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!