What makes us good playworkers

I’ve been doing a lot of training recently and not that much delivery.  That is about to change, but it’s a recurring problem for myself and others who have spent a few years in the field.  I love being asked questions by curious people, but there’s something unnerving about being asked for the “correct” answer to a situation.

“I don’t know these children,” I say.  “I can’t tell you what to do.”  And then, before they can get up and leave, I start trying to give the flip side of yesterday’s post.

Playwork is, among many things, a process by which each playworker figures it out for themselves.  By “it” we generally mean “whatever is the most useful thing to do right now in support of children’s play”.  The answers are infinitely varied and depending on the situation might include quiet observation, a petition for a new bike path, or the purchase of many small-grip hammers.  Every single time, the answer will be different and so the closest I can usually come to an answer is to share what I or colleagues have done in similar situations and what happened next.

It’s also been helpful to pass across the table some of the questions that have helped me learn about playwork the best way I know how – trying, asking the opinions of people I respect, reflecting and trying again better tomorrow.

  • What do I know about this situation?
  • What am I basing that interpretation on?
  • How might children be experiencing this moment, place, or situation differently?
  • How could this environment be made more flexible and open to children’s control?
  • What is really happening, right here and now?
  • What do children need from me here, and how can I be more aware of adulterations?

As before, I’d love to hear what questions you’ve found helpful, in navigating this yourself!

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