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. 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 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.