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.