Bristol Play Day 2018 - In Pictures

We had a fantastic turnout for Play Day in Bristol this year on College Green. The weather was very favourable, and we counted over 2289 children and 1585 adults that passed through the gates, so 3874 in total. Amazing!!! The total number of ice creams consumed is still unknown but it is estimated as higher!

    Many thanks to all those who contributed to making the day work so well:

    • Avon & Somerset Police
    • BAND
    • Bristol City Council
    • Bristol Fire Brigade
    • Bristol University
    • Children’s Scrapstore
    • Learning Partnerships West
    • Bristol Play Bus
    • Replay
    • The Tennis Foundation

    Play is a Process

    By Dan Rees-Jones

    A mum is walking slowly with a pushchair in tow with her two young children running around her.

    It’s a familiar scene, they are heading towards the Community Farm and Café. A popular venue with parents of young children boasting a small adventure play area, lovely café and a lively farm complete with entertaining goats.

    I live close by and on this particular morning I was also heading in the same direction with my young daughter who like pretty much all young children is interested in anything and everything! The children were also being quite easily distracted from the task of walking to the farm this morning too…..

    The first diversion started opposite our house where there is a low wooden wall made out of sleepers, 2 deep. This created an enticing prospect for the children, which quickly turned into a game of balancing on and along the wall whilst ducking under foliage, jumping off, running back along the pavement and then repeating the process.

    After a couple of this minutes mum beckoned for them to come along and cross over the road.

    On the other side of the road a steep triangular pathway created the scene for the next game.

    Running fast down the steep path whilst shrieking then running back along to the top part in order to repeat the process.

    Mum tolerated this for a bit and then beckoned them on again towards the tunnel.

    As you can imagine (by the audio example at the beginning) this provided a fantastic platform for screaming, shouting and whooping as well as the opportunity to pick at the colourful, crumbling, graffiti. Progress to the farm was proving to be slow this morning.

    Eventually at the other end of the tunnel (the farm within reach) an unusual bit of urban design consisting of some upturned pebbles in cement provided the opportunity for children to do some funny walking and balancing which unfortunately acts as an enticing toilet for domestic animals too.

    Not a great combo. Mum didn’t think so either and was quick to move them on…. But not too far….

    10 yards further on a handy low chain across some garages created yet another diversion as a hilarious swing and object to jump over. An abandoned wheelie chair which was sitting there provokingly, provided yet more entertainment The children seemed to be having a great time but mum seemed to be becoming increasingly frustrated with the constant distraction and distinct lack of pace or progress to the intended destination with those tell-tale looks other parents will be more than familiar with!

    At this particular point however she took direct action. She put one child in the push chair and held the other child’s hand and walked the remaining 20metres to the Farm.  On arrival the mum visibly relaxed, most probably relieved that she had reached the destination and parked the pushchair. However as I walked past her with my daughter I overheard a conversation with her two children.

    “Mum can we go home now… I want to go home”

    She was clearly frustrated by the demand.  Why were her children responding like this? Were they being ungrateful, or just trying to wind her up? Were they giving it a fair go?

    The farm offers a lot of great things for young children to do?

    As a parent I had an instant affinity with the mum in that situation, knowing that feeling of infuriation and impatience… but this situation also reminded me of a phrase I happened upon one holiday in France when I borrowed my dad’s VW Camper Van where someone left a note on my windscreen saying:

    “It’s all about the journey”

    I felt this phrase related to this situation that had just unfolded to the way in which the children had been playing and were enjoying being absorbed in the moment.

    The mum was keen to get the Farm to ‘play’ but in her determination had not noticed how much fun they had been having ‘playing’ all the way there…. on the low wall, the steep pathway, the tunnel, the upturned stones, the garage with the low chain and the chair. No one had told them to do this it had been an intrinsic act. They were choosing the shape, structure

    and direction for their play and had so much fun doing it on the way it’s no wonder they didn’t want to stay at the farm…. They wanted to go home to see how exciting the journey would be in reverse.

    “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

    Children are experts in play, they live in the moment and can become fascinated or totally immersed by things that as adults we may not notice or feel are important enough to warrant investigation.

    When children are engaged in play they are simultaneously learning a huge amount about the world around them. This article from the earlyarts describes this process succinctly:

    “Young children learn holistically, which means they learn from everything all at the same time. Something they learn from one experience will connect with something else seemingly unrelated and form a connection which builds context and meaning which is why it’s so important not to separate teaching into subject areas too early on.

    They also learn best through doing – active learning – and play is the best way of offering them these hands-on experiences.  Whether reconstructing real situations or building imaginary worlds,  children can develop their thinking, language, imagination, speaking and listening skills through creative play which prepares them for communicating and interacting effectively with others.Young children learn a huge amount through their senses which become finely tuned long before they may have mastered speaking or reasoning skills. They need lots of relevant opportunities to explore the objects and materials around them with all of their senses.  This helps them to construct and test theories, make decisions, overcome challenges, foster empathy, build resilience and solve problems for themselves so that they can become independent, confident and competent individuals.”

    There is no right or wrong in this situation or indeed any moral high ground to be had either, it was simply an observation of the way in which children and adults were interacting with the environments around them. It did make me aware of the differences of how children view the world around them and the impact that we can have on this as adults.

    There is poem that beautifully conveys the important roles imagination and discovery play has in early childhood learning and from Loris Malaguzzi Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach.

    The Hundred Languages of Children

    The child is made of one hundred.

    The child has

    a hundred languages

    a hundred hands

    a hundred thoughts

    a hundred ways of thinking

    of playing, of speaking.

    A hundred.

    Always a hundred

    ways of listening

    of marveling, of loving

    a hundred joys

    for singing and understanding

    a hundred worlds

    to discover

    a hundred worlds

    to invent

    a hundred worlds

    to dream.

    The child has

    a hundred languages

    (and a hundred hundred hundred more)

    but they steal ninety-nine.

    The school and the culture

    separate the head from the body.

    They tell the child:

    to think without hands

    to do without head

    to listen and not to speak

    to understand without joy

    to love and to marvel

    only at Easter and at Christmas.

    They tell the child:

    to discover the world already there

    and of the hundred

    they steal ninety-nine.

    They tell the child:

    that work and play

    reality and fantasy

    science and imagination

    sky and earth

    reason and dream

    are things

    that do not belong together.

    And thus they tell the child

    that the hundred is not there.

    The child says:

    No way. The hundred is there.

    Loris Malaguzzi

    Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach

    How to Assess a Play Space for Play Value

    By Daniel Rees-Jones

    The intention of this blog is to share a process that can be used to assess and improve playspaces developed by Scrapstore Play Services that helps guide the development of better play spaces for children in educational settings.  This dynamic process will enable practitioners to consider the affordance and assess the ‘play value’ of their setting and in turn help support decisions in the development of their spaces for play; maximising on current resources and improving the quality of play opportunities and choices available. 

    Stage 1: Assessment Frameworks

    Assessing play spaces for their ‘play value’ of spaces has been developed by a small number of play theorists and practitioners within the UK over the last decade from a playwork perspective, although this has not permeated through to schools playgrounds.  Two widely accepted and acclaimed frameworks are:

    Play Wales' The First Claim ... a framework for playwork quality assessment publication aims to enable playworkers, and any other adults with an interest in children's play, to analyse, by observation and reflection, the play environments they operate. It gives a framework to assess the quality of what is being provided and experienced. 

    Simply Play is a simple, effective play value assessment which has been developed through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Sheffield Hallam University and Timberplay Ltd. The late Professor Perry Else course leader on the Children and Playwork Degree course wrote numerous published papers and has authored a book on “The Value of Play”.  He offered supervision on this project as well as having created the assessment for play value, “Maximising Play Value” on which Simply Play was based. By developing an assessment which focuses on the quality of the play value of a space the aim has been to put the primary purpose for developing play areas back at the heart of their development, namely play. 

    In the development of this process we have slightly adapted the assessment frameworks to be more relevant to schools and playground logistics but the basic principles are the same.  The framework pictured above identifies the various components of a play space that can marked. Although each component is assessed separately they can be grouped as: The words on the framework help the user identify associations with each component.

    Scoring System

    • 0 = poor quality or non- existent
    • 1 = low quality or few opportunities
    • 2 = Satisfactory quality or number of opportunities
    • 3 = Good quality or variety of opportunities
    • 4 = excellent quality or wide variety of opportunity

    Stage 2: Observation Techniques

    When making any assessments and observations of a play space the first things that needs to be considered is:  “What does the environment afford to the children’s play needs?”

    The concept of affordance was defined by Psychologist James J. Gibson

    “the possibility of an action on an object or environment.” Affordances as all "action possibilities" latent in the environment, independent of an individual's ability to recognize them, but always in relation to agents (people or animals) and therefore dependent on their capabilities. For instance, a set of steps which rises four feet high does not afford the act of climbing if the actor is a crawling infant.

    In this short film Don Norman discusses the concept of affordance which can be used to easily understand how it can relate to children’s play.

    With affordances in mind the next stage is to use the framework discussed above to determine the following:

    • What types of play and components are currently catered for. Depending on the size of the space and to make it slightly easier this can be further sub sectioned into:
    • Natural, green areas and natural features
    • Man-made features and landscapes

    Photographing the site is helpful to use as a point of reference for the later aspects of this process. What aspects of the environment are missing or not present. Note: (This can be down to the physical limitations of the environment and or the interventions in place by staff.)

    Stage 3: Mapping & Recommendations

    Once the current and missing opportunities have been identified the next stage is to map the play space/s with all its existing physical and play features and improvements that will improve the play offer. Mapping in this way:

    • Maximises on the affordances that each environment offers
    • The creation of a sensible flow around the space
    • Enables appropriate placements for all of the recommended features, topography or links, which maximises on usage versus investment made.
    • Suggesting a stage area next to a football pitch for example means that anyone using the stage runs the risk of being hit by a football or leaves no space for an audience.
    • Considers the multiple uses of the spaces available.
    • We usually do the observation and mapping process as a small team as it brings a good range of observations and ideas to the table.

    This video shows a speeded up version of the mapping process from paper to computer. The final part of the audit process is to provide a more detailed explanation of all the recommendations with photographs and then annotated with text providing a rational. We recognize that within the school community there are many user groups so presenting this document in an easy to understand pictographic format to support any proposed changes is important. 

    The video below looks at one aspect of a site and the recommendations suggested for this. If you are interested in finding out more about playground development  please download an Visual Audit Information Sheet or contact Scrapstore Play Services or phone 0117 914 3002