Saturday 1st May

The first square was fairly quiet today, despite fairly warm weather, with just 6 children playing out on the swings, doing some chalk drawings which included the prettiest hopscotch map I’ve ever seen! It was much busier at the next square, maybe 30 children of all ages came to play. A group of dressed up teenage girls came out to smoke and hang out but they also involved with some of the younger girl’s skipping games and chalking out their names. Our regular group of girls made themselves a fabric den to shelter from a light rain shower with a hammock inside the den which 4 of them could pile into together. By the time we left the floor was covered in chalk- drawings of faces, stepping stones to jump between and names. The last square was the most energetic square today with chase games and play fights. We had to begin the session by clearing up a lot of broken glass. About 10 children and all the playworkers got involved in a disorganised war of chucking fabric at each other, every man for himself. 2 smaller girls and their dad joined in too. We had a happy, out-of-breath sense of having turned the square into a place of playful chaos! The session ended with a mini drama of ‘rescuing’ a cat from a tree but the poor cat was terrified at being mobbed by so many children and we tried to distract them away. The rain started to fall at the end and the session ended naturally with kids wandering home to the dry.

Tuesday 4th May

We had more children than usual tonight, lots were moving between our play space and the unfinished playground through a partly broken fence. Some of the children used a stone block which had previously been supporting the fence to make a swing- attaching it to an unfinished swing rope already hanging in the playground, they had fun but it was dangerous due to its weight. Lots of skipping games, football, origami andmaking tissue paper flowers happed too.

Thursday 6th May

Today one boy who usually comes to sessions seeming hyper-active (who had been involved in the rope fight) came and sat and sewed a bag for quite a while. He didn’t want it in the end, it seemed more about the process of doing it for him.
Two girls built a fantastic hammock swing, they knotted fabric onto 2 ropes and could swing really high in it while cocooned in the fabric. Meanwhile some football games took place and the sewing continued. Some girls used coloured tape to create shapes and arrows along the walls, transforming the walls totally. The session ended well with everyone involved in a football game together, the play workers and the girls versus the boys!

Saturday 8th May

Today was a grey and rainy day with less kids playing out but those who came had a good time and time flew.
I saw 2 boys of about 9 eying a shiny red ball we had brought with us and invited them into a game of volley ball. We created a net from fabric strung between 2 trees. The younger brother of one of the boys joined us and the game evolved into throwing the ball into the net from far away, then kicking it in, then trying with a moving net and throwing whilst standing on the swing!

At the next square on the estate one boy engaged in some creative play, sitting on a swing absorbed in watching gold fabric he had attached to it flying out with the motion of the swing. Eventually several children and the playworkers tested out how many we could get on the swing with him and this game grew into our using the gold fabric in a tug of war between us on the swing and a group of children standing. We also played catch between the swing people and two boys on ground.

The auntie of two of the children playing out on the session kept threw paper aeroplanes out of window for the children- one went the whole length of the square with everyone watching transfixed. The lady kept disappearing for a while and then reappearing with new aeroplanes to fly out to us, punctuating our play.

The final square we arrived at started quietly but within 10 minutes, about 10 kids came out. Masking tape was the main attraction of this session, one boy taped it across the square from fence to metal fence making a finishing line to race through. The tape also got used to tie hands together, making arrests between chase games. This square, with the least in the way of play equipment seems to have a pattern of attracting the most physical play. We finished the session with three-legged races, with pairs of children or playworkers using the masking tape to bind their legs together, a little painful but lots of fun!

Tuesday 11th May

Today was the opening day of the new playground and was very busy, 40 – 50 children came to play. They asked a lot of questions about the playground and why there were playworkers and were happy to find out it was all for them! Their play was mostly quite exploratory and finding out what they could do on the new swings. Some of the children used the arts and crafts materials we had brought to make the space their own, gluing glitter to the tree and then decorating it further by using coloured masking tape to attach fabric to it, it looked like a sculpture. We made balls from newspaper and masking tape and attached them to strings to swing about. One boy was desperate to stay and play with the balls but had reached the end of the half an hour he was allowed to stay for which seemed a shame.

Thursday 13th May

Lots of celotape games took place today! 3 brothers came and wanted to wrap the playworkers up in the tape while their little sister played at rescuing them again! Hammocks were popular again, the children made 3 seperate hammocks attached to one rope. Some boys brought out badminton racquets and shuttlecocks to play with which was lots of fun and lots of arts and crafts went on as usual on this session.

Tuesday 18th May

Today’s session was in the new playground. Lots of new kids came along who seemed happy to have the space and the play workers. It was a busy session with 40- 50 children, from roughly ages 4- 16 but the majority were between 7 and 11. We made balls from newspaper and making tape and attached them to string so they could be spun around. The boys wanted to use these as weapons to attack with Habiba with but after a while 1 boy took this too far and the game had to be stopped. 1 boy came who seems to have special needs, he was obsessed with war. He asked Rainer a lot of questions about Germany and if he knew Hitler! He said he wanted to join Osama Bin Laden and invade countries, playing a provocative role. A group of girls made jewellery- instead of using the beads we’d brought, they chose to make their own beads out of neon coloured straws. A boy came along who wanted to be a playworker, he thought Habiba was 14, the same as him so thought he’d be able to be a playworker too! The play felt much more established in the new playground today.

Thursday 20th May

‘Bee’, a regular child on these sessions, a very high energy and imaginative girl of 9 came today and dominated lotsof the games. She is very loud and bold and wants to play intensely, getting upset when she loses a game. Today, she continued her wedding game of previous weeks, sewing a veil and making Rainer the bride and Habiba the groom again.

One boy picked up our thread ad decided to make a maze through the space, he and his brother played following the thread, then Bee joined in turning it into a game where you couldn’t touvh the thread- if you did you lost a life. The boys and Bee trailed he thread all about the space, into hidden spaces behind houses, dead ends in stairwells and up onto roofs and high places, as the threads crossed it became a giant net (some boys came by on bikes and got stuck in it)! They unreeled the thread until it was totally used up, then were very proud and excited. They left to go home but stood for a long time on their balcony looking down to admire their work before going into their home.

Other children came by to make hammocks on the rope and listen to music on their phones. We saw one boy today who used to come to the sessions regualrly but hadn’t been in a year. When we asked where he’d been he said “oh, you know, Play Station- you get really addicted”.

Saturday 22nd May

Today was a hot, sunny day with a fair amount of children playing out.
A group of girls playing on the swings when we arrived called us over to play, they asked us to take it in turns on the swing while they made us as dizzy as possible, I couldn’t walk straight by the time I persuaded them to let me off!
The girls asked us to put up the hammock in the same place as last time and took it in turns pushing each other. Another girl wanted to build her own and did so with gold fabric between 2 tree posts. When she left a small boy took it over and sat quietly in it by himself for ages.

We created a shelter to escape the hot afternoon sun with lots of fabric tied between trees, a group of 6 girls sat underneath chatting and doing each other’s hair for over an hour. One girl wanted a playworker to sit on the basket swing while she stood on it making it swing and talking rapidly about her birthday celebrations and fashion opinions. Rainer and one small boy sat together making fans from newspaper.

When we arrived at the final square it was empty of children for the first quarter of an hour, Inga and I used the time to make a small tent to shelter from the sun again in a corner between two low fences. To stop the unfenced edge of our tent sagging we used masking tape to attach it to a fence on the far side of the square, and began to unroll big lines of coloured tape across the square. This seemed to attract children out of the flats and it soon became busy, several girls wanted to continue the tape lines until the square became a coloured grid of areas. It created a totally child centred space- no adult could cross without ducking down low. Lots of passers by stopped to stare at it. Eventually one cheeky boy arrived on his bike and decided to cycle through to destroy it, this turned into a chase game with him and we put him into a jail- wrapping him in fabric and pretending to try to tie him to a fence.

Tuesday 25th May

Today was windy and reasonably sunny, with just Inga and Habiba working for most of the session. There was lots of painting with the squeezy paints on big bits of paper and also knitting was popular. Lots of the girls asked Inga to teach them and their parents came along wanting to learn too. It was a busy night with lots of children out with their parents.

Thursday 27th May

We had a busy play session today, with lots of relay races. ‘Bee’ was there, again wanting to play with Rainer all by herself and finding it difficult to communicate with other children but it seems like through the play workers, she makes progress doing this. Bee and Rainer collected ladybirds in a box, then she played being an old lady, walking stooped over and asking for assistance walking down the slope. Some boys came and playfully jibed Rainer “Fat boy slim” and began play fights, Bee joined in with this.
At one point, all the playworkers and children played a game of dodge ball which turned into just running around hitting each other with a ball! This turned into cops and robbers. Dressing up was also popular today, 1 confident boy dressed himself as a woman and made many pouty-faced poses for his brother to photograph. 2 more boys joined in.

Saturday 29th May

It rained continuously through today’s session. We waited a while at the first square on the estate but no kids came out. We used the time to visit another square that was suggested to us to run a play session from, a totally barren concrete area within a private access part of the estate that currently looks very uninviting as a play space.
At the next square we had 6 of our regular kids come out to play when they saw us arrive. We wrapped fabric around and above the basket swing to make a brightly coloured rain shelter on it and pushed the girls in it. Then they wanted to push us so high our stomachs were lurching. The fabric looked beautiful but quickly became soggy. This didn’t stop the game however which continued for about an hour with lots of chatting! Rainer and one boy had a long game of chase with an orange umbrella; the boy barely stopped laughing for a moment through the session.

The final square had lots of running, chasing games with the playworkers and just 2 children. I chalked a wiggly snake shape across the square which they decided you had to run along without stepping outside of the lines, and various points you had to stop to jump or spin. The session finished more chaotically with a really fun chase game with the log pieces of gold fabric, running to wrap each other up in it, or tugs of war to get the fabric from each other and trying to make prisoners of the others.