As I write this, it’s the little gap of time between Christmas and New Year, when the world seems cold and quiet. My notes say to talk about how Suzanna and I spent this year apart – no tours, no shared events, but instead focusing on home and local work. Then I looked at the notes of where we’ve both been, and remembered that our version of “quiet” is still pretty darn busy!
Suzanna went to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore to do some training, and to Portugal to do her first ever solo keynote in the beautiful town of Cascais. I stayed more local (relatively) by visiting the Heritage Museum (MA), The Yard and Brooklyn Wild (both in NY), Sunflower Creative Arts (Florida), and popping by the Prioritizing Play Conference held by our good friends KOOP in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. We’ve also brought 26 students onto our flagship Playworker Development Course, and continue providing an online opportunity for folks working in recess or after school programs, called Playful Schools Online. Not least, we’ve started working with individuals in a new way, through online coaching for play advocates and project leaders.
It’s been two years since the first Campference, and people keep telling us what it’s meant to them – how important and rare it felt to spend whole days with others who are passionate about play. Those of us who share this particular playwork perspective have a way of both needing and finding one another. That’s because (as proud as we are of our online courses) this is an approach that you need to learn in person, through practice and reflection, which is to say through community. We couldn’t be prouder to be helping this phenomenal movement grow. Every registration matters, every donation to our financial aid program and Playworker Traveling Fund helps us to enrich and diversify attendance. If you can make it, we’d love to see you. If you can’t, please consider supporting on the ground work around the world.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned local projects. It’s been a funny little irony for us, spending so much of the past decade helping people far away do work in their own neighborhoods. Suzanna has been doing far more, which you can read about here, but I had a little attempt as well. In these stories, we accidentally show two paths that we’ve seen again and again for folks who reach out to us. Some will host dozens of pop-up adventure playgrounds, connecting with local businesses and building community. Others will host one, and suddenly realize (or remember!) how much work is involved. I’ve followed both of those paths at different times, but I guess I just wanted to give a little shout out to any readers who may be concerned that hosting a pop-up is an enormous amount of work, that they don’t have time to dedicate to it, that the timing isn’t quite right.
If that’s you, here’s my advice. You might be right. And it doesn’t matter at all.
If you want to host your first pop-up, keep it small. That helps it to feel possible, sustainable, so you can keep going. But if you decide that you just can’t right now, that you don’t have the resources or volunteers you need, that’s okay too. Sometimes, some years, we need to put our focus elsewhere. Maybe it’s time to see where you can fill your own cup first, and create more opportunities for play in your own life. That’s okay. Forgive yourself, and start by supporting play in the most ‘local’ way of all.
That, and stay in touch, because one thing we’ve seen is that when people prioritize play – in their own lives, their families or their communities – it has a way of growing. Winter is a good time of year to remember that, because while it seems like the world is quietly asleep things remain busy underground, working magic in the darkness. It’ll happen in its own time, and when it does you’ll be ready.