Thinking about playing

10 Mar

I’ve been doing a bit of reading. I’m currently reading Bob Hughes Evolutionary Playwork. I wanted to share this section with you to give you more of an insight into what Playwork is;

What do Playworkers believe? What should they believe and where should those beliefs come from?

For the thinking evolutionary Playworker, there will inevitably come a time when she asks, “Whay am I doing this?” “What is it that I am trying to do, what is it that I want to change and into what?”, and “If I were to write a Mission Statement, what would it contain, and why?”

On reflection when I first became a Playworker in 1970 my personal analysis was both shallow and naive. I wanted to help, and I wanted to do good. Having already volunteered in the local Youth Service and trained to be a teacher, I thought I had something to offer, althought the truth was, I had little idea of what that meant. This view of ‘playwork as a kind of public service’ was reinforced when I realised that the children at the playground, and their parents, came from exactly the same background as me and my parents – secondary modern educated, estate dwellers, and factory people who could perhaps do with a hand, either to maximise their life chances, or to consider different alternatives.

For my first couple of years as a Playworker, I did my ‘good’, as different situations arose, I fielded crime, behavioural issues, parental neglect and abuse, the attitudes of the authorities towards the children and their parents, violent outbursts, and community politics. But increasingly I found myself asking those difficult questions I started with. ‘Why am I doing this?’ and ‘What is it I am doing?’

I remember my epiphany well. This first playwork experience was as an adventure playworker, on a site that had been a farmyard when I had been a child, but which was now on the edge of a large and dense housing estate. I had played in the farmyard, and the surrounding countryside was well known to me. One day, whilst standing on the top platform of a tower, the children and I had built- surveying both the surrounding area and the playground, with the children going about their business – I had my first genuine insite of the context that I was working in, and that the children were playing in. What struck me initially was the change that had taken place in the twenty-six years since I had been born in that town. Where there had been firlds, now there were houses and factories. Where there had been allotments and a pond, there were just more houses. Where there had been birds’ nests, birds’ eggs, birds’ songs, newts and cattle, there were cars, parking bays and shops. And where there had been a farmyard and a pathway to the woods, there was now this adventure plauground. I wondered, ‘What difference these changes might have made to the children, and to their play? What was happening, what was going on, what was the real reaason for the playground being there?’

I began to think more about play as a need, about playing as behaviour, as an interaction of the child’s inner world with the external, as what I now call a ‘bio-evolutionary’ phenomenon; I began comparing what I had done as a child – how I had been able to do it, why I had done it – with the situation that the children on the playground were experiencing. This period and that process, together with later arguments and evidence presented in numerous texts, formed what is the basis of my own beliefs and convictions about play and playwork… However, we should remember that everyone, playworker or not, has their own valid story to tell about that play means to them.



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