We have provided in-person and online support for anyone interested in playwork or adventure playgrounds since 2010.
We are a small and independent non-profit who receive NO governmental, corporate or grant funding. We rely upon our relationships with you – play advocates, project providers, community members – to guide our work and make it possible. No one is turned away from any of our programs for lack of finances, and we work with anyone who reaches out to us through the internet or otherwise.
We are passionate about building a professional community that is diverse, dedicated, curious and connected. We do this by offering training online and in person, and through our biannual Playwork Campference. Wherever we work, Suzanna and Morgan’s aim is to maintain an open, honest and optimistic presence, welcoming new people to this field and working with them collaboratively. We care about play, and you.
Together, we have: created the Playworker Development Course, which provides introductory training to folks in 25+ countries; created the Pop-Up Play Shop and Toolkit; toured the US (2014), Australia (2015), and the world (2015); produced The New American Adventure Playground Movement How Communities Across the USA are Returning Risk and Freedom to Childhood; and co-hosted the international Playwork Campference (2017 and 2019).
UK registered charity #1148987, US 501(c)(3)
Are these really adventure playgrounds?
There are some key differences between these sites and classic adventure playgrounds. These are not intended to replace them, any more than those adventure playgrounds were designed to replace children’s freedom to roam. Instead, they are intended to serve as introductions for children, families and communities who may not be familiar with issues surrounding children’s play, freedom and risk.
In the sense that they are places ‘apart’ from ordinary rules, luxuriantly filled with loose parts and staffed by adults learning about playwork, ‘pop-ups’ are absolutely adventure playgrounds.
The adventure playground model, first piloted in Emdrup, has inspired people all over the world. For us, an adventure playgrounds offer a unique space for children’s free experimentation, exploration, creation and destruction. The phrase ‘adventure playground’ is not protected, and several projects (including fixed equipment playgrounds for both humans, and domestic pets) have claimed it without a firm understanding of what makes a good adventure playground unique. Play England and other national bodies have provided useful resources. Most importantly, the field of Playwork has articulated a clear ethical stance, and specific techniques to support children’s self-directed play without directing it.
Every play provision makes some compromise in order to open, and every good site operates in relationship with its particular context. In recent years, a new wave of adventure playgrounds (and so-inspired sites) have generally operated as destination or childcare sites such as summer camps or after-school provision. In general, we have seen great adventure playgrounds share key characteristics, including:
- Easy access for local children repeatedly over time
- Trained playwork staff
- Plenty of loose parts and freedom for children to create, destroy, explore and express
- Strong relationships with children’s parents, and opportunities for children to play apart from them
Here are some of our favorite adventure playgrounds in the USA. These are sites we have worked with for several years and visited – so we know how amazing they are!
- The Parish School Adventure Playground, Houston, TX
- KOOP (Kid-Owned and Operated Play), Champaign-Urbana, IL
- Eureka Valley Adventure Playground, Val Verde, CA
- The Yard (formerly play:ground NYC), Governors Island, NY
In the UK, we have a particular relationship with and fondness for:
- Meriden Adventure Playground, Birmingham, England
- The Land, Wrexham, Wales
- Pitsmoor Adventure Playground, Sheffield, England
What are playworkers?
The playwork profession developed out of adventure playgrounds just after the second world war and the name playworker was developed over time to describe the role of the adults that were on site. Fast forward a few years and term “playworker” is used to describe trained and experienced play advocates who work with children in a respectful and meaningful way using the lightest touch. Playworkers can work on a range of sites both in temporary and permanent spaces, but the playwork theory and practice stays the same.
What about risk?
We believe that life is risky. Every time we get into a car, change jobs or fall in love we are weighing the risks of a choice against the possible benefits. A similar process of risk/benefit assessments is a fundamental part of playwork practice, allowing children to carefully incorporate more opportunities for challenge into their play.If you have questions not addressed here, take a look at our free resources or contact us directly!
Where are you based, again?
Suzanna lives primarily in the UK, and Morgan lives primarily in the US. They both travel a lot, both to those countries and further afield. If you are interested in working together, get in touch – it’s amazing what we can figure out together.
What are these 'loose parts' people keep talking about?
The ‘theory of loose parts’ was first raised in an article by Simon Nicholson in 1971, in which he argued that the play possibilities of an environment were in direct proportion to the number and variety of materials available there. Rather than ‘having all of the fun’ by designing a space before children arrive, we ought to be giving them what they need to build the places they want, and change them continuously.
For playworkers, the best (or ‘loosest’) parts for play are often scrap – objects that are free or cheap, malleable and appropriate to the children and the environment. We make specific recommendations for anyone hosting a pop-up adventure playground, and for those working in schools.
I just witnessed the magic of Pop-Up Adventure Play with Suzanna and Morgan at the Illinois Youth Services Institute in Springfield, IL. Thank you! Thank you for all that you do, thank you for coming to the conference, and thank you for the reminder that play is both fun and important.
IYSI 2017 Attendee, USA
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