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.








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.

Summer of Love

I love the summer break, always have done. Doesn’t bother me either that we’ll probably only get a day or two here and there of sun.

I’ve fallen in love this summer. I’ve been away from work and spent an enormous amount of time with my family, and continue to appreciate every drop of each moment.

I’ve not trained for the up and coming football season, for the first time in years my body feels invigorated.

I’ve spent time visiting parks, festivals and open days. Osadia

I’ve spent time walking through nature reserves, and in the warmth eating and sharing blue bubblegum ice cream.

I’ve been soaking up the atmosphere of the Olympics Olympics 2012, and visited Hyde Park with my littleman, who is still recovering from seeing Chris Hoy, and watched numerous games at Wembley Stadium.

My summer of love has allowed me to embrace the beauty of London. Diamond Jubilee Diamond Jubilee, Wimbledon, Olympics, and the BBC coverage, especially the open ceremony was breathtaking. Jess Ennis, Women’s volleyball, Mo Farrah, Chris Hoy, the Jamaica athletic’s and the world records!, list goes on Olympics 2012 footage.

So I missed out on going Jamaica House, and Puma Yard, and to add insult to everything the day I chose not to go Roundhouse the USA Olympic Team had their party there with Nas,  

 and were giving away gold beats by dre headphones.

Spent extended time with my mother cleareing out her loft, and found the most distressing throwback photos of me wearing some unsavoury looking clothing. Listened to her patios leave my littleman in hysterics, and her “teachment” to describe my late granddad’s terminology. Did some gardening, barbecuing, and shared alot of  jokes. I’m glad that her character has not altered one bit. Had to use a dust pan and brush to remove leaves from her lawn that had been cut two days prior to my visit. THEN afterwards got it trimmed again with mower. WOW.

This Summer of Love has also reminded me of how fragile life can be with the news that my godbrother committed suicide while in the West Indies with my family while burying his grandmother. Too many uncertainties……………

…. over to you Lanyo

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.



Kensal Rise

I ‘ve got my uncle’s Six Million Dollar Man with the bionic eye in my right hand, 
and I’m trying to chew my bubble gum while my mum has my head tilted to the left. 
The side of the comb connects flush to my forehead in a quick motion. That’s the signal to sit still. I can feel the coldness of my mother’s middle finger as she applies hair grease to one of the lines of my canecrow. 
I’m currently looking like Method Man in Mary J Blige’s video – All I Need
It’s a warm day in Kensal Rise, but the heaters on  
my brother’s whistling playing Subbuteo
and shouting at the mini Man United players. He’s got my McDonald’s Hamburglar car parked up in the goal, 
and giving a running commentary of the qualitywithinplay, and key match actions. Liverpool still winning.
Hair complete, and my granddad’s calling me to turn down the television in the front room. I enter and he’s sitting an arm’s length from the tele. I can see a bottle of Babycham on top of the bar. 
I think my granddad is in love with green.  Green slippers, green cords, and green cardigan justify my thoughts.
Down the banister I slide. Reaching the bottom I have to squeeze past my uncles chopper parked in the passage. 
I’m looking for my marbles and remember my brother placing them in the cupboard under the stairs. The door is at a jar, so I tilt forward on raised toes and just manage to collect them off the meter
I can hear laughter out in the front garden, and head in that direction. BLAST. My marbles have rolled out from the palm of my hand and roll between the gap between the front door, and the carpet. I kneel down and roll back the carpet back, and reveal our homes original flooring.
Marble in hand, and still chewing on my bubble gum I bounce. 
My uncle is sitting on the wall playing on his hand held, while my aunty is playing with her Cats’s Cradle. 
I’m heading to the shop for something cold, a lolly of something. Mmmmmmmmmm…………………………….
I find myself outside the barber shop
and then realize maybe there is too much juice in this bubble gum, because I’ve gone the wrong way to the shop. U-TURN
Ice pops. That’s it. If I get six then everyone back at home can have one
My uncle, aunty and neighbours from across the road are playing Simon on the wall. 
Ice pops distributed. Back inside and upstairs. Subbuteo time. Liverpool to resume dominating football
Supported researchers: Thanks to @TheRealist_Jay and Pritti Kelly for the Cat’s Cradle reminder

National Play Day

With a career span of 19 years involvement in Playwork, this journey continues to inspire me. Working in four different London boroughs, and attending numerous Play Days, this year was always going to be special.

National Play Day is a celebration of children’s rights to play. It’s a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives, and this year I was part of this celebration with Barnet Playrangers

It’s summer. It’s been baking BBM *happy face*:  Sit back and observe, and reflect upon your child’s play opportunities. Look at their play behaviour, take a few steps back, and think back to images you had when you were young, or images you would like to have had. Think what’s available for your child.

Now can they access them? and how can they use them? Can they run? Can they jump? Can they climb? Are their sounds around them of varied intensity? Is their anything to dress up in? Can they perform? Can they build? Can they deconstruct? Is their flexibility in which they can play? Is their play uninterupted?

Try and make your child be at the centre of the play process, and encourage them to use their imagination. We need to take our children back to the day’s when they were not’battery reared’. Hide that DS. Hide that Wii. Hide that PSP. Hide that PS3. Or restrict there playing time on them. Better still I’m sure I’ll need something to do after posting this blog, and will be happy to use all your children’s consoles to entertain myself.

Get down to the parks and estates and explore the borough of Barnet, with Barnet Playrangers offering free open access play opportunities for all ages

Bring a packed lunch or pop down for an hour or two with your child, and let them try their hands at manipulating the ‘loose parts’ available. Re-create some of the images at your home, within your garden, front room, passage, or kitchen. Find that space, and bring it to life. Open it. Use that unused item, resource, material, and let your imagination go.

Take a break. Climb, crawl, roll with your child. Observe it. Speak about it. Let your child be in control while you facilitate their play.

Allow your child to look for places of inspiration. Let them search for places to hide. Places of height. Places of depth. Places with varied colours. Places of varied sizes. Mmmm… throw in a little water. There is no need to be practical. Bin practicality, and take logic for a walk. The purpose is not to have a goal. It should be timeless.

Take a leaf out of my book and enjoy the summer with your child.

Champions League Final at Wembley in 2013