By Pip Levett, Director of Play
Play Gloucestershire were recently invited to present our thoughts on resilience at Playwork Partnership’s ARTPAD meeting with a range of European partners. This invitation got us thinking deeply about how what we do contributes to resilience, and our ultimate goal of childhood wellbeing. For a long time now I’ve observed how play builds ‘character’ in children, helping them to take the rough with the smooth and better cope with childhood challenge, trauma and crisis. More recently I’ve started to think of this as resilience – and how play can help children with adversity. In the play sector and beyond, lots of people seem to be recognising the importance of resilience, and I think this is a really good thing. Resilience is a great asset for children to have in their personal locker, and carry forward in their lives.
Here’s an example from a recent play session.
Two small boys always choose to play with each other in our Play Nurture Group, at their primary school. One week, a ‘sword fight’ using plastic water pipes resulted on one getting hit on the hand. Hecalled his friend ‘stupid’, and his friend did not like it one bit. His friend went off, and sat on his own, looking very cross. The other child tried to make friends again, to no avail. He came to me clearly upset, and I listened to him, acknowledging his feelings. Rather than go and fix things, I said I wondered what he could do to make friends again. This boy spent quite some time going between his friend and me, trying to fix things. Finally, he ran over to me looking very happy, and told me they were friends again.
In terms of building resilience, play contributed through learning (some important life skills including reconciliation), emotional regulation (managing feelings and range of emotions), attachment (the importance of friendships and social connections) and problem solving (I can fix this myself).
This shows how the everyday adventures we share with children whilst playing outdoors can contribute to building their resilience.
A short while ago a friend of Play Gloucestershire contacted us and said “I think you should be nominated for a Heart of Gloucestershire Award!”
So a nomination was placed and as a surprise to us all at Team PG we received an email saying we were a finalist in the Community Project of the Year category and would we like to attend the ceremony!
Now, it is rare to see our Play Rangers in anything but our very recognisable blue polo shirt, possibly shorts or tracksuit bottoms, perhaps a hoody, most certainly some sort of mud, paint or face paint splattered across them, so when our Team Leaders Katie & Ben attended the awards they had to spruce themselves up a bit.
It is a cliché, but it is an honour to be recognised by the judges (thank you) who must have had a really tough job coming up with the finalist, let alone picking a winner for each category!
The winner of our category was the amazing project/smart phone app Hollie Guard (available on iOS, windows and Android phones) please check it out, we have it on our phones. It is an amazing app and a worthy winner.
We had the honour to meet some truly inspiring people and hear their stories at the ceremony, at times it got emotional, there were plenty of giggles too.
Well done to all finalists and winners of course!
During the summer holidays the excitement for Olympic based play increased in line with Team GB’s success in Rio. On our return to after school play in September the feats of Paralympic GB inspired some of our play.
Using our tennis nets we made our own sitting volleyball court “This is harder than actual volleyball” one teenager told us. We then set about creating our own version of Goal Ball, for those that don’t know what Goal Ball is, you must have a look at some of the footage online IT. IS. AMAZING! Using a ball with a bell in it, teams of three compete in trying to score a goal by throwing the ball past the other team – the reason for the bell in the ball? All competitors are visually impaired and they use their hearing to dive and save the ball – superhero skills.
Using our trusty tennis net (multi use equipment or what!?) again and making a blindfold with material from the dressing up box we had ‘blind penalties’. Our goalies were visually impaired by the material and they had to trust and rely on their partner (behind the goal) to tell them which way to dive, we didn’t have a ball with a bell in it (we’re working on that) and we couldn’t guarantee complete silence. The penalties took place with plenty of strategy, skill and lots of laughter as we tricked each other occasionally to dive the wrong way!
With small adaptations to our kit and games we have enjoyed (and still do enjoy) our own little slice of Rio action.
by Ben Morris, Team Leader
Director of Play, Pip Levett, looks back at the Summer…
It’s hard to know where to start, when reviewing 89 days of play this summer in 27 Gloucestershire communities for more than 1,600 children and young people. I’ve tried to capture a few thoughts following our summer de-brief, and am staggered by the range of memorable moments, tricky situations, kindness, talent, reliability and stamina of Team PG.
Rio Olympic Inspired Play: We always connect with big international sporting events, and using our fab ‘Get Set Action’ resources spent much of the summer creating medals, Olympic hoops, flags, and setting each other challenges with hybrid Rio Olympic style events. Some girls made medals and created their own ceremony, singing a song that apparently represented ‘Planet Girl’. A boy in Springfield Park, Cheltenham just wanted to do running races and was unbeatable!
Rural Play Matters: We’ve added Willersey, in the Cotswolds to our growing list of rural villages that we take play out to. Whole families looked forward our visits and Robert, 11 told us succinctly “Every village in the entire world should have Play Rangers. It allows you to come outside and brings everyone together. It really is a nice idea”. Our rural play gatherings in Saul were given a boost by volunteers in the village opening up the Memorial Hall for toilets and tea, much to everyone’s delight. Up and down the County we had parents and grandparents helping out, bringing the Rangers cups of tea, and making lovely comments about Team PG. One Ranger told me “I felt almost overwhelmed by just how grateful the local parents were”.
Priceless Moment: In Chesterton, Cirencester a group of children spent much of the day hiding under a camouflaged tarp in the trees asking various Rangers to see if they could see any movement or hear them. One Ranger overheard the group doing what we call a dynamic risk assessment, working out how to avoid hurting themselves, whilst playing. So you do listen to our Rangers!
Feeding hungry children: We have met lots of hungry children this summer, and it has been our pleasure to share the food donated by Tesco Community Food Connection in partnership with FareShare FoodCloud. Simple food shared outdoors and fuelling active and creative play is a great recipe for childhood wellbeing.
Painful Injuries: Our First Aiders have been called into action this summer, because of course when children (and Rangers) play outdoors accidents happen. A little girl was bitten by a dog at one session, and our Rangers were so kind that her Mum left us a lovely phone message telling us how brilliant we’d been.
Separated Families: It can be very traumatic when parents split up, and difficult to find things to do together that are fun and free with the feel good factor. We’ve noticed quite a few Dads coming to our sessions with their children, and enjoying time together in a relaxed way. Many talk to us and other parents about the difficulties when families split, and we are able to offer our friendship and a sense of belonging.
I’m left reflecting on Team PG’s super human effort, the marvellous power of play and will end with words from a local Mum “Amazing… we had great fun, the staff are the best, the service second to none. Always a welcome and the children come away completely worn out. The children love everything from the games, arts and crafts, chatting with staff”.
Thank you Team PG, you are amazing!