By Andy

After a long drive from Vaughan, we made it to Englehart, with just minutes to spare. We quickly shuffled into our ‘fancy’ clothes, wiped the sweat from our foreheads and jumped on stage before a packed-out room of friendly parents and professionals, many local and a few from afar. The crowd, which was brought together through the hard work and dedication of Onita Knight, listened intently to our messages and engaged in some great discussion.

As the session came to a close people fed-back, telling us that in such a short session we had provided them with a totally different perspective on play. Many enjoyed the new language, some started to recognise similarities in their own practices whilst others still seemed a little apprehensive.

The following day started with a storm. Literally. We pulled up at the site of the Pop-Up with our hoods pulled up but our spirits high and we continued as we always do, albeit a little soggy.

The children arrived. Some watched and wondered, while others dived straight in. Many of the adults watched on with apprehension but were open and supportive of the concept. The children were immersed. Forts were built, swings were tied, 5 of them in fact! Fun and freedom was enjoyed by all.

Pop Up Play Englehart, Ontario

Whilst wandering the site I spotted a group of boys teetering on the edge of mischief. Their mysterious over-the-shoulder glances gave it away that they were ‘up to no-good’. As I honed in closer to get an idea of what was going on, I spotted Morgan, who was also hovering with similar intentions. We telepathically exchanged “You got this?” – “Cool, It’s all yours” and I proceeded to get a closer insight as to what was going on.

Despite my best efforts, I was spotted and approached by one of the boys “Can we smash this?” he asked holding a plastic tray in one hand and a section of a bike rack in the other. “What do you think?” I replied, but before I knew it, the tray had been obliterated. The boys passed the tool around, laughing and grinning with joy and excitement, reviling in their new-found freedom.

Discussions took place with a handful of adults who had observed this process. Some felt that allowing children to play in this way could encourage them to be disrespectful, some agreed with the freedom but felt that children should be involved in the clear-up to understand that “actions have consequences” whilst others thought it was wholly “liberating”.

During some follow up discussion we talked through how children, through their play, need to work through many different stages, at their own pace and for their own reasons. Smashing plastic into hundreds of pieces is satisfying and fun, and if not here, where? Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds are a space where children can be provided with the space, resources and permission to interact or not, in any way they desire. Keeping a space tidy, or clearing up ‘mess’ is an adult agenda which children have to contend with on a daily basis. Here, in this space, for a few glorious hours, children can stop engaging with adult agendas and freely make their own.

For more information on our Canadian Tour check out the tour page where we have linked up all our blogposts. To find out more about what we do on a daily basis, check out our Facebook and Twitter. Please also check out our website too