Tuesday, 20 September 2016

PRESS RELEASE: Registration Open for Upcoming One of a Kind Playwork Campference February 1619, 2017 in Val Verde, CA


Val Verde, CA - February 16-19, 2017 - UK based Pop-up Adventure Play is teaming up with Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play to host a first time Playwork Campference in Val Verde, CA February 16-19th 2017.  

The Campference will headline Professor Fraser Brown, Head of Playwork at Leeds Beckett University’s School of Health & Community Studies, Erin Davis, Director of the documentary “The Land”, and Jill Wood, founder of “AP” adventure playground in Houston, TX.  Campference programming will also include a variety of hands on workshops, keynote Q&As, a screening of “The Land”, discussions and activities surrounding playwork theory and practice with National and International playworkers, and more.  Early bird registration ends 10/2/2016, overall registration ends 1/16/2017. Participants also have the option to camp on site at the Eureka Villa Adventure Playground slated to be the seventh in the US.   

Playwork involves in depth knowledge of play psychology, play “cues”, and risk benefit assessment. Playworkers traditionally work on Adventure Playgrounds where they make sure the children stay safe but do not inhibit the play in any way. However, playwork concepts may be applied to a variety of instances whether working with kids or adults in formal (i.e. educational or structured) or informal private, public or domestic settings. Adventure Playgrounds have been commonplace throughout Europe since World War II and are seeing a resurgence in the US.  The new wave of adventure play has been covered by various news sources including the New York Times, Atlas Obscura and The Atlantic.   The playwork campference will facilitate an international conversation between diverse individuals ranging from decades and degrees in playwork to those brand new to it.  “I’m very excited about coming and meeting all the people who will be at the Campference. … It’s going to be an opportunity to do stimulating work to get the whole idea of playwork going.. to give it a base level to work out from” said Professor Brown.  Regarding the state of play in America, he believes, “it’s very timely right now... things are beginning to develop. Right now I have three American based students doing post-graduate work with us.” Professor Brown has written numerous books on the benefits of playwork including his experiences doing therapeutic playwork with children in orphanages in Romania and Transylvania.  

Erica Larsen-Dockray, co-founder of Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play remarks about the Campference, “We could not be more delighted to host such a unique and necessary event here in Southern California.  Playwork concepts reaffirm two very important elements which I feel are lacking in the US.  One is kids being allowed more self-directed time in their days and second is adults supporting and trusting kids to take risks and practice independence.  Culturally we have forgotten how to let kids just play on their own terms as well as embrace play in our adult lives.”

Suzanna Law, Co-Founder of Pop-up Adventure Play and current Leeds Playwork Phd candidate says, “This is something of momentous occasion for me because we have been working so hard at Pop-up Adventure play to bring playwork ideas to people across the US and hopefully better play opportunities for children as a consequence. A child has a right to play, but in order to play they also need to feel safe and in an environment where they are supported.  They have a right to believe and to direct everything that is in their own lives and in the US this may be taken for granted and we need to know now in order to support play we need to support the whole child.”

Pop-up Adventure play was founded in 2010 by Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby and aims to help make a children’s right to play a reality in every neighborhood by disseminating playwork principles to a range of audiences.  Operating primarily in the US and UK, they provide long-distance and in-person support to play advocates in seventeen countries and recently completed a world lecture tour.  

Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play was founded by Jeremiah Dockray and Erica Larsen-Dockray in 2014 after Jeremiah began the playwork course.  While working on a course assignment he came across an abandoned 2 acre park which is now the developing home of Eureka Villa Adventure Playground.  It will be the only adventure playground in Los Angeles County.  


Aside from the park’s development, they have held numerous pop-up adventure playgrounds all over Los Angeles County for private and public events.  For more information on them please visit www.scvadventureplay.com

Anyone interested in attending or registering can visit the Campference information page at:  https://popupadventureplaygrounds.wordpress.com/playwork-campference-2017/

Early bird registration ending on 10/2/2016 is $375 for campers and $300 for non-campers.  Regular registration ending on 1/16/2017 is $475 for campers and $400 for non-campers.  Camping rates include meals, snacks, and basic camping equipment if needed.  Financial aid may be available on a first come basis.  

Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Co-Founder Pop-Up Adventure Play

Jeremiah Dockray, Co-Owner Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play

Check out the whole press release here.

Monday, 19 September 2016

Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Salford, UK - Guest Writer

By David Stonehouse

David is one of Pop-Up Adventure Play's wonderful Playworker Development Course tutors. First as Pop-Ups Zan's PhD friend and now as a colleague, David has been working hard to take playwork into hospitals using his specialism as a trained nurse. In celebration of Playday 2016, we hosted a Pop-Up with Children's Scrapstore Salford and we asked David to volunteer for us for the day. Here's how he got on.

This is my first ever blog about my first ever Pop-Up Adventure Playground. I must confess that I was a bit nervous as to what to expect and to what my involvement and role would be. However I had nothing to worry about as I was in the expert hands of Team Pop-Up lead by Suzanna Law!

I did have a little panic when Suzanna said to me before any children had arrived and we were just setting up to go and make something! I haven’t made anything in years, especially now being an academic who just reads and writes! But after the initial confusion and embarrassment at not knowing what to do, I observed Suzanna and crew and got stuck in. I must confess I was quite impressed by my boat creation and even more impressed when some of the first children to arrive came over, climbed in and took it over. They even knew what it was supposed to be.

As a tutor on the Playworker Development Course, I of course know the theory of Pop-Ups, but to actually see one in action was amazing. I must confess I was a little bit nerdy in identifying the different parts of the play cycle in action and loose parts and all the other theory that we know so well. But seeing it put into practice brought it all to life.

The buzz of activity and the happiness on the faces of the children and their parents was a joy to see. The children from the very youngest to the older children all got stuck in with dens and houses being built and children rolling around inside cardboard drums. There was even a drumming session going on which brought a new dimension to the event. A manikin’s arms, hands and legs proved a firm favourite with the children, with different body parts being incorporated into their play.

I was surprisingly exhausted afterwards, but had the most amazing experience. If you haven’t taken part in one yet, would I recommend it? A resounding Yes!  I am hoping that Suzanna will invite me back again to volunteer soon.

If you'd like to host your own Pop-Up Adventure Playground, then sign up for our free resource pack. To hear more from us and our work, visit our Facebook page, Twitter, or visit www.popupadventureplay.org.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Pop-Up Adventure Playground in Boston - Guest Writer

By Erica Quigley

Erica came to us with her background in Landscape Architecture hoping to take more of a playwork approach to her work. Pop-Ups Morgan has been her Playworker Development Course tutor since January, and was able to meet her at the adventure playground on Governors Island this Summer. She came and spent the whole day, perching on tires to scribble notes, and sitting with us in the shade of an enormous tree to watch the clouds pass overhead. Here are some thoughts from her first ever pop-up adventure playground.

I’m a student again. I spent 12 years as an environmental educator, and can whip up a hands-on, place-based unit on structures in a couple of hours. I can align it to the state curriculum and then coach teachers as they integrate the lessons into their literacy units. But can I step back and observe a child building a cardboard structure, without offering advice?

I’m three years into a master’s of landscape architecture at the Boston Architectural College, and four modules into the Playworker Development Course. In July, I got to combine design thinking and playwork training by running my first pop-up adventure playground in South Boston’s Joe Moakley Park. I was nervous, but one boy’s bossiness helped lessen my apprehension.

This boy, about six years old, arrived at the site and immediately set up a cardboard wall, asked me to cut a hole, and made two arrows pointing to the hole. He said that would make it easier for people to find.

He went behind the fabric on the other side and asked for more tape. He used a container lid to cover the hole from his side. After a few moments, I decided to knock on the wall. Sure enough, he lifted the lid and passed a clothespin to me, telling me to pass him something in return. As we continued the game, I relaxed a little.

For days I had fretted over having enough materials, fitting everything into the van, having too many kids join the pop-up, having too few kids join the pop-up, dealing with skeptical parents, or intervening too much in children’s play. As this boy-shopkeeper directed me through a play frame, I felt like the student who is delighted to find the test only includes fill-in-the-blank questions, not short answers. It wasn’t that I hadn’t studied the material; it was that, for the first time that day, I felt confident that things were going well.

We had more than enough materials, and saw children use the materials for creative, exploratory, and dramatic play. It took me a while, but I got over my frustration that we weren’t attracting more kids. (“Why are they playing with footballs and going down the slide? Don’t they know how much more FUN this is?”) At one point, ten boys were playing with sports equipment, and six girls were playing in the adventure playground, and I was concerned the boys wouldn’t come over because they’d perceive the pop-up as “for girls.” The boys didn’t come over, but that was their choice. I was lucky to have Chenine Peloquin, a fellow playworker-in-training, helping with the pop-up. We discussed why kids gravitate towards what they’re familiar with, especially in a new setting. The site was all the better for offering many play opportunities.

My recent professional and academic work in landscape architecture has focused on environments for play. I’m using a play lens, but I’m also using a design lens to create spaces that offer more freedom for children. Moakley Park, which is more than 60 acres, is nearly all sports fields, with two playgrounds and one seldom-used street hockey court. The park sits on the coast and will need to be redesigned for resilience to sea level rise and increasingly strong storms. It is my hope that new park features such as hills and stormwater channels will be playable, and that designers will consider how children play in the landscape, not just on equipment. We hope to blend play, memory, and design to influence park planning. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to practice stepping back and letting children play.

To host your very own pop-up adventure playground, register here. To jump onto our Playworker Development Course and join Erica in the quest for more playwork knowledge, email suzanna@popupadventureplay.org today! www.popupadventureplay.org

Monday, 15 August 2016

Chapter Zero’s 1st Pop-Up Adventure Playground In Singapore - Guest Writer

By Chapter Zero

The ladies at Chapter Zero warmly welcomed Pop-Ups Zan to Singapore when she visited in June 2016. They have since joined the Playworker Development Course and are trying their hand at putting theory into practice. Here is an account of their first ever pop-up!

We were very excited when presented with the opportunity by the Singapore Wellness Association to take up Baghdad street which is located in the heart of Singapore’s Arab Quarters, one of the most vibrant and atmospheric pockets of old Singapore. So on Saturday, 6 August 2016, the length of Baghdad Street was closed and we kicked off Singapore’s very first Pop-Up Adventure Playground on the city’s streets!

Here is our account of how we got ready and what happened on the day of the event itself.

A few weeks before the Pop-Up, we received the resource pack from Pop-Up Adventure Play and we came up with a list of materials / loose parts that we wanted to use. And so our search began! Between the things we found in our homes, the items donated by a few friends and whatever we were able to salvage during a dumpster-diving run to one of the industrial areas, we felt like we had a pretty decent collection of “junk” ready to be played with.

Our loose parts collection a few days before the
event. We ended up using many more things!

We also decided to invest in a few things that we thought might be useful in the future Pop-Ups, such as aprons for our team, kid-safe scissors, plastic chains and some rope. All came in very handy!

On the day of the Pop-Up, we loaded up our rented van with all the things we had sourced, and set out to play! We arrived about an hour before the start of the event and after unloading, we proceeded to get the street ready for the children. Our plan was to have a dry and a wet area, and so we separated the materials between the two and with the help of our volunteers started setting up the environment. We built a simple tepee with some long cardboard rolls and tape, and a little “fort” with two wooden pallets, but otherwise left the material as they were for the children to work their magic.

Before we knew it, people were arriving and children were rummaging through all the stuff. As the play progressed, some tourists who were passing by stopped us (we were identifiable by our aprons!) to learn more about what the event was all about, and some families who were enjoying the cafes and restaurants flanking the street started joining in the play! At one point, the Pop-Up generated a crowd, we estimate, of close to one hundred people, with children making more than half the number.

The first visitors to our playground. How exciting!
Much to our surprise and delight, things proceeded smoothly from here on. The children didn’t need any encouragement and were absolutely thrilled with all the loose parts they could find on the street. And parents were happy to just stay on the sidelines and let the little ones play.

We had the privilege of watching the children unleash their creativity, playing with the materials in ways we never imagined. The plastic chains were a great hit, with children swinging and swirling them about, making waves by hitting them against the ground, and then holding the chain out at both ends so that other children could jump over it. Some children also used kitchen tongs and sticks to “cook” the plastic chain “noodles”. A long cylindrical plastic map storage tube was at first kicked about, and chased after, stood at one end to have rubber rings thrown at before being kicked or whacked down with a cardboard tube, and eventually used by children for log-rolling! It was exhilarating watching the children fashioning the material into things they could drag, fling around, climb in and out of, stomp on, roll about and even paint on.

Chapter Zero’s 1st Pop-Up Adventure Playground in full swing.
About an hour into the Pop-Up we had an unpleasant surprise (or as we later realised – a blessing in disguise), it started to RAIN! And we are not talking here about a small drizzle, it was a proper heavy downpour – just what one would expect in Singapore. We did a quick team meeting and decided that since so many families stayed on, we should carry on. But we were clear that in order to keep the play going, we had to set a good example and so we did…

Let’s do this, people!
It didn’t take long for more children to join in. Some with umbrellas and water-proof jackets, others opting to get soaked – they all found a way to make the most of it.

Playing in the rain is fun!
As the rain started to die down, the street filled up with people yet again. We witnessed some of the best play we have seen in a long time, with children jumping up and down the puddles and re-purposing the soaked materials. It was such a joy to watch and we couldn’t have been happier with how the things turned around despite the rain! Some parents even commented, from watching the children play, that the rain actually made the event even more interesting and added more layers to the possibilities for play.

The show must go on!

We had been out in the street since 4pm and it didn’t start to clear until around 7pm. There were children who didn’t want to leave, and we were sad that we had to end their play as we had the street only until 7:30pm. We started packing up and cleaning, with plenty of help from the parents and children who stayed behind.

Afterwards, we received a gush of appreciation and acknowledgement from the parents who had been there. It touched our hearts getting such positive and encouraging feedback, and fuels our desire to set up more Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds in the near future!

To host your very own pop-up adventure playground, register for your free resource pack here. To talk to us about our work and have a collaboration of your own, get in touch with us! More info about us can be found on our facebook page or our website www.popupadventureplay.org.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Playworking Auntie: Finding My Feet

By Zan


She ran straight past me and launched her 14-month-old self up the playground slide. This is not the first time she has done this, but apparently the excitement and freefall of going down the slide wasn't quite enough so ever since she could walk, all she's wanted to do was go up the slide. Every time before today, she would go slow, take a few steps up and upon working out how steep it was, she would look around for support. Her little hands would grab hold of a big pair of hands and without breaking eye contact with the top of the slide, she would be assisted to the top. This time was different though. This time, she went fast. She got further up the slide than usual, grabbing onto the sides with both of her tiny hands. To me, she seem to suspend in the air in slow motion for a minute, gripping onto the slide like Spiderman. But she didn't look around for help like usual, so I didn't offer any. I stood right next to her with my arms ready but she didn't want them. And then slowly slowly, like she was melting, she pitched forward made contact with the slide, and chubby-cheeks-first she slid down slowly on her face. She looked up at the slide when she got to the bottom and blinked, like nothing had happened. Then she looked around, grabbed both my hands and proceeded to the top of the slide just like every other day.


Taking my hands in his, he steered me towards the shoe rack. He wasn't walking independently yet but his little personality was - in his mind he was standing tall and walking fast! He knew what he wanted and he was going to get it. So we made our way to the shoe rack and he stood happily holding it as he patted everything down, like you do when you are 11 months old. After maybe a minute or so, I offered my hand to him for further wanderings but he batted me away, so I sat down on the floor and watched him pat stuff. Maybe another couple of minutes passed and I experimentally grabbed both his little hands to see if he wanted to go and pat something else, but his little feet refused to move (I have no idea how such a small person can refuse to move, but it happened) so I sat back on the floor and watched him gleefully pat everything again. Not long after that he looked round at me, satisfied and I offered him my hand. He took it and then guided me to a new location, happy that he had done what he needed to and was off to do the next Very Important Thing.


I've been spending a fair amount of time with my niblings (group term for nieces and nephews) recently, getting to grips with the idea that I'm both an Auntie and a playworker at the same time. I am gradually realising something: when I am looking after these tiny little people, the thing I am basically doing is meeting their needs. They are before words so they cannot communicate their thoughts, so we have to learn to read the signs. There is a cry for "I'm tired", and a sign for "I'm hungry", two basic needs outlined by Maslow that says we must meet to achieve a good foundation for happiness. Babies have a third sign too, the one I'm good at identifying - a cue to play. I'm well practiced at this one and even though my niblings are miniature, they are still people and I am familiar with what it looks like when we want to play.

In any play space, I am quietly observing children to see how best I can meet their needs so that they can play. I have prompted children to go to the bathroom ("This will be right here when you get back") because their pee-dance is getting in the way of whatever self-directed play frame they are involved with. Back in my playranger days, I would often have to bring hot cocoa to my play sessions because it was so cold and rainy that the children were not able to comfortably be themselves and play. On more than one occasion, I have quietly produced a facial tissue next to a runny nose without them really realising where it came from, so they they could continue playing without leaving to deal with a pesky situation.

So really, being a playworking auntie is very similar to... just being a playworker. At least it is right now when they are both before words and their biggest priority in the day is to explore the world. I wonder what will happen when they begin to talk! I look forward to this next big step for my little niblings.

This is the part of the Playworking Auntie Series, the first post of which is here. To read more from Pop-Ups Zan, please visit her personal blog. You can find more about us on Facebook and through our website www.popupadventureplay.org.