Monday, 25 November 2013

Always Playworking

When I'm not doing Pop-Up Adventure Play stuff, or researching play for my PhD, I work somewhere that has nothing to do with play: retail. I often find myself completely baffled by my choice to work in this environment, and (especially over the last week or so) mostly disappointed with what this industry demands: it's unrealistic expectations, and it's relentless drive towards gain. Why am I pressured to compromise the things I believe in just to make a living?

But every so often, a moment of magic arrives. And it's usually screaming at the top of his voice. All 3-foot of him doesn't want to come into another shop. Especially if his Dad isn't paying him the slightest bit of attention. So he throws himself on the floor to gain as much attention as possible as his Dad wanders off to pursue his own interests. Maybe all he wants is someone to give him a moment of attention; a moment of play. So I crouch down nearby, close enough to be heard, but not close enough to interfere with the stage he has created. "Hello little man" I say. "What's it like on the floor?" The little man looks around. We make eye contact and he's quiet for a second. And then looks away. The Dad pootles over in an embarrassed manner, and I indicate that it's okay. And I talk again "What's up little man?". He looks straight into my eyes again and considers me. He then smiles and gets up, and almost as an experiment, takes 2 steps forward. In my crouched position, I mirror his actions and I attempt step forward too. He giggles a little bit, and runs past me to his Dad, and for some reason I know, the moment is over.

I may be working in an environment that is devoid of playwork, or any suggestion that children might even be of importance, but that does not mean that priorities have changed. I still have children's best interests at heart, and am always mindful of how difficult it can be to meet a child's needs in the retail environment. But if all it takes a little smile and a wave to a chubby cold kid in pram, or the removal of a mostly melted icecream from a sticky fingered friend, or admiring the performance of an impatient 3-foot-high customer, then so be it. You might be able to take me out of the playwork world, but you'll never take the playwork out of me.

My work colleagues call me the Child Whisperer but I call myself a Playworker: it's the only way I know how to be.

329/365 - Zan reflects on a moment of play, with amazing cake.
This photo is dedicated to Ash because "it's still too early to have Christmas decorations".
This photo is also dedicated to Reece: I told you I was going to take it home and take a photo of it.
Oh, and this photo is also dedicated to Valerie. You know why, Val. :)

Hoorah delicious cake and good reflection times, and hoorah for play in unexpected places! :)

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