Questions and more questions

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?


11 thoughts on “Questions and more questions

  1. Oooo, it’s a while since we’ve debated this one! Time for a revival!

    I think we’ve gone through a number of suggestions on what we could be called, mainly in a desire to be taken more seriously as a profession and as individual professionals. We’ve had PLAY PEDAGOGS on the list … LUDOGOGS (I liked that one) among the more reasoned alternatives … PLAYLEADERS, a term we junked many moons ago but some people still insist on using … I even remember the terms PLAYMATE and PLAYFIXER being bandied around at one conference … and a French term that I can’t exactly remember how to spell (something like (ANOTOMINAIRE?) … PLAYPRACTIONER sounds a bit too medical/early years … PLAYSPECIALIST, mmmm maybe …

    There was a certain person at the IPA Congress (Cardiff 2011) who had only recently been introduced to the concept who said he felt linking the words PLAY and WORKER together into a job title was pure genius (Marc Bekoff) and maybe he’s right … and then I remember discussing the term LEKARBETE (bit more foreign there) and as lek (play) is the root of the dialect work lark or lerk (also play) in Yorkshire that once prompted the term LERKER to be thrown around during a pub discussion. It was late.

    Out of the lot, though, I personally prefer the title MARC.

  2. Q: what do you say to a qualified playworker?
    A: erm,, I’ll have a diet coke, and beans, no, erm, coleslaw.

    Q: what do you say to a qualified playleader?
    A: erm,, I’ll have a diet coke, and beans, no, erm, coleslaw.

    Q: what do you say to a qualified playmate?
    A: how much for, erm, executive, erm massage…

    Q: what do you say to a qualified pedagogue?
    A: gerrim he’s a peedo

    Q: what do you say to a debate about what it is called?
    A; ooh, look a fossil! is a stegosaurus, nah, its a briachiasurus, because it’s got the bone ridge, no it iisn’t,where’s the mandibular process, oh yeah, must be steg then, or a pedosaur, maybe a lekosaur…

  3. “Lek or LEK may refer to:

    Lek (biology), a type of animal territory in which males of a species gather
    Lek (currency), the currency of Albania
    Lek (pharmaceutical company), now part of Sandoz, the generic drug subsidiary of Novartis
    Lek (river), a river in the west of the Netherlands
    De Lek, a former manorial fiefdom in the Netherlands
    L.E.K. Consulting, international strategy consulting firm
    Tata Airport, Guinea (by IATA code)
    Lek, a fictional form of Cardassian currency in Star Trek
    Lek, the family nickname of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand
    [edit]See also

    Lək (disambiguation), places in Azerbaijan”

    not seeing ‘play’ in that list…

    just call me King Bhumibol ‘ Lek’ Adulyadej

  4. Hi Morgan,

    What about calling you just ludopaths? It conveys the idea of being mad about play, the idea of a people dedicated to open paths towards play, and the idea that “all play and no work makes Jack a crazy boy”.

    The Yin and the Yang.


  5. Hmmm, just noticed that in English it seems that “ludopath and “ludopathy” are not (very?) used, and it’s more usual to say “compulsive gambler” and “gambling addiction”. It sounds like an oblique -protestant- way to name a ludopath (or ludomaniac); like saying “to commit suicide” instead of the latin -catholic (at least French and Spanish)- “to suicide (oneself)”. But, for you people, this apparent novelty is a blessing, because it means you have a clean new word all for yourselves to resignify. Plus it’s got all the Greek (“pathos”) and Latin (“ludus”) thing that people who like naming things is so fond of.

  6. I have left a message asking to connect with you on linkedin. We met in Islington. I read your masters dissertation from UCL. I still refer to it sometimes. Like you I am interested in the word “playworker”. The word is accurate and misleading at the same time as it can give the impression that what we do is simple and unskilled.

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