Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The girls and I checked out a new to us playground today. It's located in a fairly affluent area and I was interested to see what it would be like. While there, I decided to try out my new role as a "playworker" which I have learned about from doing some reading here.

It's some fascinating stuff people.

A playworker doesn't interfere with a child's play. They don't make suggestions, or try to get the child to follow them. They keep a distance allowing the child to direct the play themselves. I think that a playworker also subtly might encourage a higher level of play for a child by making materials available for them, but they do so in a discreet, subtle manner without breaking the child's reverie of play. I think that a playworker would respond to a child's request to play but would probably try to get them playing with another child fairly quickly.

So, while we were at the new playground I was at first annoyed at the parents on their blackberries and the nannies on their cell phones. But then I realized that they, too, were being playworkers !

I did really well in my role as playworker. I followed the girls around this big (and crowded) playground but didn't tell them to be careful, or suggest that they try that apparatus over there, or ask them patronizing questions about their play. And you know what? They played together and they watched out for each other. Esther would start to run off to another structure and she would look back over her shoulder for Ruthie and then run back to her, take her hand, and say "Let's go over here Ruthie!" Ruthie totally held her own with the big kids and when a group of 5-6 year olds were blocking a ladder and Esther hung back not wanting to squeeze past them, Ruthie was not deterred. She pushed right past them and turned around and looked back at Esther. They climbed up into a tower and took off their shoes where I couldn't see them and giggled and then looked out and grinned at me. They took turns driving the train and telling each other where to go. "Tess-as" shouted Ruthie!

This literature that I was reading on playworkers didn't mention the effect that it can have on strengthening a bond between children.

But that's definitely what happened today.


Stimey said...

Way cool! I'm glad it worked out so well for you. I hope it continues to!

Elaine said...

This, my friend, is exactly what a Waldorf teacher does. Get your girls to Acorn Hill ASAP. You'll never look back.

I'm not giving the cell phone and blackberry ladies a pass as easily as you do. They're sitting there engaging in an activity that cannot possibly make sense to children. It is distancing.

Rachel et Natalie said...

way to go Esther and Ruthie. Well done! I love watching R&N playing together too, it is just amazing.

Elaine said...

Oh - and I just looked back and realized that Joan Almon is part of this. If she doesn't work at Acorn Hill, she's closely associated with them. She lectures at Potomac Crescent a couple of times a year. I'll let you know when she's here next time.

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...

Fun! A great park, no? Wish we could have joined you, but I think , my big kids would have been play destructors!

AwwwTrouble said...

I"m willing to give the other parents/nannies more of a break - anyone who isolates themself with a phone is distancing, but I think there can be a lot other things going on. A group of caregivers, sitting on the sidelines chatting, allowing the kids to just play, seems to promote a healthier atmosphere for play. Think of our mothers on the playground years ago - chatting, making friends, comparing notes, forming community. I've learned a lot, actually, from watching the nannies in my neighborhood. They know the kids don't need an adult hovering over them constantly, interrupting what is kid-time.

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