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Children's Conference Play and Engagement

23 February 07 words: Amanda Young
Nottingham Play Children's Conference into Participation and Engagement.

Children are soulful beings who play exploring their environment and the world around them. Nottingham Play runs a host of Adventure Playgrounds and Play Projects for 5-14 year olds across the City that are designed to fulfil this natural need. These are sustained by the City Council Children's Services namely Play Development Co-ordinators, Play Leaders and Play Workers, supported by Junior and Adult Volunteers.

I spoke to Fraser Brown (Author and Professor of Play) about Play Work"

"The idea comes from a Danish Architect called Sorensen who was working in Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation. He observed that children were generally playing on bombed out sites. They were making structures from the discarded materials and exploring through play. Sorensen called them Junk Playgrounds and first introduced the concept to the UK in the 1940's and 50's where children were doing a similar act. In the Mid 50's the first adventure playgrounds started in Liverpool, London and Grimsby. They were mainly one man bands as Play Work was predominantly a male profession in its early days, whereas now this has completely changed. It first became fully recognised when Lady Allen of Hurtwood wrote a book called "Planning for Play", in this the foreword was written by Sorensen. Drummond Abernethy working for the National Playing Fields Organisation promoted this approach to play making a great impact during the 60's and 70's. There was a huge extension of adventure playgrounds across the country amounting to almost 700 run by volunteers. By the 1980's the local authorities had taken over 90% of adventure playgrounds. With the growing obsession in health and safety at work the Government had started to bring in Laws and Local authorities cut back spending on this service over schools and hospitals. Many places therefore closed and now there is only a small number of around 100 or so Adventure Playgrounds across the country."

Childrens Conference 2007 Participation and Engagement


Children from playgrounds across Nottingham met with Play Workers and the Children's Services on 23rd February 2007 for the Children's Conference at Nottingham Race Course. As the launch of the Participation and Engagement strategy this was an opportunity for local children to make their voices heard in the Play Work movement. Over 200 people attended to talk, listen, play, and share and work things out together by joint activities, workshops and shows. Nine year old Rhianna Carlyle attended describing the event as being about "how to make the Play Centre more better and making Playworkers listen." Younger sister Niamh Carlyle said "It was brilliant!"

The workshops taking place covered a range of play issues:
  • Working Playground equipment Design and build Play. "We've designed some pictures and made them out of wood. I've been making a swing." - Charlie Gough (eight years old) Children designed whilst adults observed, offering theoretical input. With children taking the lead their designs were made from wooden kits demonstrating their ability to produce workable designs for their Play Grounds.
  • United Nations Conventions of the Rights of the Child. Which country had the idea to have children's rights? a) England b) Poland c) Venezuela See the bottom of the page for the answer. Children were asked as were adults: Do children have the same rights as adults? There were open debates about Human rights concluding that everyone has equal human rights but not everybody is afforded the same human rights.
  • Build a Cyber Playworker. Wendy Russell, Paul Booth and Claire Ellis delivered this audio-visual technological fest. There were crazy professors, junk computers, modelling materials, laptops and ultraviolet lights. The Ludotron laboratory was a webcam set-up for Children to record themselves describing skills and qualities that make a perfect Playworker. Some Traveller children occasionally dipped into drone rapping whilst recording.
  • Interactive questionnaire "Me and Hannah had three cups of tea and played on the laptops which were like Who wants to be a millionaire? where you say where you play, where you don't like to play, what you would change in your area and stuff." - Krystal Hawkins (nine years old)
  • Recruiting Playworkers Delivered by Jackie Blackburn (Engagement team) and Helen Barnett with young people who were involved in recruiting play and engagement workers. Describing their experiences on interview panels the young people demonstrated that children should have a say in issues that affect themselves. "We played a game called Minging and Blinging where you've got to choose all the bad things on the minging Playworker and all the good things on the blinging Playworker" - Niamh Carlyle (six years old)

The five adventure playgrounds and abundance of projects across Nottingham City support children and their play through free drop in sessions. Children can make and destroy, play with fire, earth, wind and water. They are free to scream and shout, sing, run, hide, laugh, imagine, pretend and experience. Nottingham Play is organising another children's conference next year that should be equally as exciting for children and play.

The answer is b) Poland.

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