Every so often I’ll meet someone suspicious at the idea of playwork. That happened recently at a party.
“What if the child doesn’t want to play?” The man asked. I hastened to explain that, unlike others who might have similar job titles, playworkers do not demand that the children play. We don’t carry whistles, and we get that if you’re forced to do something or pressured to look as though you’re having fun, it doesn’t really count play at all (at least, not for the children).
“We set out to create environments that are great for playing in,” I replied. “And we have a really broad definition of play, and we’re on board with pretty much whatever children actually want to do there.”
“Even leave?” He asked. I nodded, thrilled because while we were talking about play, we were really talking about freedom. Children’s rights! Children’s choices.
Of course, we’re often predisposed to certain play behaviors. Bonfires, mud fights, tiny houses made of bark and crisp packets. We all have certain kinds of play that twang at our hearts like a sitar. And that’s okay, so long as we recognize what’s happening and keep it out of children’s way.
So, here’s my question. If we could not be called “playworkers” what else might we be?