Windfall benefits of playwork… for playworkers

Playwork has given me so much – the chance to use long-forgotten fencing skills, an improved understanding of the properties of mud, and the secure knowledge that nearly any paint can be removed from skin by the combination of a hot shower, good soap and fingernails.

It’s also given me the only real physical exercise I ever get.  In an ordinary session I’ll run short relay distances, give numerous piggy-backs, roll tires, haul on a rope swing and drag something heavy around.  When not playworking, there’s a 98% chance that I’ll be sitting down and either reading or staring at a computer – which makes it all the funnier that my next speaking engagement is at a children’s activity conference.

Are you in the Raleigh, NC area June 1?  Here are the details!

This is my last week in Houston, Texas.  I’ve been here for two months, getting to know the remarkable children and adults of the Parish School AP.  It’s been beautiful to spend my afternoons in sunshine, doing ‘proper’ face-to-face playwork again, going home with my muscles strained from rough and tumble.  In the midst of a vagabond life, it’s helped me remember to pay attention.  The children have taught me this, again.

In a recent session, Mia clung to my back and solemnly pointed over my shoulder to the many places she has found toads.  She doesn’t talk much, and in this quiet she’s created I can hear birds and the wind in the leaves.  Other children’s voices echoed, carried on a light breeze.  She pointed again and I turned, balancing on the soft ground.  My mind began to drift, and I pulled it back by a long string to make her priority my priority.  This is the essence of our job, and its bonus is in being reminded that of all possible occupations this one is a gift, to be right here and right now, looking for toads on a damp afternoon.

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2 thoughts on “Windfall benefits of playwork… for playworkers

  1. Lovely! “To make her priority my priority” is so exactly right. The problem of course is knowing what the priority is, how long it might last, what the next one in a millisecond might about to be. But that is exactly the joy of playwork. I am having the best time of my play life with granddaughter Molly aged 18 months. Windfall benefits everywhere, not least our current examination of the myriad properties of oak twigs. Y-shaped ones are very important for some reason, and it has nothing to do with catapults.

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