Who Says Adults Don’t Play

30 January 2011 · 2 comments

in Nature Play & Learning, Outdoor Courses & Training, Outdoor Play, Play Resources

During the past year, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with play workers throughout Scotland. These adults know how to have fun! Here’s some of the tricks they got up to when participating in various Creative STAR play courses…



On this course, the rain didn’t stop the play all day. This group were looking at open-ended resources that explore the properties of light. Reflective materials, see-through plastic or acetate sheets, bottles filled with water, unwanted CDs, magnifiers of different strengths, binoculars, sunglasses, prisms, convex and concave and coloured mirrors. All these resources are fun. Using a few velcro straps and soft wire, a wonderful exploration tree was created by the participants in the photo below:

Over the past year, it’s been interesting to re-visit groups and see the progress especially around enabling risky play to take place. Initially staff are often worried about letting children climb trees, use sharp tools, light and cook on fires, create tall structures to climb on or over, etc. Yet, the more we allow children to do this, the more our own confidence grows. We learn with the children and begin to let them take risks when they play without putting them in undue danger of serious harm.

So…who says adults mustn’t climb trees! In the photo below, tree climbing was an essential part of creating a massive sticky web to catch giant super-villains!

By using loose parts in play, the opportunities for creating challenges and solving problems is increased considerably. This is why open-ended materials have such high play value. Here the participants are trying to transport water from one place to another using guttering and all sorts of other “junk” resources.

Big ropes are great for big group play. Most children will pick up a rope and start using it in their play. However setting up a rope course can be a useful spring board into free play. Below, the participants created a blindfold walk for others to try out. Giving these activities a go is important. We can forget what it feels like to experiment with our senses and whole bodies as adults.

Many environmental educators will have provided clay or mud to give trees faces. It’s an interesting experiment to see whether asymmetrical faces look more scary than symmetrical faces. I’m still undecided!

Some children are not used to playing outdoors. Connections to children’s indoor lives can help here. For example, use of interesting material and familiar resources laid out invitingly can make an outdoor play space irresistible. Below the play workers used attractive materials and a path leading up to the den as an invitation to explore.

Many play parks and outdoor spaces with fixed play structures can have the play value increased by the addition of loose parts. In the activity below, the participants are using the climbing structure as a basis for a water wall. I particularly liked the use of the umbrella to catch the drips in a leaky spot!

In recent years, there has been a trend towards providing online training. It’s cheaper than hiring a trainer.   However, video clips will never replace the value of experimenting with ideas, working cooperatively with colleagues, solving problems through trial and error and making mistakes. It’s like looking at a bar of chocolate and talking about it. This is no substitute for unwrapping the chocolate and eating it. Adults need to play and have fun too!

Finally, here in Scotland we have a really interesting play programme taking place called “Go Play“. 27 different play organisations have been given funding and support to develop free play for 5-12 year olds. Much of it is outdoors orientated. Good examples include RAPA and Play on Wheels. The above sessions were organised by Go Play funded groups including the Highland Mobile Toy Library , The Jeely Piece Club and the North Lanarkshire Community Play Association.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Abbie January 31, 2011 at 19:39

You always ahare the best stuff! Those activities and groups look great. Love that the adults are so involved with the creating and learning.

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Dennis February 5, 2011 at 17:17

Inspiring for us grandparents too!

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