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

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

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Celebrating Play 2016

By Zan

I have been busy celebrating Playday UK, which is held on the first Thursday of August every year. Playday is a fantastic opportunity for folks all over the UK to do big, public events to raise the profile of play, and this year, I have been able to get involved too!

Yesterday, I popped-up at Wyke Children's Centre and enjoyed playing with a group of under 5s as they transformed a massive box into a house, then another box into an office, and a house-that-the-adults-made became an ice cream shop which then turned into a shed. It was a fantastic afternoon of play - some lovely photos are available here.

I have always been a firm believer of celebrating play, every day, so it doesn't really matter which day we play, as long as we do! So I am excited to say that I will also be having a belated Playday celebration on 13th August. We will be collaborating with Children's Scrapstore Salford to host a Super Super Saturday, where the folks at the scrapstore will do crafts, and Team Pop-Ups will be hosting a pop-up adventure playground! Everyone is welcome, but children must be accompanied by adults.

More info can be found on their facebook event here, but the main details are below. See you there!

Happy Playday everyone! We hope that you will be able to find time to celebrate the awesomeness of play too! 

To host your own Pop-Up, register with us for a free resource pack. To hear more from us, simply check out our Facebook and twitter. You can also find out more about what we do by visiting our website

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Campference 2017 - Registration is Now Open

By Zan

We are ridiculously excited to be announcing that registration for our Playwork Campference is open! It is of huge excitement and joy that we invite you all to register for the Playwork Campference which will take place on 16th-19th February 2017 in Val Verde, CA, at the site belonging to our good friends Santa Clarita Valley Adventure Play. You can find all the information you need right here on our specially made webpage.

Registration means that we find out about your needs from the beginning, but we have carefully made sure that you don't need to pay straight away. To take advantage of the Early Bird rate, you need only pay before 16th September 2016. If you don't pay before this date, it'll cost you an extra $100 USD, so register today and start saving up right now!

If you have any questions and concerns, please email and we'll see how we can get you there!

To find out more about Pop-Up Adventure Play, like them on Facebook or visit their website

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Campference 2017 - Introducing Jill Wood

By Morgan

Jill Wood is one of our favorite people.  We first met her on the 2014 tour - she hugged us tight when we left, and has been a tremendous Friend to Pop-Ups ever since.  Most recently, she put me up in her spare room for months while we worked together at the AP she founded and still runs.

Here is Jill with myself and Zan when we visited in 2014.

In addition to the Parish AP, Jill also started Bayou City Play - a program that brings loose parts play to all sorts of public events around Houston.  This winter, Jill and I  had plenty of evenings to talk and scheme, but never seemed to run out of things to discuss - we bet you'll feel the same when you meet her at the Campference.

I mean, read this short interview with her and tell me there aren’t at least a hundred more things that you want to hear more about?

Pop-Up Adventure Play: What was your first thought when you heard about adventure playgrounds?
Jill Wood: I first heard about adventure playgrounds when I was asked to open one at our school. In 2008 our Head of School at the time, Margaret Noecker, gave me a notebook titled Playleaders Manual, compiled by the Houston Adventure Play Association in the 1990s, and asked me to start an after school program on three acres of marsh behind the school.

The notebook had information on basic child development, tool safety, the value of play and some suggested games and building projects, but it was missing the ‘What is a Playleader?’ section listed in the table of contents…oh and the section on ‘What is Adventure Play?’ which cracks me up now.

It’s hard to imagine, but in 2008 there was almost nothing online about adventure playgrounds. The manual referred to Jack Lambert’s book, so I ordered a copy and it took three months to get to me from the UK!  So for three months we were seriously winging it. It was more like, let’s play in the marsh with the school librarian (me), an ex Air Force Readiness Officer (my friend Kelly), some tires, and a table with three legs.

But when Jack Lambert’s book arrived, there were photos of kids in bellbottoms and turtlenecks, making fires, playing in tree forts, and jumping from high places. My favorite was this picture of a girl anchoring a piece of lumber with her foot while sawing it in half with a crosscut saw. I thought, “this is like a hybrid of my actual 1970s childhood (with all of it’s free-range-iness and pants that got caught in bicycle spokes), and the childhood of my dreams (with a common space to be around neighborhood kids, real tools, and grownups who are around to help, but aren’t bossy).”

PUAP: How long have you been running AP, and what is your advice for people who want to start one too?
JW: We just finished up our eighth year, but I didn’t find playwork until year two. My advice is to find playwork at the outset so you have a good, solid set of tools to protect the space when the challenges come.

That first reaction I had when I saw the photos in Jack Lambert’s book? That affectionate/thrilled feeling I had when I saw a capable, confident child holding a saw? If you want to start an AP, you probably have that reaction too. But the adults who decide whether your space will be full or empty of playing children may not feel the same way. And you’ll need the language, empathy, and research to explain why free play is important to parents, teachers, and other adults who make decisions on a child’s behalf.

Just to clarify, saws aren’t a requirement for adventurous play!  But there are constant, sometimes subtle challenges to children’s free play. Over our 8 years we’ve discovered that many adults perceive our site as messy and accuse us playworkers of being irresponsible for not teaching the children to clean. Playwork provides some solid reasoning for leaving the site alone, related to the children’s sense of ownership, and a child’s sense of organization, which is very different from an adult’s. Let’s just say, when a child needs a piece of ribbon on our site, they always seem to know that it’s in the pile next to the fort, underneath the fence wood, behind the computer keyboard, but under the flat basketball. And if they don’t, they’ll find another child who does. Playwork explains that phenomenon with research and language that is neutral.  It even provides an explanation for why a tattered, mud-coated piece of blue ribbon has been in circulation on the playground for five years. And why it’s more coveted than the brand new rope donation I got for the kids this year.

PUAP: You've also spent some time studying playwork on an AP in London, and visited a few sites there.  What did you see, and what would you like to share with the the US-based advocacy scene?
JW: In 2010 I took a course on an adventure playground in North London. Playworkers from all over the city attended because it was a required course for a particular level of playwork certification. On the first day we talked about table saw safety and I thought, “Whoa, they let 6 year olds use table saws over here? Um, that’s something we’ll need to work up to…like very gradually…if ever…”

Then we started building structures for the children and it was a newish adventure playground, so I thought, “hmmm, they must be making structures that kids can build onto like at the Huntington Beach AP in California.”

Then we started building the walls, adding decorations, finishing touches and I thought, “What the…”  We adults were building the playground and there were no plans to add materials for the kids to manipulate, build or destroy.

This is a roundabout way of saying there are a wide spectrum of adventure playgrounds in London. Some, like the one I visited after class, Somerford Grove Adventure Playground, are excellent. It has climbing platforms, crashing opportunities with mats, a giant swing, and tons of hidey-holes for thinking, chatting, or just escaping, and piles of non-precious stuff for kids to stack, lean, throw, or smash. It can be difficult for adults to make out the particulars, because the entire playground is splashed with random color, like confetti, or a giant game of pick up sticks. It’s beautiful and filled with children who live nearby and come and go as they please.

Then there are APs that are built because the government has allotted a certain amount of money that needs to be spent quickly in a particular neighborhood. Something gets thrown up without community participation, or even child participation, but refers to the aesthetic of an adventure playground – raw wood, rope, unexpected angles.

It’s easy to be dismissive of the latter, but there are stories behind both. Some adventure playgrounds thrive, while others are fraught with compromise to the point of being cool-looking fixed equipment playgrounds. We should learn from both, be certain that compromise is certain, and decide beforehand where we’ll budge and what is non-negotiable.  I’m sure Somerford Grove made compromises, but they did it in a way that maintained a wide variety of play opportunities, and protected the children’s ability to manipulate the space.

We have an incredible opportunity in the U.S. right now. I hear a shift happening among parents, teachers and others who advocate for children - growing numbers of adults who are tired of seeing children’s worlds shrink. This is so exciting!  I just want us to know history as we move forward. And to accept a wide range of adventure playgrounds and adventurous play, knowing that there will be differences between all of them, and that the children’s ownership of the space is the non-negotiable.

PUAP: How do you play, for yourself?
JW: I love to ride my bike - not competitively, wearing special clothes or anything - just a leisurely ride along the bayou. Reading fiction with my feet up is nice. And organizing my collection of tiny things in small acrylic boxes on my custom built tiny shelves is where I completely loose awareness of space and time.

To be the first to hear more info on our Playwork Campference, please register your interest here. To read more about Pop-Up Adventure Play and our work with folks from all over the world, please check out our facebook page and our website