December 2010

23rd November 2010

It’s been the coldest day so far this winter, 1 degree with an icy north wind on top, so it was really positive to have ten children coming to today’s session. A new family came by, a young brother and sister with their mum who was curious about who the playworkers were and why they were there. Habiba chatted to her about the project and she was happy for us to play with her kids. They played on the swings and did some painting and didn’t want to leave when their dad came to call them inside, the boy threw a tantrum about going.

The regular group of girls came by too, playing ‘it’ and painting. A group of teenage boys who are nearly always hanging out around the play sessions but normally don’t communicate with us stopped for a brief chat today.

25th November ‘10

Another really cold day, 0 degrees, and this reflected in the numbers. Only 1 girl came by today but we had a great play session with her. We played hopscotch for a long time with lots of cheating and fun. She played a game of drawing around her feet with chalk then jumping to a new spot and chalking the new spot and so on, a game she used to play with Tess when she had worked on these sessions several months ago. We played with glow sticks too, hoping these would entice more kids down too by making the session glow in the dark!

27th November ‘10

Today the cold spell continued and at the first square we had no children today, unusual here as our regulars have been out within minutes of us arriving for months now. We put some coloured tape round a section of the square to create a bright play space and played hopscotch among ourselves to stay warm but though we saw a few faces watching out the windows no one joined us.

We had a lovely session with 3 girls at the next play space. We began with the tape again, sticking long lines of different colour tape across the whole width of the square, then began to chase and tape the girls as they joined us. Next they got their revenge, taping Habiba and I to the tree. We broke free of the tree eventually- the tape gets surprisingly strong with enough layers, and had a happy, chaotic chase game for most the session. The tape is great to ball up and throw during the packing up process too! (We avoided using any chalk at this estate this week, following some complaints from last week where chalk use was high! Last week’s chalk was still visible as it hadn’t rained).

At the final square no children were playing out and it was just us for 20 minutes until 2 of our regular children and a new friend arrived back home from an outing. We played chase with them, using the tape again and got the glow sticks out for the last 30 mins as twilight deepened, using them as swords in a war game. The kids tried to ‘vaporise’ the playworkers and trap us in the basket swing. The glow sticks moving through the dark added extra atmosphere to the play.

30th November ‘10

Today was the first snowy day of this winter, snow had lain over-night and it continued to snow all through the session. We had lots of snowball fights with teenagers and younger kids passing by, who stopped for a little while to enjoy the snow before hurrying back into the warm! A little girl came with her mum too but just for a short time as her mum was worried about her getting too cold.

2nd December ‘10

Today’s was a really nice session and with everyone enjoying the snow again with more snowball fights. The regular kids came plus a family; it often feels very family-orientated here. We experimented with the kids to see how big we could make the snowballs but it was too powdery to hold well! The kids got more and more creative with how they played with the snow, 2 of our regulars decided to make a store tank of snowballs on top of the garage roof and then throw them down from there.

There was a bit of tension between 1 boy and another with his sister during the snowball fights, 1 boy got quite aggressive and provoked them by throwing an icy-hard snowball into the girl’s face so she and her brother retaliated, chasing him to fight him- they couldn’t catch him and it blew over.

A couple of teenage boys came and threw snowballs hard at the play workers but it softened into something more playful. After the snow fight these boys stayed and played ‘Gladiator’, rolling and sliding down a slope covered in snow and ice.

4th December ‘10

It was slightly warmer today, back above freezing anyhow, with some light rain helping the ice to thaw. At the first square there were no children for nearly 45 minutes and then suddenly 3 children, whose family were at a ceremony at the Sikh temple round the corner, came by to play on the swings. They stayed away from us at first but I went to say hi and explain we were running a play project and that they could use our stuff (they’d been eying the foam swords we had with us today). The girl asked if I had any ID as they weren’t allowed to talk to strangers but was happy enough when I turned round to show her it said ‘Playworker’ on the back of my vest! They took the swords and played with them amongst themselves then gradually it merged into a game with us and lots of chasing. The 2 girls were also keen to use the hammock. The fun we were having drew a few more kids out of their houses, including a couple of our regulars who said their mums had been reluctant to let them out in the ice at first.

At the 2nd square it was the same story, we had to wait a while and play ourselves before the kids out. We’d found some wrapping paper thrown out on the street on our way there and decided to tape this around the tree. The kids got excited about this ‘Christmas tree’ and decorated it with lots more tape, string and ribbons from the wrapping paper set we’d found, then poured glitter into the bark and around the tree. Rainer sang ‘Old Tannenbaum’ at the top of the voice and despite that all the kids were from Muslim families, everyone got into a festive spirit! We played more sword fights and had stick on moustaches which the kids loved, “I’m a scary villain now” one boy told me! We also continued with crafts, I showed the kids how to cut chains of gingerbread men out of paper.

We were late getting to the last square as it was hard to leave the last one and our two regulars told us off! It was just them and us here and was dark soon into this part of the session. Morgan and I played with the older girl, she wanted to continue a game we’d had going several weeks now where we’re her prisoners. She was a very reasonable prison keeper. We could earn shillings for jobs, such as looking after the princess or helping the chef, and could spend these on luxury foods- beyond the “sloppy, ploppy porridge” which is all we were allowed for free! She was very clear and vivid in expressing what she imagined without being bossy at all. Meanwhile Rainer had another imaginative game with her younger brother who wanted to play power rangers. Morgan lent him her head torch and he contorted himself to explore how he could move his head to get the light to travel in different directions. Then it became his laser to kill the ghosts! At the end of sessions his sister always checks to ask who will be coming the next week, a little anxiously, wanting to be sure we’ll be coming back.


23rd October 2010

Today just Inga and I were working on the session. We had a lovely session with our regulars at the first square, we chat more these days it seems, it feels like now the kids have checked out us out through playing together they’ve got confident talking with us. One boy, who is particularly bright, always likes to chat about jobs and money. He seems perpetually confused by that we play for work, “how is it working? All you do is turn up here and play”! Each week it’s like he’s been working on new ways to insult us, turning up and accusing Inga of being an illegal immigrant/ descendent of Hitler, myself of being a hippy/ grandma/ descendent of Churchill but it’s all good natured and he loves our retaliations! He generally ends up tied up in the hammock- which each week he intends to report us to our boss for but the next week he’ll come with an excuse for why he hasn’t done it yet!

Today no children came out at the second square. It had just been raining hard but was dry when we were there. Inga and I made a treasure map, marking with Xs the spots where we’d hidden a few lollies in plastic bags, wedged into the tree trunk and behind a drainpipe. We posted it through the door of the children we knew best who had come to the party with us last week.

We transformed the last square by running bright yellow tape around the tree posts to create a maze; it’s amazing how different one roll of tape made the space. Lots of children looked out the windows, only about 5 came out to join us but we saw kids looking out who we’ve never seen on our sessions before and hope they might join us in future if they get interested. We played at assault courses through the maze, timing ourselves on our mobile phone stop watch- a good way to keep warm for the rest of the session!

26th October ‘10

Today was raining so hard that no kids came. After holding out a while to see if any regulars would join us we decided to leave and use the time for reflective practise and planning.

28th October ‘10

Today was sunny and cold and the session was really busy, mostly with our regular kids. We made and flew paper kites and played hide and seek. We also had a long game of tag, Habiba got stuck being ‘it’ for a long time as the kids would run up onto the roof where she couldn’t follow!

30th October ‘10

Today’s Saturday session began well, our regular kids were interested to meet Scott, who joined Habiba and I to work on today’s session. We made giant Halloween drawings in chalk across the square. One girl wanted to make a kite, and to make it better than the one she had made the week before. She spent ages gluing tissue paper onto the paper in a pretty pattern but she layered it so much it became too heavy to fly. We had lots of the usual hammock play too and a mock war for hammock ownership! The kids span Scott on the wooden turn table to make him dizzy, a sort of welcome/ initiation to the play sessions it seemed!

The next square was really busy, a welcome follow to last week’s lull of no kids here. The brother and sister we’d left the treasure map for thanked us- they’d found it and the treasure of lollies. We did another treasure hunt with lollies (the sweets were a Halloween special!) then had a big game of 123 in together, a kind of hide and seek into chasing game. Kids of all ages played together from 13 year old boys to 4 year old little girl and it worked really well. Rain ended the game, the girls wanted to shelter under the tree, I gave them glue and they stuck fallen Autumn leaves onto a hollowed section of the trunk. The boys began their own game of football after the heaviest showers had passed.

The last square was quieter following the rain, we played with 4 of our regular kids. 2 teenage boys sat nearby looking like they wanted to join in when we did assault courses with the younger kids but seemed too worried it wasn’t cool and just watched for a while.

2nd November

We had a big game of hide and seek catch today, it was cold and windy and a good day to be running! About 25 kids came at the beginning but most didn’t stay when it began raining. Later 7 of our regulars joined us and stayed till the end of the session.

4th November

Today just Habiba and Inga were working. It was cold and windy but a lovely session with about 13 children coming. They played with the rope and hammock in between games of chase. A group of girls had a long chat with Habiba about the boys, telling her they didn’t like them because they’re so rude, yet constantly watching them and waiting for them to come over! Fireworks were being let off at intervals through the session and the kids kept running round the corner to watch them then running back to play. Inga had a chat with the children about the leaving party coming up at Christmas. They asked for sweets and hot chocolate. Inga suggested cucumber but they told her not to bother!

6th November ‘10

We’ve had another great Saturday playing on this estate. Our regular kids soon came out when we arrived, coming to chat, make the hammock, and use our craft materials. One girl made herself a carpet of papers- taped together and decorated to sit on while she drew with the chalks. We’re finding there are no longer kids already playing out when we get to this square, probably due to the colder weather. One boy wanted to put me on a lead of string and walk me round the playground as his pet but his sister soon helped me to escape! He was keen to play fight and this built into a game of taking prisoners- we ended up taping his arms and legs with gaffer tape and putting him in the hammock which he found very funny, he wouldn’t let the girls help him escape but wanted to break free by himself- which took about 10 minutes. Next week he’s promised to get his revenge…

We had a fair few kids come out to join us at the next square and played lots of hide and seek and 1,2,3 in- the running helped everyone stay warm as today’s been cold, about 8 degrees. The end of the session was chaotic with a game of blind man’s buff, we used a scarf as a blindfold and a rolled up bag as a hitting stick and had a great game. It started to get quite rough with a couple of the boys at the end and it seemed a good idea to end the session here!

The last square was the busiest today, a few kids were already playing out here and it was nice to have some new kids join in playing with us as well as our regulars and also some girls we hadn’t seen for several months.

9th November ‘10

We were sad to arrive at today’s session and find the site was in a mess- the wooden roundabout had been badly burnt and the surrounding area was covered in broken glass following some bonfire night activities on the estate. Apparently the roundabout had been built on the place where each year bonfires had always been made in the middle of the square, so this year they made it on top of the roundabout. Broken glass from blown up bottles surrounded it too, we picked up all we could get to but the ground here is covered in a kind of plastic mesh that grass grows through and where the glass fell into the little holes between, we couldn’t get it out, we just got the big pieces.

We had a good time with the kids that came, playing chase and races in partners (away from the glass). The races got creative and the kids raced running sideways, backwards, or hopping too!

13th November

The session today was cold and grey and reasonably quiet. At the first square the kids were mostly wanting to chase a passing cat! The second square was quiet for the first 30minutes but then got busy for the rest of the session, we played a game of drawing chalk circles around each other. AT the final square we played a long game of catch with a teddy bear one of our regulars had brought out then sat together in the swing and had a long chat.

16th November

Today was Eid day and loads of kids came as they’d had the day off school. Lots of Muslim girls came by dressed up in beautiful clothes, some stayed to play but many passed by after a short chat, not wanting to get the clothes dirty. We did lots of painting with some new paints and played hide and seek. The session ended with a fantastic game of cops and robbers that everyone got involved in and it travelled through the whole estate. We used to play just in one part of the estate and now the games often spread throughout it which feels great.

18th November

It felt a bit like ‘one of those days’ today! We couldn’t get access to any play props as they are stored in the new adventure playground which we hadn’t known would be closed today. It rained throughout the entire session so very few kids came out, we saw one of our regulars staring out the window but he called out he wasn’t allowed to play out today as his mum had caught him bunking school. 2 of our older regulars came by which was great. We went with them to the pound shop round the corner to look for glow sticks to brighten the session and although we couldn’t find any it was a good trip.

20th November

Today was cold and just our regulars were there for the majority of the session though a couple of new girls joined us the last 10 minutes. We played swing games, cats cradle and chalk drawing- the usual favourites. They kids here want to do their usual stuff week by week now and its very relaxed and comfortable- we discussed how it might be a good time to feed in some different types of play ideas, bring different things and see what happens. We’re considering making a small fire and see how the locals accept it, it would be great to make warm drinks with the children as we get more into winter.

The next square was fantastic today. No kids were there at first but I decided to chalk draw a house for myself, then Inga thought she’d make a bigger house, then Habiba got competitive too with a bigger house yet. A couple of kids came out and joined in, then a family of 2 brothers and 2 sisters came down looking so excited, “it looks so cool from up there”!, pointing to their flat on the fifth floor They joined in too making even bigger houses. One brother made a hotel that looked like Canary Wharf, someone else drew a school, then a playground and a pond until the whole square became a chalk village joined up with chalk roads! Houses got more elaborate to compete with the neighbours too, I covered mine in flowers and fairy lights then the kids wanted to do this too but more and better! Often when we leave this square the kids look a little flat and go home like it has to be the end when we leave but today they were so into it we were able to slip away and they were too into their play to care. Exactly what we want to happen.