Lessons from Playwork

There was a time, many years ago, when I had never heard of playwork.  I thought that children were dull and sticky and annoying.  In my defense, I didn’t think much of adults in those days either.

I was an Administrative Temp, an Equity Research Assistant (whatever that meant) and, for a long time, a Bookkeeper.  The offices changed but the jobs varied only in the smallest of details.  In a skirt and blouse I could pretend I was Doris Day, and I’d file papers in the wrong folders and feel important parts of my brain quietly erode.

Adventure Playgrounds and Playwork came into my life like a revelation.  On my first visit to a site I watched a water fight, saw children piled onto a zip line and screaming with joy, and thought – you can do this for a living?  Why was I never told?

Now I’m reminded all the time that life is good, that everyone can draw something, that washing dishes in a plastic bucket can be fun, and that a mud ball to the face can be the start of a true friendship.

Play is just about the best thing ever, and it is not news to readers of this blog that playing can have positive knock-on effects for every other aspect of your life, right now and into the future.  It’s also not news that Playwork can be highly educational and below are some of the lessons that I have been learning so far.  I’m still playing with them myself, but I try to share my toys.

  1. Notice everything.  Appreciate how the world around you looks, feels and smells.  Think about what else you could do with the things that surround you, what else they could become.
  2. Be brave, in your own time.  Different things are hard for different people.  It’s okay – you can decide what’s right for you when you’re ready.
  3. Be good to people.  They’ll generally be good back, and when you meet some who aren’t you’re more likely to have friends to help you out!
  4. Be yourself.  Everything’s more fun if you stop worrying about whether you look silly or might get it wrong.  It’s too tiring to try and be what you think other people expect, and frankly not worth the effort.
  5. Be flexible.  Stay light on your feet and keep your eyes open.  Unexpected and wonderful things happen all the time, and you don’t want to miss a moment.
I would love to hear some of the lessons that other people are learning from the play field – and how what helps in putting these lessons into practice, in the playground and beyond.
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