There are some questions that we’ve been asked potentially hundreds of times – about risk, conversations with parents and liability. That doesn’t mean that our answers are any more tidy than they were in the beginning! These are good questions, bigger than they seem on the outside. The answers are not the point, but rather the practice or process of deciding what answer is ‘good enough’ for now so we can take this next step together. Then we’ll ask ourselves all these questions again, from there.
How much stuff is enough?
When we talk about stuff, we always emphasise ordinary recycled materials. Start with what’s available, we say. Whatever is cheap or free, as long as it won’t shatter dangerously or break your heart when destroyed. People have showed us their basement collections of refrigerator boxes, trash bags of dressing up clothes, plastic containers of beads and feathers and pinecones. These are people who know the value of trash, who see its potential and want to share that with everyone. Sometimes they ask: How much do we bring? Pens poised, I imagine how comforting a calculation might be, X square feet of cardboard per child. Sometimes they rent U-hauls and borrow mini-vans, bringing so much that it becomes an untenable burden.
We tell them, whatever you can bring is enough.
That’s easier said than heard. It’s harder still to believe.
Most people doing occasional pop-ups use their own cars as transport. Projects with regular events often invest in a trailer, or negotiate for on-site storage. That’s the kind of playwork that Suzanna and I started our careers doing, her driving around Manchester in her car and me pushing a wire cart through London. Of all those sessions though, the one that taught me the most about stuff was the one where we didn’t bring anything.
How much of us is enough?
The stuff is not the point. It can even be a distraction from the real work of offering children a container, giving permission when needed and support when invited, of holding a space within which children might play. The children will never know what we didn’t bring, what we wish we could offer. They’re interested in what is happening now, and that works best when it’s something we can offer wholeheartedly. What I’m really saying is: you are already enough. I’ll say that again, in case it didn’t land.
You are already enough.
Whatever you know about playwork or are still learning, whatever materials you can bring, or need to leave behind… it’s good enough for now. Good enough to start. Being able to accept that, to allow ourselves to be imperfect and real and still showing up anyway – that’s a huge part of embodying permission for children to do the same. That’s all much easier said than believed, and goodness knows I’m working on it too. But it’s also the only way I know of staying in this field long term. Accept what we can do now then do it and then try again tomorrow.
Start small, start now, keep going.
This blogpost is part of a series where we explore some of our most commonly asked questions. These “Blog Thoughts” work hand in hand with our “Video Thoughts” created as bite-sized versions of the main theme.