker

Julia is one of our independent organisers who got in touch with us in October 2016 wanting to organise her own Pop-Up Adventure Playground. We sent her our free information pack for hosting her own event and 2 months later, we were able to enjoy her excitement and photos! We're really glad that you enjoyed your first Pop-Up, Julia!

We had a wonderful event at Florida South Western State College!  The children were all very engaged and the weather was beautiful here in SW Florida!

I was tired after the event, but also happy that it went well and that the children had fun and were able to play however they wanted.  I don't think we had any conflicts.  We had nursing students on site with a first aid station, but we had no injuries so the nursing students got to play, too!

The children were full of joy and discovery!  The boy with the pool noodle was pretending that his mother was the big fish he had just caught!  The boy with the cardboard tube on his arm said it was a robot arm.  The girl laying in the box had made a bed out of the cardboard and bubble wrap.  There were so many wonderful moments! Children were building sand castles with the sand and water. Several children were using coffee cans as drums at once.  We will definitely do it again!  We plan to make it an annual event at FSW.

To host your own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, register here to get your free information pack. To find out about other independent organisers, check out this page of awesome guest blog posts. For more on the day to day thoughts of Team Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our facebook and twitter.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Playworking Auntie: A Bouquet of Leaves

By Pop-Ups Zan

She noticed the fallen leaves on the ground and crunched over them as we walked along. Then suddenly she stopped dead and picked one up by the stem. She studied it briefly before picking up a second by the stem with the other hand. Waving them about like some sort of nature cheerleader, she wandered around with the leaves, occasionally poking them into other objects.

She let go of the leaves and ran off to climb something. I idly picked up her leaves, and then gathered a few more in one hand. She runs up to me and looks at my hands. I am holding a bunch of leaves by the stems in one hand and collecting more with the other. She reached out to take my autumnal bouquet and I help her organise it in her tiny hand. She looked at her own hand briefly before reaching to the ground, picking up a new leaf and then carefully arranging it in her hand, adding to her little bouquet. Then buoyed by the success of the last acquisition, she grabs another one.

I started making another bunch of leaves while she was busy increasing her's and almost didn't notice an older gentleman walking through the park. She walked straight up to him, with her bouquet held out in front of her and handed the whole thing to him, and walked away. He looked absolutely bewildered.

She started on another bouquet a little too quickly and wasn't very neat about it so all the stems were facing awkward to hold angles, with some falling to the ground. The gentleman looked at her, and then to me.

"I hope that made your day, sir?" I said, smiling as I approached.
"Do you know what? It kind of did!" He looked over at her as she unsuccessfully made a bouquet and the leaves fell to the ground. "She's got no shortage of leaves here," he said as he handed his gift back to me and continued his journey through the park.

At this point, she had stopped trying to gather more leaves. If she didn't hold them by the stem, they kept falling out of her hand. She ran over to me and held her hands out to take the original bouquet. She points to home and wanders off. I quickly run in the opposite direction to collect her trike from the playground and she pauses on the spot to wait for me, and together we take the leaves all the way home.


It turns out on this occasion, being a playworking Auntie meant that I didn't need to do very much at all. I didn't need to deploy any of the usual things I have been trained to do as a playworker: no interventions, no reframing challenging behaviours. My little niece knew what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it on her little adventure. All she needed from me was to follow her lead, and that's what I did. No words were exchanged, but it felt like she told me something important nonetheless. "I am my own person and I have my way too," she seemed to say. I will never know for sure what those moments were all about, but I was glad that I was there, and one day I might even tell her about it.

To read more from Pop-Ups Zan, check out her personal blog. To read more about play and playwork, check out our website

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Vote SCVAP and Support Adventure Play in the USA

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play dream of creating a space to allow and encourages vibrant, exciting, self-directed play opportunities for the children of Los Angeles, both now and as a future legacy. They dream of bringing their community together with play, and also taking that play out to other communities too. A dream that is in line with the one we have at Pop-Up Adventure Play.

We're asking you to help make this dream happen for SCVAP. They are in the running for $100,000 USD and need as many votes as possible. As we type this blogpost, a school amphitheatre/auditorium upgrade is in the top spot with the most votes. While they are probably awesome people, we would much rather have a child-directed play be at the helm of this intense race to the finish.

Voting is simple! Just check out and click vote! 

Adventure playgrounds are the heart of what we do. When Pop-Up Adventure Play first started in 2010, there was only one permanent adventure playground with playwork-trained staff in the whole of the USA. By supporting SCVAP today, you will help to open the 4th. This is going to be a beautiful and playful site which we are backing 100% - we hope that you can support it too.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

New Beginnings in Adventurous Play: LA

By Pop-Ups Andy

After an epic 12 year playwork journey from an un-sure 17 year old volunteer, through the stages of front-line playworker, playwork graduate and Children’s Centre Manager in the UK, I have landed here, starting a new adventure with the fine people of Pop-Up Adventure Play - Suzanna and Morgan.
I have been involved with Pop-Ups for several years as a director after graduating from Leeds Beckett University with Suzanna in 2012. In my role, I supported the team on a number of projects, although mainly the 2014 US Tour and the 2015 World Tour! It was an absolute pleasure to be welcomed into this tardis of an organisation - I’m only two weeks in, but what an amazing whirlwind adventure it has been so far!

I landed in Los Angeles to join up with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play a group which was established on a familiar narrative to-which most playworkers can relate - by accident! The founders were reading anecdotes of adventure play during a train journey, before having the ‘lightbulb’ moment and realising their inner calling. SCVAP advocate free-play for children and adults both through pop-up adventure playgrounds which they deliver to groups, schools and organisations around LA County but also through the establishment of their fixed space, Eureka Villa.

SCVAP are in the running to be awarded $100,000 through the LA2050 Challenge – an initiative to ‘Make LA the Best Place to Play’ – the grant will enable SCVAP to take their Pop-Up Playground programme into communities throughout LA County, for a whole year, for free! This will also mean securing necessary funds to get Eureka Villa to a stage where it can officially open to the public as an adventure playground, the first permanent adventure playground in Los Angeles.

This project is of great importance to the USA, to the international Playwork community, to Pop-Up Adventure Play, to SCVAP but the most important recipient of this amazing project is the children, young people and their families who will benefit from this project both directly and indirectly. For me, this is such an amazing position to be in, at such a crucial time. Being able to be part of this project, in the thick of it, to campaign for it, to get my hands dirty and be a part of its journey, is truly tremendous! We know that by allowing children access to rich-play opportunities such as this space, it will support them to develop socially, emotionally and physically through unrestricted interaction with both themselves and others, in a space that encourages freedom and choice.

This is a huge deal - Voting takes place from 18th October (today!) until 25th October (next Tuesday) - every vote counts

I’m pleased to be starting with Pop-Up Adventure Play as they team up with SCVAP to host the first playwork-focused conference in the USA. The camping conference will bring international experts and play advocates together in an arena designed to share experiences, encourage debate and provide opportunity for some self-reflection. The conference will be held over four days with practical skills-based workshops and conversation in the form of a Playwork Campference. The Campference will include keynote presentations from Prof. Fraser Brown, author of leading Playwork publications - Foundations of Playwork; Playwork: Theory and Practice, A screening of The Land documentary, incorporating an exclusive Q&A Panel consisting of Erin Davis, film director of The Land, Luke Sutton, former Playworker from The Land supported by Prof. Fraser Brown and Morgan Leichter-Saxby - A line-up not to be missed!

The Campference takes place between 16th to 19th February 2017. Places are filling-up fast so if you'd like more information or to book your place contact right now!

It’s really great to officially be part of the Pop-Up team. More soon!

To vote for SCVAP, click here. To register for the Campference, click here. To find out more about Eureka Villa, click here. To follow more of the adventures of Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our Facebook and our website.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

"Supporting the Play Comes First" - Guest Writer

By Louise Wark

When we met Louise in Singapore on our World Tour, we were a little humbled to be meeting such a wonderfully connected and passionate advocate who was looking to us for advice. Louise has been working towards a more playful life a long time now and we are delighted that she has taken some time out from her own blog Days of Play to guest write for us. Thanks Louise, you are awesome!

I was recently asked to speak at an event for preschool teachers here in Singapore. As I usually do before an event like this, I researched for days. I fell down the rabbit-holes of the internet, chasing ideas and trying to find ways to neatly package up big concepts about numeracy and play.

The entire experience made me incredibly contemplative. It has been more than twelve months since I left the classroom, after all.

I left classroom teaching because I had no play in my life, and was wanting more. While I loved what I did, there was very little playfulness in the way I approached any aspect of life. I was also beginning to see that this wasn’t just me - even the children in my care, and, most importantly, my own son, were having play squeezed into increasingly-smaller pockets of their days. Play was on the periphery, and I was ready to make it centre-stage.

Pop-Up Adventure Play came into my view after being mentioned at a play conference that I had managed to attend in school holiday time. On my laptop that was never shut down, I had their blog consistently open in a tab. It was there to remind me, in the wee hours of student report writing and lesson planning, of an idea that wouldn’t shake loose.

So when I finished full-time teaching, I took a deep breath and emailed. Suzanna’s response back was warm and encouraging and made me do a little happy-dance - they would be in Singapore soon on their World Tour, and maybe I would like to help?

The excitement I felt at being part of Pop-Up Adventure Play’s visit to Singapore was hard to match. Helping to source materials for numerous pop-up adventure playgrounds, having the opportunity to discuss play with educators and other stakeholders here in Singapore, seeing child-led play in action and adults reactions to this, was a huge privilege. It moved my ideas about play from intuitive, abstract feelings to concrete ideas that I could use actual words to describe.

Since that time, I have started my own blog about self-directed play here in Singapore, writing about my experiences as a parent ensuring that my son’s time in child-led play, especially in the outdoors, is protected. That his rights as a child, to play, are front and foremost in his childhood.

But this has not been the only change since Pop-Up Adventure Play’s World Tour. Spending time with Suzanna and Morgan in November 2015, and Suzanna again in June 2016 on her subsequent visit to Singapore, has helped me realise just how important play is in all of our lives. That the way we adults respond to events, environments and circumstances can be playful, too! Time away from the classroom, focusing on play, has shown me that conversations are playful opportunities to throw ideas around, not just to determine action and tick things off a to-do list. That the world is there for us to interact with, not just to learn about.

When it finally came time to put together my own Pop-Up Adventure Playground here in Singapore, I felt ready. Having seen Suzanna and Morgan run these events had made me realise that they are truly a celebration of play - and how can you ever script how play is going to go? It was not about me, or the materials I could find, or the things I wanted to see happen. The event was solely to give children a chance to lead their own play. My best preparation was to be playful.

I couldn’t have imagined a more blissful time at our first pop-up adventure playground. The environment offered itself to the children, who took up every playful opportunity. Hills were rolled down, precious creations were made and torn down, alliances were formed and abandoned, spaces were protected and invitations made. The adults were amazed, most reporting how much they loved being with other families whose agendas were the same as theirs - to give their children time for play their own way.

Once the last box had been flattened and the last fluttering ribbon returned to the car, I turned, rather exhausted from the tropical midday heat, to my husband. He was buzzing, his eyes bright and his head full of stories of play. “I get it now,” he said. “I just saw everything you have been talking about for the past year come alive in a few hours.” His exhilaration at seeing something so precious, yet so simple, was infectious.

Because seeing children at play shows you how capable they are, and how they are not “learning” how to be human; they already are. That our children have the right to play, and by polluting their play with terms like ‘learning through play’, or placing our own perceptions of the world and what play should be, takes that away from them.

Which makes Pop-Up Adventure Play’s work all the more important. It’s easy to fall into talking about the benefits of play, and the reasons that it is important for children, and the great things that happen for children who play. And they do. But what these incredible playworkers have taught me, especially through the Playworker Development Course, is that supporting the play comes first. That to see the benefits, to see the great things that happen in play, we first have to provide time, space and permission for play.

To become an independent organiser and host your own pop-up adventure playground, register here. To learn more about more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, check out our website

Friday, 7 October 2016

Introducing... Pop-Ups Andy

By Zan

It is with great joy that we'd like to introduce you all to a new member of Team Pop-Up Adventure Play: Andy Hinchcliffe!

Here he is with Morgan when we were in Costa Rica. As usual, I am taking the photo so I'm not in this wonderful pic.

Andy has been Pop-Up Adventure Play's longest serving board member who has traveled to a number of locations with Morgan and myself to experience our extensive reach first hand, and do a little playwork. After getting a taste for adventure, Andy took the plunge, stepped off the board and into our team. As an amazing playworker with a passion for play advocacy within the community, he is an ideal person to be joining Morgan and myself as we continue to support children's play all over the world. He lands in California today to hang out with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play for a while. 

We're so excited to have Andy as part of the team and look forward to many exciting and playful adventures ahead!

For more from us, check out our Facebook, Twitter, and our website

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Campference 2017: Making Connections

By Morgan

On my first playwork assignment, I was lucky to join an existing team that worked together well. We'd make eye contact frequently during the session, and pull one another aside during slow moments to observe together and swap little funny anecdotes. We'd check in on one another, asking with an eyebrow for assistance with rough and tumble or coverage for a bathroom run. Playworkers in all settings are told not to work solo - but what does that mean for international advocates?

We don’t want anyone to feel alone in this work. Both Suzanna and I have been staff in isolation before and we know that it is hard for us to advocate for play properly when feeling alone and unsupported.  A big part of our work is helping people to connect online but sometimes, especially when visiting on tour, we get to hear about it face-to-face.

One classroom assistant working in a school of play-skeptics, told us that “when I’m having a rough day, I’ll stand in the broom closet and scroll through your Facebook feed, just not to feel so alone”. We’re always trying to build upon existing relationships as well, to knit people together.

That’s why we’re so excited this year, to be doing something new and rather amazing.

This February 16-19th, we’ll be welcoming playworkers and advocates from around the world to celebrate the birth of a new adventure playground.

People can stay in either tents or nearby houses, but we’re still calling it a Campference. Register here and, who knows, you might be only 5 months away from an arm full of playworker friendship bracelets!

Wanna come and hang out? Register today and take advantage of a lower rate!

More information on the Campference can be found here, and the Facebook event can be found here. To read more about our day to day thoughts on play, come check out our Facebook page. If you'd like to find out more about, just check out

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Registration Open for Upcoming One of a Kind Playwork Campference February 1619, 2017 in Val Verde, CA


Val Verde, CA - February 16-19, 2017 - UK based Pop-up Adventure Play is teaming up with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play to host a first time Playwork Campference in Val Verde, CA February 16-19th 2017.  

The Campference will headline Professor Fraser Brown, Head of Playwork at Leeds Beckett University’s School of Health & Community Studies, Erin Davis, Director of the documentary “The Land”, and Jill Wood, founder of “AP” adventure playground in Houston, TX.  Campference programming will also include a variety of hands on workshops, keynote Q&As, a screening of “The Land”, discussions and activities surrounding playwork theory and practice with National and International playworkers, and more.  Early bird registration ends 10/2/2016, overall registration ends 1/16/2017. Participants also have the option to camp on site at the Eureka Villa Adventure Playground slated to be the seventh in the US.   

Playwork involves in depth knowledge of play psychology, play “cues”, and risk benefit assessment. Playworkers traditionally work on Adventure Playgrounds where they make sure the children stay safe but do not inhibit the play in any way. However, playwork concepts may be applied to a variety of instances whether working with kids or adults in formal (i.e. educational or structured) or informal private, public or domestic settings. Adventure Playgrounds have been commonplace throughout Europe since World War II and are seeing a resurgence in the US.  The new wave of adventure play has been covered by various news sources including the New York Times, Atlas Obscura and The Atlantic.   The playwork campference will facilitate an international conversation between diverse individuals ranging from decades and degrees in playwork to those brand new to it.  “I’m very excited about coming and meeting all the people who will be at the Campference. … It’s going to be an opportunity to do stimulating work to get the whole idea of playwork going.. to give it a base level to work out from” said Professor Brown.  Regarding the state of play in America, he believes, “it’s very timely right now... things are beginning to develop. Right now I have three American based students doing post-graduate work with us.” Professor Brown has written numerous books on the benefits of playwork including his experiences doing therapeutic playwork with children in orphanages in Romania and Transylvania.  

Erica Larsen-Dockray, co-founder of Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play remarks about the Campference, “We could not be more delighted to host such a unique and necessary event here in Southern California.  Playwork concepts reaffirm two very important elements which I feel are lacking in the US.  One is kids being allowed more self-directed time in their days and second is adults supporting and trusting kids to take risks and practice independence.  Culturally we have forgotten how to let kids just play on their own terms as well as embrace play in our adult lives.”

Suzanna Law, Co-Founder of Pop-up Adventure Play and current Leeds Playwork Phd candidate says, “This is something of momentous occasion for me because we have been working so hard at Pop-up Adventure play to bring playwork ideas to people across the US and hopefully better play opportunities for children as a consequence. A child has a right to play, but in order to play they also need to feel safe and in an environment where they are supported.  They have a right to believe and to direct everything that is in their own lives and in the US this may be taken for granted and we need to know now in order to support play we need to support the whole child.”

Pop-up Adventure play was founded in 2010 by Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby and aims to help make a children’s right to play a reality in every neighborhood by disseminating playwork principles to a range of audiences.  Operating primarily in the US and UK, they provide long-distance and in-person support to play advocates in seventeen countries and recently completed a world lecture tour.  

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play was founded by Jeremiah Dockray and Erica Larsen-Dockray in 2014 after Jeremiah began the playwork course.  While working on a course assignment he came across an abandoned 2 acre park which is now the developing home of Eureka Villa Adventure Playground.  It will be the only adventure playground in Los Angeles County.  


Aside from the park’s development, they have held numerous pop-up adventure playgrounds all over Los Angeles County for private and public events.  For more information on them please visit

Anyone interested in attending or registering can visit the Campference information page at:

Early bird registration ending on 10/2/2016 is $375 for campers and $300 for non-campers.  Regular registration ending on 1/16/2017 is $475 for campers and $400 for non-campers.  Camping rates include meals, snacks, and basic camping equipment if needed.  Financial aid may be available on a first come basis.  

Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Co-Founder Pop-Up Adventure Play

Jeremiah Dockray, Co-Owner Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play

Check out the whole press release here.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Salford, UK - Guest Writer

By David Stonehouse

David is one of Pop-Up Adventure Play's wonderful Playworker Development Course tutors. First as Pop-Ups Zan's PhD friend and now as a colleague, David has been working hard to take playwork into hospitals using his specialism as a trained nurse. In celebration of Playday 2016, we hosted a Pop-Up with Children's Scrapstore Salford and we asked David to volunteer for us for the day. Here's how he got on.

This is my first ever blog about my first ever Pop-Up Adventure Playground. I must confess that I was a bit nervous as to what to expect and to what my involvement and role would be. However I had nothing to worry about as I was in the expert hands of Team Pop-Up lead by Suzanna Law!

I did have a little panic when Suzanna said to me before any children had arrived and we were just setting up to go and make something! I haven’t made anything in years, especially now being an academic who just reads and writes! But after the initial confusion and embarrassment at not knowing what to do, I observed Suzanna and crew and got stuck in. I must confess I was quite impressed by my boat creation and even more impressed when some of the first children to arrive came over, climbed in and took it over. They even knew what it was supposed to be.

As a tutor on the Playworker Development Course, I of course know the theory of Pop-Ups, but to actually see one in action was amazing. I must confess I was a little bit nerdy in identifying the different parts of the play cycle in action and loose parts and all the other theory that we know so well. But seeing it put into practice brought it all to life.

The buzz of activity and the happiness on the faces of the children and their parents was a joy to see. The children from the very youngest to the older children all got stuck in with dens and houses being built and children rolling around inside cardboard drums. There was even a drumming session going on which brought a new dimension to the event. A manikin’s arms, hands and legs proved a firm favourite with the children, with different body parts being incorporated into their play.

I was surprisingly exhausted afterwards, but had the most amazing experience. If you haven’t taken part in one yet, would I recommend it? A resounding Yes!  I am hoping that Suzanna will invite me back again to volunteer soon.

If you'd like to host your own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, then sign up for our free resource pack. To hear more from us and our work, visit our Facebook page, Twitter, or visit

Monday, 5 September 2016

Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Boston - Guest Writer

By Erica Quigley

Erica came to us with her background in Landscape Architecture hoping to take more of a playwork approach to her work. Pop-Ups Morgan has been her Playworker Development Course tutor since January, and was able to meet her at the adventure playground on Governors Island this Summer. She came and spent the whole day, perching on tires to scribble notes, and sitting with us in the shade of an enormous tree to watch the clouds pass overhead. Here are some thoughts from her first ever pop-up adventure playground.

I’m a student again. I spent 12 years as an environmental educator, and can whip up a hands-on, place-based unit on structures in a couple of hours. I can align it to the state curriculum and then coach teachers as they integrate the lessons into their literacy units. But can I step back and observe a child building a cardboard structure, without offering advice?

I’m three years into a master’s of landscape architecture at the Boston Architectural College, and four modules into the Playworker Development Course. In July, I got to combine design thinking and playwork training by running my first pop-up adventure playground in South Boston’s Joe Moakley Park. I was nervous, but one boy’s bossiness helped lessen my apprehension.

This boy, about six years old, arrived at the site and immediately set up a cardboard wall, asked me to cut a hole, and made two arrows pointing to the hole. He said that would make it easier for people to find.

He went behind the fabric on the other side and asked for more tape. He used a container lid to cover the hole from his side. After a few moments, I decided to knock on the wall. Sure enough, he lifted the lid and passed a clothespin to me, telling me to pass him something in return. As we continued the game, I relaxed a little.

For days I had fretted over having enough materials, fitting everything into the van, having too many kids join the pop-up, having too few kids join the pop-up, dealing with skeptical parents, or intervening too much in children’s play. As this boy-shopkeeper directed me through a play frame, I felt like the student who is delighted to find the test only includes fill-in-the-blank questions, not short answers. It wasn’t that I hadn’t studied the material; it was that, for the first time that day, I felt confident that things were going well.

We had more than enough materials, and saw children use the materials for creative, exploratory, and dramatic play. It took me a while, but I got over my frustration that we weren’t attracting more kids. (“Why are they playing with footballs and going down the slide? Don’t they know how much more FUN this is?”) At one point, ten boys were playing with sports equipment, and six girls were playing in the adventure playground, and I was concerned the boys wouldn’t come over because they’d perceive the pop-up as “for girls.” The boys didn’t come over, but that was their choice. I was lucky to have Chenine Peloquin, a fellow playworker-in-training, helping with the pop-up. We discussed why kids gravitate towards what they’re familiar with, especially in a new setting. The site was all the better for offering many play opportunities.

My recent professional and academic work in landscape architecture has focused on environments for play. I’m using a play lens, but I’m also using a design lens to create spaces that offer more freedom for children. Moakley Park, which is more than 60 acres, is nearly all sports fields, with two playgrounds and one seldom-used street hockey court. The park sits on the coast and will need to be redesigned for resilience to sea level rise and increasingly strong storms. It is my hope that new park features such as hills and stormwater channels will be playable, and that designers will consider how children play in the landscape, not just on equipment. We hope to blend play, memory, and design to influence park planning. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to practice stepping back and letting children play.

To host your very own pop-up adventure playground, register here. To jump onto our Playworker Development Course and join Erica in the quest for more playwork knowledge, email today!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Chapter Zero’s 1st Pop-Up Adventure Playground In Singapore - Guest Writer

By Chapter Zero

The ladies at Chapter Zero warmly welcomed Pop-Ups Zan to Singapore when she visited in June 2016. They have since joined the Playworker Development Course and are trying their hand at putting theory into practice. Here is an account of their first ever pop-up!

We were very excited when presented with the opportunity by the Singapore Wellness Association to take up Baghdad street which is located in the heart of Singapore’s Arab Quarters, one of the most vibrant and atmospheric pockets of old Singapore. So on Saturday, 6 August 2016, the length of Baghdad Street was closed and we kicked off Singapore’s very first Pop-Up Adventure Playground on the city’s streets!

Here is our account of how we got ready and what happened on the day of the event itself.

A few weeks before the Pop-Up, we received the resource pack from Pop-Up Adventure Play and we came up with a list of materials / loose parts that we wanted to use. And so our search began! Between the things we found in our homes, the items donated by a few friends and whatever we were able to salvage during a dumpster-diving run to one of the industrial areas, we felt like we had a pretty decent collection of “junk” ready to be played with.

Our loose parts collection a few days before the
event. We ended up using many more things!

We also decided to invest in a few things that we thought might be useful in the future Pop-Ups, such as aprons for our team, kid-safe scissors, plastic chains and some rope. All came in very handy!

On the day of the Pop-Up, we loaded up our rented van with all the things we had sourced, and set out to play! We arrived about an hour before the start of the event and after unloading, we proceeded to get the street ready for the children. Our plan was to have a dry and a wet area, and so we separated the materials between the two and with the help of our volunteers started setting up the environment. We built a simple tepee with some long cardboard rolls and tape, and a little “fort” with two wooden pallets, but otherwise left the material as they were for the children to work their magic.

Before we knew it, people were arriving and children were rummaging through all the stuff. As the play progressed, some tourists who were passing by stopped us (we were identifiable by our aprons!) to learn more about what the event was all about, and some families who were enjoying the cafes and restaurants flanking the street started joining in the play! At one point, the Pop-Up generated a crowd, we estimate, of close to one hundred people, with children making more than half the number.

The first visitors to our playground. How exciting!
Much to our surprise and delight, things proceeded smoothly from here on. The children didn’t need any encouragement and were absolutely thrilled with all the loose parts they could find on the street. And parents were happy to just stay on the sidelines and let the little ones play.

We had the privilege of watching the children unleash their creativity, playing with the materials in ways we never imagined. The plastic chains were a great hit, with children swinging and swirling them about, making waves by hitting them against the ground, and then holding the chain out at both ends so that other children could jump over it. Some children also used kitchen tongs and sticks to “cook” the plastic chain “noodles”. A long cylindrical plastic map storage tube was at first kicked about, and chased after, stood at one end to have rubber rings thrown at before being kicked or whacked down with a cardboard tube, and eventually used by children for log-rolling! It was exhilarating watching the children fashioning the material into things they could drag, fling around, climb in and out of, stomp on, roll about and even paint on.

Chapter Zero’s 1st Pop-Up Adventure Playground in full swing.
About an hour into the Pop-Up we had an unpleasant surprise (or as we later realised – a blessing in disguise), it started to RAIN! And we are not talking here about a small drizzle, it was a proper heavy downpour – just what one would expect in Singapore. We did a quick team meeting and decided that since so many families stayed on, we should carry on. But we were clear that in order to keep the play going, we had to set a good example and so we did…

Let’s do this, people!
It didn’t take long for more children to join in. Some with umbrellas and water-proof jackets, others opting to get soaked – they all found a way to make the most of it.

Playing in the rain is fun!
As the rain started to die down, the street filled up with people yet again. We witnessed some of the best play we have seen in a long time, with children jumping up and down the puddles and re-purposing the soaked materials. It was such a joy to watch and we couldn’t have been happier with how the things turned around despite the rain! Some parents even commented, from watching the children play, that the rain actually made the event even more interesting and added more layers to the possibilities for play.

The show must go on!

We had been out in the street since 4pm and it didn’t start to clear until around 7pm. There were children who didn’t want to leave, and we were sad that we had to end their play as we had the street only until 7:30pm. We started packing up and cleaning, with plenty of help from the parents and children who stayed behind.

Afterwards, we received a gush of appreciation and acknowledgement from the parents who had been there. It touched our hearts getting such positive and encouraging feedback, and fuels our desire to set up more Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds in the near future!

To host your very own pop-up adventure playground, register for your free resource pack here. To talk to us about our work and have a collaboration of your own, get in touch with us! More info about us can be found on our facebook page or our website