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”, 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.


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.