Our Playworker Development Course brings people together from all over the world to talk about playwork. Divya is from India. She joined the course in March 2019, with the intention of channeling her passion for play. She successfully completed the course in March 2020 and written reflective blogposts for us which you can find here and here. We’ve invited her to reflect on the windows that opened up for her, made possible with financial assistance from Pop-Up Adventure Play.

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By Divya Badami Rao

I developed an interest in the subject of play by watching my children. After several months of reading essays on the subject on the internet, I found my way to Pop-Up Adventure Play’s Playworker Development Course. As a full-time mother with two small kids, I wondered about the feasibility of taking it on, but one heart-warming sentence tipped the scales for me. “No one is turned away for lack of funds,” it said. As promised, I signed up, and got to explore and practice the wonderful world of “playwork.” Under the encouraging and insightful guidance of new long-distance friends, the course tutors, Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Suzanna Law and David Stonehouse, playwork has morphed from a vague idea into a concrete, actionable concept over the course of a year.

I could not have imagined the impact this course would have on me. Neither could I have anticipated that in under a year, I would find myself confident enough in the concepts and ideas to host two fairly large, successful Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds. The first, hosted with the support of my family for my son’s birthday, involved a group of 30 children. Even before the event took place, word got around, and I was invited to host a larger pop-up at my children’s school during their annual carnival. This time around I was helped monetarily and infrastructurally by school resources and parent volunteers. The second playground saw around 50 children at its peak. Both pop-ups were much appreciated by the adults present, many of whom had conversations with me about the versatility of the concept, and how immersed the children were.

My course tutor, Morgan Leichter-Saxby, mentored me through both events, giving me the confidence to host playgrounds even though I had never before experienced any myself. In our e-mail exchanges, we worked through various scenarios I thought might unfold, helping calm my various apprehensions. The first pop-up for my son’s birthday helped me as I thought through the larger, more public event. Yet each was different, and needed me to anticipate many new details. Among other things that the course material imparts to students, trust in the process is perhaps the most significant for me personally. Between the thoughtful mentoring and the first-hand experiences of hosting pop-up adventure playgrounds, I have come to fully appreciate and trust in the process, and the children themselves.

Here’s a photo from the pop-up adventure playground that Divya hosted for her son’s birthday.

Unexpectedly, as a result of the learning and confidence I have gained through this course, I was invited to write more publicly about my experiences with child-led play. Since hosting these two pop-ups, I have written articles on resources for play during the Covid-19 lockdown for a parenting website (see here and here), as well as broader reflections on the education system in India as it pivots to online learning for a national newspaper. In the latter article I argued that play can be intrinsic to self-directed learning (see here). The more time I spend with the course material, and observing my own children develop as they play, the more moved I am to meaningfully advocate for play as one the biggest influences in a child’s life. I hope to write more in the near future, and find ways of hosting regular Pop-Ups once our COVID-19 days are done. In the meantime, my children continue to be the direct beneficiaries of moments of reflection the course incites, and the knowledge I have gained from the PDC.

Playworkers are meant to be advocates of play, and in making the PDC available to anyone who applies and not just a select few, Pop-Up Adventure Play genuinely puts play first. Play needs such advocates; it also needs funding to make such a commitment to inclusivity possible. If you are a donor, I hope you consider donating to Pop-Up Adventure Play. Clearly, play impacts lives, and an organisation such as this one, impacts play.