Playworkers on tour

If you want more stories from our Canada tour, look here.

If you want more personal reflections from the road, I sometimes do this newsletter thing.

At tour locations, the three of us get up on stage together, unpack and repack cardboard boxes together, eat dinner with hosts and walk cities in search of dessert.  But in the car, I tend to nestle in the backseat and write blog posts or edit courses in the Pop-Ups pipeline.  Whatever we’re doing, it’s all about helping to grow the play movement, signpost great ideas and resources, and support individual organizers however we can.  It’s all different, all the same, and all important.

Sometimes it’s answering the same questions over and over.  How did you three meet?  Our answer offers one example of building community around an idea.

Sometimes it’s providing language that people need.  Play cue, return, frame.  Adulteration.  This last one raises eyebrows sometimes, provokes a familiar and uncomfortable chuckle.  Ohh, we can hear them think.  I DEFINITELY do that.

We repeat what people need to hear, the things that are easy to say and hard to live up to.  Play is important and special.  Children’s play is neither for us nor about us; it belongs to them.  People need specific ways to support play without directing it.  They need reflective prompts for those in-the-moment alarms.  They need stories of people who have done things differently, and what happened next.

I love this work, and feel honored to be part of a Playwork Welcome Wagon.  We go all over and meet people who are new to this field, give them a pile of new ideas and junk, and say “yes, come on in, let’s do something marvelous together”.  At pop-ups too, it’s so much fun simply saying ‘yes’ to children.  Yes, you can tape that saxophone to that cable reel.  Yes, I see you on that tower of milk crates and no, I won’t be shouting at you to get down.  Yes to whole rolls of duct tape, to smashing boxes.  Yes to taking that jetpack you made home.

Yes, yes to all of it.

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Home Run

We’re at roughly the halfway point across Canada, and in spite of myself thoughts start turning towards home.  The Little Yellow Car has been valiant on this journey, and you can follow its (and our) adventures here.

My drive back will start with a week in Glacier National Park, which I visited a decade ago and has haunted me ever since.  Then, rather excitingly, a little tour is coming together to carry me home (and possibly Andy for a spell, keep your fingers crossed at immigration).  Here are some rough dates and stops:

Denver, CO: 29 Sept – 3 Oct

Evanston, IL: 6 Oct – 10 Oct

New Albany, IN: 11 Oct – 12 Oct

Ithaca, NY: 15 Oct – 17 Oct

Do you work with a school, library or community group in Wyoming, Columbus OH, Pittsburgh PA or Albany NY?  Would you be interested in a workshop on play support, adventure playgrounds or loose parts play for children or adults?

Maybe I can add you and your setting to the list!

Play deprivation in the adult human

Last week, I had a bunch of errands to do.  Everything took longer than I’d thought (of course) and as soon as I got home I leapt onto email.  Checked both inboxes and then stared at the screen.  Suddenly the line came into my head, “I have worried all day today”.  It was simple, clear, and terribly depressing.

The thing is, I knew what was happening.  I’d felt grumpy and tired, as though I’d been continually rallying for a very long time.  The warning signs were there – I hadn’t journaled or gone swimming in days.  Everything was framed as a problem, because my brain was stuck in survival mode.  I’d done plenty of things that were important, and several that were fun, but I hadn’t played in ages.  Blaming fatigue, I’d spaced out in front of the TV instead.  This can be useful as self-care during crisis, but it’s not play.  Passive entertainment is a bit like only eating candy – you don’t die that way, but you do keep on feeling terrible.

Even after a decade of arguing for play’s importance, I still forget sometimes that applies to me.  Going through this cycle a thousand times doesn’t mean I’ve failed – it means I’ve beaten a path back through the woods, and it’s one that I can follow more easily now than before.  My ways back include writing for fun, warm showers with nice soap, baking and stretching to the radio.  Afterwards I feel calmer, clearer, braver.  I have more room for things like generosity and empathy, and indulge in much less of that self-pitying martyrdom.

If you are unsure about prioritizing your own need for play, imagine how grateful your friends and family are to interact with your best self rather than the play-deprived version they might be accustomed to.

I want to help more people learn their own ways back to play, to make those paths clear and familiar.  So, now there’s a dedicated Facebook page, and an online course.  Registration opens today for one week only.  If you have questions or experiences to share, please get in touch!  Likewise, if you are interested but cost is a barrier, we’ll figure that out together.