plā′wėrk′ings, n. Portions of play matters consideration; draft formations.

White City stories: part 12

Continuing the stories from my recent after school sessions playworking week at White City Adventure Playground, London.

In between being invited into football (‘be the goalie’) and more ‘chase don’t tap’, the next day, I sit on the bench outside, wrapped up warm, and observe a fluid arrangement of children as they gradually build a den under one of the platforms. They drag over bits of things they find: a log, two plastic moulded shapes that used to belong to something, things to sit on, a long cardboard tube they find, bits of plastic guttering, a wooden rocking contraption, like a boat, that one of the children and I had dragged up to the path slope because she reckoned it would slide down, even though I reckoned it wouldn’t beat the friction. I observe the children gradually finding things for the den, and I think of the activity of Wombles!

Wombles' den
Drilling holes just to make holes

Hassan is with a boy at the bench, and the boy has a lump of wood and a power drill. The child is drilling holes part way through the wood: just drilling, process over product. I watch from nearby and then take over supporting the boy when Hassan is called away. I find I have to make constant reappraisals of my comfort level here in my dynamic risk assessment. I don’t know the child or his skills or awareness levels. I remind him a couple of times about not waving the drill around (a younger child has come to watch too, and there are also my eyes to watch out for!). He gets the drill stuck a couple of times, but he works out how to back it up with the button on. Soon enough I see that he’s OK, but I feel I also need to remind him once or twice to watch his fingers. He and the girl then take it in turns to drill through a cardboard tube they find. This is all contained by the children, but I find myself just a little on edge, if I’m honest.
A brief account of adult-child play forming

Later, children are chalking on the paving slabs. This is another of those joint adult-child experiences forming: a younger girl and I draw cats and fish and a shark, copying one another. She takes it on herself to draw fish bubbles. Later, I come back and other children are block-colouring in the shark.
Amusements of bodily functions

It’s Wednesday and I go into the computer room near the end of the session. Two children start typing various words into ‘Google image’. I stay just to see. They don’t seem to pay me any undue attention as they type ‘poo’ and ‘wee’ and ‘fart’ and talk about these things and about the pictures they find. They gross out at drawings of piles of poo! I stay just in case some images might not be suitable. The children aren’t looking for such things though: they’re looking for poo and wee and farts!
Loose food experiments

Earlier, a girl of about 9 or 10 wants some pure orange juice which is left over from tea. There are cartons on the counter. I say ‘help yourself’, so she does — three cupfuls, and it has an effect! It’s like a sugar rush (I didn’t realise there would be sugar in it like this!) and she bounces around inside and outside. She finds some old football netting and wraps herself up in it. She’s extremely fizzy. She and her two friends are laughing and she’s falling over and picking herself up and laughing out loud. She makes out she’s hurt and hides from her friends on the cushions in the store area. I go to see if she’s OK and she says not to let on and to tell the others she’s hurt. I say I won’t lie for her!

Rich and I had decided we’d do tea a little differently. Food time is fairly loose anyway — children come when they’re ready, make use of the kitchen, as far as I can see, use the serving counter. We decide we’ll just get all the food out and put it on the table tennis table so the children can make it themselves out there. A younger girl wants to help me get the stuff out (I said I’d sort the food out today). So I give her packets of crackers to take over, tomatoes, juice cartons, cups and plates, mayo and salad cream, bread. As the children start to come over (they don’t get stopped in their play; they just notice when food’s out or, if they don’t, one of us will say it’s ready when they are, as we move around the spaces), they’re a little unsure to start with. They soon work out that they should do it themselves though. They ask for jam, so I go find that. I’ve forgotten the cheese, so I bring out a big slab. There’s no problem at all with the food being done this way. Children make what they want and go off to eat it where they want.

to be continued . . .


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