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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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.

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.

I need space

B’s Playwork Assessor had joined us to carry out the pick up for today’s after school club session, and make some observations. We collected the infants and engaged in some light humour with the children before waiting for the juniors on the climbing structure in their playground.

A few of the children and been exploring various play opportunities on structure when M came over to join us. He began with a verbal tirade of abuse directed at N, and attempted to drag him off the climbing structure and swung  his feet in N’s direction. It became visible that N may have been in discomfort as he began to shed tears, and lifted his jumper over his head and rocked backward and forward. N was silent throughout. B comforted N by kneeling down to his eye level and offered a tissue. She then began to encourage M through conversation and communicated that it would be nice to apologise to N if it had been an accident. M appeared reluctant to apologise or acknowledge what B had said to him or his actions against N. I listened and observed with the assessor, as I had been speaking with another child and felt that B was in complete control of the situation.

During the walk over from juniors to infants M had been reluctant to put on his yellow jacket, as worn by all children during pick ups. Unlike him he refused, and said that he wasn’t in the mood, I asked if he was o.k, he responded that he was fine but not in the mood. I extended by asking if he could leave the jacket around his neck, again he stated that he wasn’t in the mood and chose to walk off away from group. I was aware where he was heading and led the remainder of group with to the hall.

On arrival he had been seated around the snack table. I chose not to extend on what had happened outside and signed the children in while they played. My observation having worked with M for a few years had been that he didn’t appear himself today, I therefore allowed him his own space to play. He later asked for the cricket to be taken out, and he proceeded to use the bat for his own varied play. I was able to observe from a distance his communication with the group who wanted to play cricket. He chose to bat miniature cars around the hall and use the Lego from the table in a similar manner. I observed that at no stage had he made verbal interaction with anyone else, this lasted for about 5 minutes. Again I chose not to intervene, as no one would have been harmed by his actions.

A few of the children had indicated that they wanted to play outside, and one of the children from reception bellowed out from their little voice box “let’s go, let’s go, let’s hit outside”. B remained inside with another playworker and her assessor. Another playworker followed us outside. M joined us and participated in the football opportunity, however appeared irritated by others ability and chose to insult and attempt to draw others into varied disputes during the game. I observed him being spoken to by one of his peers  throughout, and they appeared to be encouraging him to calm down.

The children made their own adjustment to the game, which I thought had been a positive idea. It involved ‘transferring ‘players from one team to another, in order to keep results close. This happened at their own agreed time period. I had earlier been aided to bring down loose parts from shed, and used breeze blocks stacked three high with a plank of wood across the top to form low goals. Some of the children not immediately involved in this game used the remaining loose parts with imagination.

Two year two children explained the game to us. For this game no goalie would be required, this would enable the children to move freely around the pitch. A small boundary using plastic cones had been formed, if the ball came out of area the children would roll it back in under arm. Penalties would also be taken from the middle of the pitch with the kicker allowed to take one step before striking the ball, with no goalie. There appeared to be an air of fun and appreciation of the game, with more laughter and enjoyment than I could ever have envisaged. The game lasted about an hour and had not been remotely affected by the down pour of heavy rain for about 5-10 minutes. I had made the children aware that we could remain outside regardless of the weather, many opted for this. I observed that as wet as we had become, the children made a good judgement to reduce their speed and adapted to the wet playing surface.

The time had now been around 5.30pm with only the children participating in the football outside with T and myself. I had asked T if he would take my place in game while I began to collect the equipment to be return to the shed. Having returned from the shed and turned the corner into the playground I saw numerous multi-coloured plastic cones swirling in the air coming from M’s direction and landing upon C’s head.

M’s reaction had been to turn his face and shout out some explicit adult language as colourful as the multi-coloured as the cones. C and the other children engaged in the football chose to walk away and head inside. M and one other child had now been the only children outside with T and myself. I took the opportunity to speak with M about his action in today’s session. “ I need space. I seriously need my space”

My intention was not for M to make an apology, but merely for him to reflect on how his behaviour and how it could affect the way he communicated or interacted in the future with other children. We spoke about his manner and conduct with the N and B, at the start of the session, and I elaborated that I thought it was out of character; however his actions appeared to disrupt other children’s play opportunities. M stated that he didn’t want to apologise earlier as he felt that N had been pretending to he hurt.

The nature of our conversation appeared to have allowed  him to speak with me freely, and he acknowledged why I felt it necessary to speak with him,  I  also made M aware that I felt he had let himself down today. We explored the importance of having varied day’s of behaviour, about sometimes not have to answer or justify our actions and normality to have periods where we all push boundaries.

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Magical Childhood

#gamesiplayedwheniwaslittle popped up on my timeline on Twitter, and gave me a light bulb moment.

I remember making concoctions, and potions from grass, mud, berries, water and leaves and trying to poison our grandparents cat in the garden.We’d wait for ants to crawl on the leaves before capturing them, and trickle them into our Lego forts, and add a few to our concoctions, and watch them swim. We’d enter the garden from the side door through the kitchen or through my uncles door in his bedroom. When we got older, the door got sealed. Kind of affected the play opportunities afterwards only having one mode of access to the garden.

My uncle would be listening to Mtume or Kate Bush from the front room,

the bassline was so sweet you could smell it like the Bisto advert

Those Mtume and Kate Bush stickers remained on his wardrobe for a good 25 plus years until he emigrated to Kenya.

I remember the drowning slow sounds of aeroplanes above the garden, and wondering  whether we were under the flight path of one of London’s airports. They seemed to take an eternity to travel over our heads, drowning out our thoughts. Tom, my grandparents cat, would stop and stare, and the sounds would trigger off Samson from next to start barking. 
I’m trying to recall whether he ever got loose, he was a beast of a dog.

I remember putting chairs together in the front room, and putting blankets or duvets over the top and making tents. Watching telly through the little hole, or eating in there. I loved that. I loved my Magical Childhood. Or we would bunch up the sheets and make it look like roads or rough terrain and make our cars go through.

I remember the days of snuggling up four deep in a bed at our cousins, and hoping someone didn’t wet the bed. 

I remember the Lego fights in our attic, and our friends that’s would come down. It was war, amongst friends hiding behind the balcony and entrance to this restricted unadulterated world of play. 

The attic was the hub of social enagement. Weekends, holiday time, our friends would come down dressed to the nine, Pierre Cardin, Gabicci, afro’d up laced with dax, faces glowing from coco butter. When those Lego battles started you couldnt cry. I lost count the amount of times a 4 piece block made my eyes water, especially if it was the edge of a model. Instant bright light, or those cartoon stars. I’m convinced I saw those on numerous occasions. You couldn’t wheel away and cry if the block caught you flush on the head, instead your option was to sob for a minute and return to battle.
 
Maybe I was destined to be involved in Playwork, because we clearly demonstrated the 16 play types in our engagement then, and throughout my childhood.
 
We’d walk up the stairs and at the top the arch of the roof would form the ceiling area, and you could physically walk around. Three windows for light, and air, and a cupboard door that I was convinced for years trolls lived in. I always remember play stopping when it got dark, even though there was a light in the attic. I remember jumping up on the balcony, supported by my brother to change the bulb, many a times forgetting to turn off the switch, remember that little tingle you would get when you got shocked by the current from the light. Tingle in your elbow for a second. Risk management at its worst because if you fell from the balcony you were looking at at least a 20ft drop, only precaution was to take off the socks, but my feet were always clammy so that would never have helped.

I remember we’d perfect our football skills in the passage, or front room. Barefooted of course to improve the touch. Again, I lost count the amount of times we smashed our little toes against the leg of the chair. 

Olympics, and strongest person, and endurance games

Let me tell you they use to distress our thighs. We’d see how many steps we could jump down, and watch the amount of times our friends cracked their head on the ledge on our steps, hysterical. Or the length of time you could hold your breath under water. Or play games and if you lost, you’d have to drink a pint of water, and you couldn’t kop out. 

When we did have pocket money bargin basement would become our best friend. Now this was a place that sold batteries, stationary, bedding, and most importantly light bulbs, as we used to smashed the granny out of light bulbs playing football in the house. So light bulbs and the dust pan and brush became our best friends from an early age. Also smashing peoples windows on our road when playing football, my mum must have been pissed, now this was before double glazing so yeah, my mum must have been loaded, kids smashed windows playing football regularly.



I remember playing World Cup in our back garden, how all of my friends fitted in there, I’d never know. I use to hate having to jump over the fence to get the ball, especjally if it went into Lucky the dog’s garden. Even though he was chained up, the garden was always littered with dog shit, and dog food. On football….. I’m sure then my brother hadn’t been brained washed to support Manchester United, poor soul he’s never been the same mentally since he changed teams.

I remember run outs round the gas works, and recall all the people that slipped through the roofing and broke their legs. Talk about risk management. We’d play on top of the garages, and hoped that it would never be your turn to get the ball if you kicked it over the black wall onto the train track by Wembley Central. More irate neighbours who would curse us for playing football against the green doors at the market, and the disadvantages of being small, and having to crawl under the gate to get the ball. Those were Magical Childhood memories. I learn’t about someone on our road being gay, his actions, his behaviour, that was completely different to other boy’s then. And viewing porn catalogues, shed loads…. not magazines catalogues, and seeing some messed up female bodies. 

Lego came in full circle as my minimentor enjoys playing with them, but hasn’t yet managed to invite a group of friends around yet brave enough for battle.

 

 

Chuckle

A friend visited our home recently with her minimentor, and left me in hysterics at her actions. You know how it goes when it’s time to leave when you visit a friend, and have children, and they start to get alittle restless and figget. Well her minimentor was rolling in the passage, then moved into the front room, bouncing from cushion to cushion, turning over the tele etc etc I’m typing, but observing his playful behaviour. Now she must have asked him like 10 times to get ready and put his shoes and coat on.

To date ……….. hold on ……. let me look into the passage to see if they are still there…….. She made him wait so long at the top of the stairs, and yet continued to labrish, not even budging from the table to get up. 
Now I had a little chuckle because I’ve seem other mothers do the same thing, including my misses…… shhhhh don’t tell her.

Is it natural for women to make males to wait on them? Look I know the answer already. This is my thinking, if he was ready and sitting on bottom step I’m sure she wouldn’t have been ready any quicker.

Thanks @cordsfifi