Reflective Practice

I must admit that I haven’t been as active on this blog as originally set out over the past year. Life’s journey can lead you to places that you can only dream about and for that I am blessed.

I’ve been in the midst of replanning my future after a period away from progressing my career in Playwork. I also felt the need to give myself a little boost and revist some of my personal work achievements in order to get the ball rolling again and undertake some Reflective Practice. Scribble, scribble, type, type. Information, and notes between my iphone, touchpad and notebook. Finally, some order, and now a point of reference.

Playwork is my calling and vocation, and I have worked within this field of work for 22 years in diverse settings, and have been an integral member of numerous Play Associations and Projects. Over this time I have become totally dedicated to the cause of Play, and am very proud of my achievements.

I have been given the opportunity to contribute to services as a Playworker, Play Leader, Play Development Officer, Service Manager, Playwork Assessor, Mentor and Tutor. Over the years I have built a professional network of colleagues and associates who represent many voluntary organizations and services.

I strongly believe that every child and young person should have access to flexible, high quality and freely accessible Play provisions. I love the idea of taking the Playwork ethos into the community and seeing children create spontaneous Play spaces in areas which lack Play provision.

When I work with children and young people I think it is important to remember that Playworkers are Play facilitators and should not be too directive but instead receptive.  The use of public space by children and young people is generally given a mixed reaction by the general population and it is important to acknowledge the issues surrounding these opinions and to challenge presuppositions. I do my best to maintain the role of an advocate for the right to Play and the best reference I could give would be that the children and young people I work with enjoy my company.

I find myself updating my blog at Stonebridge Adventure Playground in North West London, and the last adventure playground this side of London to remain. In one of the areas that I grew up in, and my visit back today to support the campaign to Save Stonebridge Adventure Playground and keep it open has brought back so many happy memories.

Audley Harrsion has also taken time out from his hectic schedule to come down and support the campaign and bring smiles to school children from the local area.

BrentPlay have continued to work tirelessly to keep the Adventure Playground open that is a free open access opportunity for children and young people.

Whilst today may be a day you were unable to come down, there are other ways to show your support. Join Stonebridge Adventure Playground Facebook page and find out more information about keeping this Play provision open, alternatively come down and visit the adventure playground.

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Informal Chat

I had recently been invited to have an informal chat with a charity to support them deliver a school based  Play Project. So as you do before a chat, I prepared and refreshed my memory, dragged some information onto my touchpad to read on the bus journey down. I had arrived into the area earlier than expected, so decided to walk the last half an hour relax and listen to a football podcast on my iphone.

Upon arrival I unwarapped my outdoor clothing, and was greeted with a firm handshake, a smile and offered a cuppa. I declined the hot drink.

20 minutes into our chat…………… and bazaar. Bazaar in the sense that I found myself fuelled with more and more questions. Now I had about nine  typed up on my  touchpad that I had intended asking near the end of our chat, but at this stage had a feeling I would not require them.

A period passed and our chat moved onto whether the children attending the settings currently had ownership of their Play Spaces, and how their play benefited within the projects at each setting. I wanted to be comfortable. Now the package proposal had been beneficial to me, and as much as I had been thinking to rain back some quite direct and indepth comments about their Play Strategy and Play Policy I felt it necessary to ask. What was fascinating about this informal chat firstly had been that I was used to being on the other side of the table preparing for people to attend, with questions of employment, and today it was me on the other side. Secondly, as focused as I was, I found myself looking into their eyes and wondering whether they realised how comfortable and empowered I felt, and the depth and nature of their questions highly appropriate to the role in question. I felt intrigued about the background and work history of the panel that had been asking me questions, and the use of descriptive language allowed me to picture them at work. Their introduction about the charity, its role, their projects continued to appeal to me.

I like feeling relaxed in a work environment, and firmly believe if the structure of the organisation I propose to work for is not in place, then just be transparent, don’t send me down up a wild goose chase, and sell something that’s not there. If work needs to be done, reviewing or developing areas, make me be aware from the off. I felt that I needed to be clear. I needed my own reassurances that this Playwork journey was also right for me.

We spoke about resources and planning review, and whether they could support funding from having a plan in place. Their strategy appeared seemless. A warm sensation rose from the pit of my stomach as we spoke about polices and guidelines and how they carry out reflective practice, and whether their polices refer in anyway to the Playwork Principles. We spoke about targets, and the development of audits, and the effectiveness of budgets. I encouraged them to think about different views of sourcing equipment. It is not about only using GLS, or your local high streets. Where is the nearest scrap project ? and do you have membership? mmmmm………. they began taking notes.

We spoke about the physical space of the settings, and whether the children or managers, and staffing teams when facilitating activity programmes squeeze out as much Play Spaces as they could. Thoughts about the relationship with the school, and premises officer, and the headteachers understanding of Play. I wanted to know whether the children would be in a position to use chalk on walls, as these too make up the physical space. If there are slopes, can they become iconic space for play. I wanted to be in a position to try to make the children think ‘wow’ when they think of Play Opportunities when at their Play Space. Get settings to look at ‘loose parts’, and the introduction and continuation of this concept. Think about workshop sessions on Play. Think about creating ‘method statements’ on certain activities and procedures.The role of MTS (Meal Time Supervisors) within the development, support, implementation of Play. Would observations, monitoring and evaluations be part of this mechanism?

Fire Play. I could see his eyes nearly roll out of his head.

But I then explained start with warmth, and scale the activity or project, ending with fire. Warmth. Toffee apples,  heat, keeping warm, sounds, images, food sensations all relating to use of fire.

Think about space, resources, opportunities.Think about the involvement of schools, parents, community. How can they contribute ? Think about what jobs, careers are parents involved with, and how they can support the setting ? This led me onto impact and improvement. Does Play affect the reduction in bullying ? if bullying occurred. Do children within the setting enjoy Play ? and what systems to capture Play impact after breaks. Are children calmer after breaks, and how do they wind down ?Are breaks contributing to changes in children’s behaviour ?

Then the growling started, and the possibility of an embarrassing moment. I paused as now maybe I should have had that hot drink, and for a period questioned myself whether it would be rude to ask for one. Yes, No, Yes, No ? I chose the latter, and instead tensed my stomach and for the life of me, this became the only moment of uncertainty throughout the informal chat . I started to think is this where I conclude the informal chat and start to give more brief answers which would allow it to finish earlier, or do I just hope that the packet of crisps will perfrom its role, and quiet down the churning of my stomach.

CPD.CPD.CPD.

CPD. I wanted to see, or work with a school based Play Project developing a Play CPD possibly for a year. So I’m thinking sessions and or workshops on Play for parents, and governors. Capturing newsletters and content for parents. Yes, Yes ….. ‘We can be training solutions to your needs’ – wonderful statement. This could be another string to this charity, an opportunity to carry out training sessions. Tie ‘loose parts’ into school Play based CPD, and monitor the children’s involvement.

Partnerships. Fourth strand of support, are children involved in development of job descriptions, are they involved in interviews, are they involved in things that appeal to them, and how does this project manage this process ? Do children have links with school maintenance systems ?Does the grass have to be cut or grown to the same lengths? How does school Play based project works with local providers, and are opportunities accessible ?

Playwork Principles…… am I pushing it too far now. I wanted them to think about children developing their own handbook of their setting, and make settings think about the purpose of Play, and encourage the school ‘s to allow children to provide feedback on their setting aims or aspirations. I encouraged them to make them have this vision statement, document and how this plan will be implemented. Why not ask the school for Play to be placed, listed in an evaluation for parent and carers ?

More questions began to flow, and I glanced at my watch and realised that we had been speaking for nearly an hour, and in a professional manner concluded the informal chat right, wrong or indifferent.

Now it is likely that my next blog will indicate that I was unsuccessful, and you can have a chuckle and see why, but then again I felt refreshed and empowered and enlightened when I left. And while I must admit that I needed to have nap upon returning home, the informal chat was wonderful. It re-enforecd why I am still greatful for being actively involved within this profession of Play, and why communicating with other Playwork Practitioners makes me feel alive.

Thank you for your time.

Relaxed…………. our informal chat ended. So I wrapped back up warm, popped on my headphones and continued listened to my football podcast on the way home.

Blog Observation Series 4 ep2

I arrive to find C, a Playworker, and D speaking with children about group agreements before leaving out to go to the park. A few children are seated, others standing, all looking towards C and D. The children are telling D how to use the green cross code, and about being safe on the road. A child speaks out to say that ‘you must listen to staff when they go to the park’. This opens a discussion amongst the children, and they exchange ‘yes’ and ‘no’ comments with friends and staff. They appear to be agreeing on most of the information being exchanged. D has waited for a period of time allowing the children to speak, then continues reading from a piece of paper in her hand. She is speaking with children about drinking lots of water, staying predominately out of the sun, having hats on, and what equipment to bring along to the park.

D supports C in calling out the register before they leave., and explains that the register will be taken again upon arrival to park, and again before they leave to return to the after school club. She is informing the children of the play spaces within the park, and additional tennis court area. She speaks with them about using yellow bands, keeping them on, and stresses the time of departure and arrival back at after school club.

One of the children asks D what they will do when they get back. D begins to talking about the possible activities they can play later, and a girl streaks with joy upon hearing dodge ball being an option. D states that the winner of the butterfly competition will also be discussed when they arrive back, agreements with children being made.

D is seated with a girl who is crying, and begins to support girl to remove sweater top, they both stand. Girl has wet/damp tissues dabbing her eyes.

D is now standing, occasionally walking around the hall looking around. Some girls are running in main after school club area screaming chasing each other. Three boys are playing with balloons, and using rolled up cardboard to hit each other; stating “it can’t touch the floor”.

Another girl is blowing up a balloon and hands it to D, and asks ‘can you to tie a knot’? D moves and sits with boys on a table. They have cards in their hands. A couple of the boys are sitting on chairs, a girl is standing in front of D blowing up a balloon, the card dealer is sitting on the table shuffling the cards.

The children are asking D whether they can go to the toilet before they leave to go to the park.

D is supporting other staff to put sun cream into children’s hands, the children are applying it to themselves. D is supporting a few younger children as she starts to rub the sun cream over the foreheads.

D is speaking with C about their plan of action for the visit to the park. It is an alarmingly hot day today. I can hear D making suggestions to C about driving her car to the park with all the children’s lunch boxes so they do not have to carry them. D is supporting C with head counts of the children, and is speaking with children about wearing hats. D has picked up a folder marked registration details, and states to C that she will take these along with the other equipment. D asks children to all grab a partner, and get paired up.

D says to C that she is ‘just going to double check the toilets before they leave’. D returns to hall area, and enters a cupboard. She has a few toilet rolls in her hand, then re-enters the toilet area.

Once outside D drives her car and parks at convenient space for children to approach and place bags/lunch boxes/play equipment into boot of her car. Children are being reminded that they are free to carry what they want to. Some children are carrying their water bottles, and containers with refreshments, liquids, and majority have on caps/hats. D is encouraging children to hold hands. D is asking C whether she has everything she needs. D asks C to double check before departing in her car.

I walk with the children, and other staff members for the short walk to the park

At the park Y has joined the group, she was not at the after school club earlier. D and Y make their way over to the playbuilders park. Before they leave D informs C that she is just going to carry out a visual risk assessment. I ask D what she was looking for, or found upon her return. D says that they found an area where they had been a fair amount of dog mess, and covered it with leaves, and a cardboard box. She had written on the box ‘DO NOT Remove’, and indicated that it would stop any other children walking, running or slipping in it. D spoke about how the children may hurt themselves if they slipped, also the infection side of things if their hands go in the mess, and more so the mocking that may take place if some stepped in it. D spoke about bullying and name calling if one of the kids had dog mess on their shoes. Also the moving about of the mess on their shoes, messing up their play space or environment.

D spoke about putting couple vodka and beer cans in the bin, and also checking, and having a go on the equipment before the children came over, just to double check that it was all safe. D said that it was always good to carry out the assessment in pairs “because sometime another staff member may see something you didn’t”,  but also because she need to ask Y advice on what to do with the dog mess they identified earlier.

Children now in playbuilders park area, which is positioned to the left of the nearby housing estate. Some of the area is fenced off, with over grown grass area, many trees, and a field to give a woodland feel. Man made resources, play opportunities place within area. Spider web, slides, multiple see saws on mounds of grass area allows running, rolling, jumping, crawling, and climbing. Bottom of zipped wire has pebble dashed, and new age roundabout fitted, allowing children to slide or walk.

D is standing beside the zip wire as children are supporting each other to take turns. A few are asking D for support , I can hear her encouraging a few of the children that appear hesitant to “have a try first, before I help you”, D stands back while the children have a go on the zipped wire. There are screams and laughter as a few children fall off. I ask D why she carried out the visual risk assessment earlier. She explains that it is part of the staff’s responsibility to do at the club, and when they are on trips, and that staff take turns. D also says that by doing the risk assessments it can also help children enjoy themselves without staff worrying too much, because we have already checked everyone. “We don’t want to make it completely safe, because we still want them to have a little risky play”. D says that they also do it because it is in their Policies and Procedures to do checks.

D is positioned standing in full view of where children are on zipped wire, and supporting those that ask her for help; “hold on tight”. D has supported process of being on zipped wire for girl who has been crying. The girl is indicating to D that she has not fallen over but one of the other children have tripped her up a few times. D is now speaking with her, and lowered herself to the girls eye level. The girl is attempting to place her arms around D, in the appearance of a hug. ‘it’s getting on my nerves’ the girl has said to D, they keep following me and tripping me up. The girl is now pulling D’s hand and saying “come let me show you who they are” D and the girl walk away.

D has started to speak to me about how multicultural the after school club is generally, but has extended by saying that it has also been refreshing to see so many new children attend for the summer. D is speaking about the different abilities of the children, and those dependent upon their siblings. She is being descriptive in identifying the individual needs of some of the children, and commenting how much she values this, and how the information has helped her and the other Playworkers to plan the summer a little better

More children are joining the line to have a go on the rope swing. D is now assisted by Y.

Two children have approached D and are sitting while D elaborates upon her earlier thoughts about the summer scheme. One of the girls had been the child who fell on the grass earlier, and had started to cry. She was accompanied by one of the older girls who allowed her to go to the front of the line on the zipped wire.

D has stopped talking with me, as the younger girl hugs her to say that “D you always understand you’re the best”. D blushes, she starts to talk about encouraging other children not just at the club but in school also about children’s differences, and ‘diversity’, and listening when other children talk. D say’s to the girls that it’s important to listen as ‘sometimes other people’s points of view or opinions may be right’ The girl goes back to give D a bear hug, and attempts to sit on D’s lap.

playworkings – wonderful blog – something I will share with my reader

playworkings

A message to adult readers: children’s play is not about you. Really. Children’s play is their play. Playworkers are unique amongst adults who work with children: true playworkers are focused on play — not on educational outcomes (as teachers will be), on preparation or foundation for future years (as early years workers will be), on law and order and fitting in with rules and regulations (as, say, police community support officers will be). Playworkers work with the child’s agenda, not with the adult’s agenda.

There are so many adults, for one reason or another, who can’t or won’t get this though. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been told that children ‘have to respect the rules, because I have to’; that children ‘should conform to society, because we all have to’; that children should ‘play the way I want them to, because I don’t like noise or mess or…

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Blog Observation Series 4 ep1

Series 4 Welcome to D

D is working in a group of three, using wooden planks, and straw bales, she is making suggestions “why don’t we use that?”, D is pointing to the blue rope. D is making the group laugh, as she is suggesting that“this could be our private strip club, and E and N could be the pimps”.

D’s group have four hay bales on the ground, stacked at one level, 5 wooden stakes, and army camouflage material. D is placing cocktail sticks into the straw bales, then reaching to lay artificial flowers beside a guitar which is propped against her group structure. “Ben 10! oh my gosh I nearly passed out”, D is attempting to blow up an inflatable, she laughs and moves around looking at the structure. “I wish we could hang this up”, D has in her hand a plastic planet.

D is adding orange, red and white curtains to the structure; she is now extending and manipulating the original structure by moving the planks of wood, and including cardboard shoe boxes.

D is crouching down and removing a pair of rubber gloves from a bag, she is starting to blow them up. When fully blown, she adds this to the structure. D is holding blue rope in her hands, and starts to tie one end to the window and the other end to a stake placed into hay bale.

D is now attaching the rubber gloves to the rope by using ribbons. D is speaking with her other group members as she places fuchsia coloured material to a stake, making it wrap around in snake like manner. She continues by also attaching a tambourine to the blue rope making it dangle down.

D is investigating another clothing bag, rummaging for second, then stops. N picks up a clear umbrella and asks D “what to do”, she points their”, N adds this to structure. D calls out “I’ve tied a compass to this”, she adds the compass to the ribbon, and makes it hang from the rope.

D is continuing to move about, and persists in blowing up the inflatable in her hand. She is moving around collecting loose parts, and speaking, and negotiating how the structure is changing. D says to E “looks a little bit like a ship”, yeah N say’s “like a “space ship”.

D’s group is working effectively, there are no vocal ideas being exchanged, nor am I able to see anything drawn down on paper.

D is returns to the clothing box, and collects a hanger, she places the hanger onto the rope.

D is negotiating the structure change, with E, saying “should we leave the plank of wood on the ground? or raise it on top of the bale?”. D moves and collects four plastic basins, she turns them upside down places them inside the structure.

D is supporting N with part of the structure, as the cardboard boxes continue to fall. All three members are providing each other with structural ideas, and have managed to make the cardboard stay up.

D’s group stand around their structure, and provide all else at the centre with an explanation of their magical space. D is being encouraged by the other group members to lead. D say’s there’s a little space going on, and points, she leads everyone into the structure while she continues to talk. D encourages everyone to follow her, and gives a tour. She sits down on a straw bale, and starts to sing. D is pretending to play the guitar as everyone sits down inside the structure. She is speaking about areas to drink coffee, she waves her hand to encourage others to enter through a secret tunnel. D starts to sing “come by ya”, and E starts to play the tambourine, others join in the singing.

M speaks with group about the process of creating a structure. D askes M for her opinion on her group, then say’s “you’d never get bored, you can just knock it down and build something new, and the good thing is you don’t need any planning permission”, the group erupts into laughter.

D has remained wearing the pink rubber gloves, with green fluffy cleaner in hand throughout the tour of their structure, and continues to wear them while the other group explain their structure.

In D’s explanation to the group she spoke about creating play spaces, different play types, and the amount of things to touch. D mentioned fantasy play as a play type that was involved in her imagination. She mentioned symbolic play. D also mentioned the play work curriculum, which triggered M to ask other candidates about there understanding of this. D spoke about it being like being a builder, or scientist, and that’s what helped her group make their strip club

Blog Observation Series 3 ep1

Series 3 Welcome to J – snippet

On entry to the dining area I hear J engaged in a conversation, and make my way to the kitchen. J and C, another member of staff are unwrapping pizza and garlic bread purchased from the shop for the children’s snacks. J greets me and asks “do you want to try this”. J hands me a tiny round orange fruit with green and brown leaves and say’s it’s a “chrysalis fruit”. C laughs as say’s maybe it’s a name we shouldn’t say too loud.  It is the first time I have tasted this small seeded, really tangy citrus fruit. J says this will be provided as choice for children to taste today,

Holiday club had music from Grease playing out loud. J is involved in a conversation with a few children; “what one thing can you not do tomorrow” one child said “wet you”, J said “correct”, other little ones started to laugh and say “I will get you, and continued interchange with her for about a minute.

J and I walk from the hall area towards the classroom, and into the playground. Children freely moving within inside and outside areas. Child walked passed with tennis bat, and ball while others watching T.V programme/girls sitting amongst themselves laughing and having conversation, another throwing and catching shuttle cock by himself on carpet area inside. Another child using stencils on table, sitting by themselves with colours and white paper.

It is a warm day, and coloured tissue paper tied to a structure are blowing in the breeze. Children continue to play around us and parents wave and have short conversations as I observe the children and young people in the outdoor area.

A little girl approaches us and speaks to J in a foreign language, J responds, and the little girl laughs and walks away. J say’s C, does this quite regularly, leaving the other children mystified as she switches from English to French in a conversation.

Blog Observation Series 2 ep 2

Blog Observation Series are fictional pieces of work, and form the journey of a newly qualified Playwork Assessor.

This is a continuation of T from Series 2

T turns as she hears my voice. T is seated with a child in her arms. The girl has two large coloured crayons in her hands. T is wearing a coloured name badge today.  T stands and walks towards me with the girl still in her arms.

T offers me another biscuit, I decline as I have just bitten into the first one. The girl smiles and reaches out towards me with a vacant hand, I verbally reply “good morning, are you offering me your crayon?”. T informs me that she is attempting to communicate by stretching out her hand. I offer my hand, child places hand on mind, palm to palm, and smiles. We repeat the process, though this time she offers me a crayon.

I have noticed the difference in materials and resources out for the children to access today. There are four tables, six children, three staff, and four parents. On one the tables there are wooden farm buildings, on another, felt tips, coloured tissue paper, coloured card, glue, pasters, pallets and fine cut coloured paper. The other table has plastic food opportunities, with money till beside the home corner. I can see books, Lego, drums, skittles pots pans, wooden blocks, and cars all accessible by the children.

More children and parents are arriving.  The setting is busy, vibrant and has an energetic feel to it today. Parents are involved in conversations amongst themselves, and workers, the children are engaging in play opportunities moving in and outside of the building, some eating biscuits, others fruit.

T has walked with girl to another play opportunity, they are standing in front of the table with the food stall, plastic fruits, plates, teapots and canned fruit. Girl picks up fruit and places crayons on the table. She now has a banana and pineapple in each hand.  T collects a book then moves to the table with paper, glue and colours. T sits in front of girl’s mother, bouncing girl mildly on her lap. Girl smiles, which soon turns to a laugh. T holds girl and allows her to stand, all the time supporting as she is unable to walk.

The girl smiles, bends her legs, then straightens, “are you trying to walk to mummy”, T say’s “you trying to walk”.

T is seated in the soft cushioned and carpet area, the girl is crawling around. She crawls towards the soft duck toy, T say’s “quack, quack”, and offers the toy to the girl, as she is struggling to reach it, mother now repeats T’s actions, and ends by placing rattler in her daughters hand.

T is having a conversation with the girl’s mother. She speaks with T about her daughter’s likes and dislikes, and reasons she gets frustrated. Mother say’s that her daughter enjoys the one-to-one interaction.

Girl is positioned closer to T, they remain on the ground. Mother say’s that her daughter likes anything that has a B, and say’s “Bah bah, bath, bubble” all the time emphasizing on the letter B.  T say’s “Bah bah” girl laughs. Girl attempts to stand, and is holding onto a chair, she wobbles back, T places her hand behind the girl to support her standing. Girl is looking at T. T places her on coloured padded soft whale, and slides her down making a fast motion sound,

T is touching a toy to activate a flute sound, and start the lights. The girl responds by touching, and repeating T’s action. T extends by touching toy again, girl repeats.

T stands to walk away, the girl’s head and eyes follow T, T aware of this and turns around and walks back to where mother and child are. Girl reaches towards T, T responds by reaching back, girl stretches out arms, T takes child from mother.

T with two children back on carpet area with another mother. One is a girl, the other a boy, girl seated in mother’s lap. T seated in position allowing both children to see where she is. T is kneeling down to child level. Girl is making puffed cheeks to T. T responds immediately, and returns action, girl repeats, T returns.

T is communicating with a girl saying “duck, duck…..duck, duck”, at the same time offering a large coloured cushion. T say’s “look, look, where do you want to go?”, T is supporting the balance of the girl while they move around the setting. T stops beside the girl’s mother, and say’s “oh you’re so flexible”, while making bouncy sounds, and rocking herself back and forward. Girls mother starts to sing “row , row, row your boat….”, T starts actions to support the song of rowing ya boat, girl repeat T actions.