Since we started our Canadian tour just over a month ago, we have started each day full of curiosity as to what the next location will bring. Our only disappointments have been in not yet seeing a moose, and hearing that our chances get slimmer the further west we drive. We have seen a handful of deer, a snake and one llama, but it was in Argyle, outside Winnipeg, that this game got much more interesting.
As we approached the venue for our presentation, we drove past what appeared to be a team of horses facilitating a camp-fire. A group of risk-averse cows watched on from a safe distance (and no, we hadn’t overdosed on maple syrup). It was truly amazing. We found out later that this was ‘smudging’, a slow burning and smoky fire to help disperse the mosquitoes, but have held onto our first interpretation.
We were invited to Winnipeg by the great folks from the Manitoba Nature Summit, who skillfully gathered interested groups, professionals and individuals from far and wide to attend our workshop in the most beautiful of settings, the Brant-Argyle School. People came, listened, nodded and questioned, and hopefully left with new ideas and supportive encouragement to start making change, however small, right away.
The following day we all held a Pop-Up Adventure Playground on the same school grounds. We met children from “the end of the road” (which could easily have been 30 miles away, we weren’t sure) and folk from as far as Kenora. Forts were built, glue was smeared and battles were had with sticks and stones – nobody got hurt either, except for a child on the ‘purpose-built’ play structure of course!
It was interesting and endearing to watch families engaging and interacting together in this protected environment. Dedicated family time is rare and unquestionably necessary, but as a playworker it was fascinating to be able to witness those moments were it ‘clicked’ and the adults realised that they were actually supernumerary in their children’s play. Adults became burdens, their children were just entertaining them out of politeness. They had been excluded, and to the perimeter they shuffled. Some took longer than others, but eventually they all gave in and accepted their place.
Children are pretty good at this play stuff. Research has shown that it’s preloaded into them, although sometimes they need a little time and space to re-accustom themselves when they are out of practice. Pop-Up Adventure Playgrounds are the perfect environment for children to re-align themselves in what they do best. They are also fantastic opportunities for bringing adults who support this together, sparking the conversations needed to create a sustainable community around play for the future.
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