In Kids We Trust

On a green expanse in the middle of the city, the kids are alright. Actually, they’re surpassing alright. They are firmly ensconced in an ‘infinity and beyond’ zone – an adventurous destination and journey enthusiastically introduced to the world by Pixar’s Buzz Lightyear. Brimming over with an elemental energy these kids are fully immersed in the moment, re-imagining the open space and making it over in their own image.

There are no plans, no preconceived goals or objectives here, no directions to follow. The kids are quick to understand that they have permission to play with the materials onsite – boxes, tarps, milk crates, tires, pvc pipes, wood planks, rope, empty cable spools – known collectively as ‘loose parts’.


Over a span of two hours, there is a steady ebb and flow. More than 200 kids come out to play on the Halifax South Common. Forts, cubbies and palaces are designed and built on the fly. Teeter-totters, launching pads for rockets and swings are engineered.

Most of these children are experiencing the free flow of loose parts for the first time. They are in a groove. The air is electric with possibility. They are dreamers, makers, doers.

This is about my 10th loose parts-apalooza. My first was just over three years ago on a grey, rain-misted afternoon in Glasgow. I had read about the practice but as is often the case, the written rendition (including this one too I’m sure!) fell short of the real thing. I still remember Holly from that day in Glasgow. About five-years-old, this wee girl was full of beans and having the greatest fun jumping off a hay bale mountain onto gymnastic mats waiting below while calling out, “look at me, look at me”.

Some of the recurring themes I see on the short arc of my loose parts apprentissage are also documented in academic studies. For instance, kids do a good job at self-assessing risk. Whether it’s jumping off hay bales or spinning on a spool, kids are not wont to take unnecessary chances. For them, one of the greatest risks associated with injury is that it frequently brings play to a grinding halt. There’s no real upside to that scenario.

What is also noticeable is a greater incidence of children of different ages playing with each other, and more inclusive play amongst girls and boys. The inclusivity also sets the stage for higher levels of cooperative play. Kids converge where fun is percolating and for the most part want to participate and contribute to the best of their abilities.

Now, this is no shangri-la of play. There are disagreements between kids, just as there are kids who don’t listen to their parents or caregivers. And yes, there is the occasional tear. But this type play with materials that are destined for the most part to recycling, or repurposing enable a whole new dynamic that is led and developed by the kids themselves. These organic activities, undirected and unscripted, are intrinsically joyful and inherently adventurous.

There is something else that comes to mind after these several years of playing with my kids and watching them at play, of writing and reading about the subject, of helping organize events like the Halifax South Common pop-up – play is an iconic lifetime activity. As adults, we could all benefit from being a little more plugged into play. It’s one of the greatest shows on earth unfolding in new ways every time you take it out of ‘the box’. It is unpredictable and a little chaotic with an accent of manageable risk.

Everyone who hears and sees children at these events understands how invaluable they can be. These kids are éveillés, awakened to myriad possibilities, to the world around them and to the simple rhythms of fun. There’s a lot we could learn from their unselfconscious nowness.

This event was taking place right next to a static playground, one of the larger ones in the city. To say the least, interest in that playground space was muted. One of the few kids who went over did so in costume adding a bit of spice to that playscape. It was up and down the slide then back to the pop-up which had the stronger gravitational force.

Many thanks to Andy Hinchcliffe, Suzanna Law and Morgan Leichter-Saxby aka Pop-Up Adventure Play for encouraging us on this adventurous afternoon. Like a breath it’s gone. Some of the parents took the loose parts concept home with them. Some of the kids took boxes, rope, planks of wood and even tires.

Interest continues to grow. If you’re in the Halifax area and want to get involved, drop us a line through the contact tab.

Finally thanks to all those who made the public talk at Halifax Central Library, the workshop at The Pavilion and the Halifax South Common pop-up possible. It takes a village…

​Boxes – MEC, Canadian Tire (Dartmouth Crossing and Cole Harbour), Leon’s, Giant Bicycle and Sportchek

Bric à brac – OC Automotive, Kent Building Supplies, Halifax Plays, T.K Adventure Play and Bike Again – what a great bunch of volunters there – if you like biking, check out their Facebook page

Family bloggers and purveyors of fun – urbanparent.ca, itsy bitsy haligonians and Family Fun Halifax and assemblage who have helped spread the word.

Global Halifax and the Community Herald who did stories and all the other media outlets who have given us a hand by printing or broadcasting public service announcements about the events.

Thanks also to the team of volunteers who worked on this event – Bridget, Caileigh, Maura, Niki, Shitangshu, Tanya.

I have to thank my wife and kids too for putting up with my early mornings and late nights over a couple of months. They have been very kind.

Last, but by no means least, thanks to the Province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage who have provided financial assistance to help defray costs, as well as equipment and networking to spread news about the events. Halifax Recreation has been invaluable in providing advice, donating some space and encouraging volunteers. Halifax Public Libraries donated Paul O’Regan Hall as a venue for our public talk and promoted the event. Enterprise Rent-A-Car has provided a cargo van at no cost so our loose parts schlepping could proceed with greater dispatch.

On a final note, if I were ever looking for some young, new designers with a bit of pizzazz, I’d be leaning toward the crew who whipped together this temporary abode.

Thank you to all the kids who came and played, smiled, laughed, jumped, ran. On that day with all of you, the Halifax South Common was the most marvelous place in the world to be ….

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The Wonderful World of Adventurous Play

Introducing the CanadaPlays blog

For it’s first project, CanadaPlays, a Nova Scotia registered non-profit, is leading the logistics, coordination and promotion for the UK’s Pop-Up Adventure Play Halifax visit. We’re working closely with AdventurePlay YHZ and over the last few weeks have received a lot of welcome help and support from the Halifax community. Many thanks for sharing information about the two public events that Pop-Up Adventure Play will lead during their July 23 and 24 Halifax visit.

The Wonderful World of Adventurous Play ● July 23 ● 2:00 pm

Halifax Central Library

The UK-based playwork movement creates opportunities for children’s play, providing them with the freedom to take the lead. In this presentation, Pop-Up Adventure Play will draw upon their experiences around the world to talk about play, playwork and adventure playgrounds. This is the kick-off of Pop-Up Adventure Play’s Canadian Tour.

Pop-Up Play on Halifax South Common ● July 24 ● from 1:30 to 4:00 pm

Pop-Up Adventure Play have organized similar community play happenings in the UK, the US, Australia and Asia. Join them for the first play stop on their cross-Canada tour!

Kids will create their own fun and experiences with loose parts materials on hand – cardboard boxes, tape, milk crates, sticks, tires, jump ropes, nets, tarps and more. Enjoy the outdoors and see kids let loose with imaginative play.. The Halifax Regional School Board has successfully introduced loose parts play through the EXCEL program so you may have heard about this already from your kids. The outcomes? As limitless as a child’s imagination!

Participants are encouraged to bring water, sunscreen and comfortable shoes. It’s also best if you don’t mind getting dirty!

There is no fee for either of the above activities.

Note – there is no rain date for the Halifax South Common event. It will proceed if there is light rain…

Meet the Pop-Up Players

 

🦋 Morgan Leichter-Saxby 🦋

A bio follows but I encourage you to take a quick read of this piece that Morgan published in the International Journal of Play that I came across on my friend Bernie De Koven’s site Deep Fun.

Morgan trained as a playworker and play ranger in London, first with Penny Wilson and then Bob Hughes. In 2010, she co-founded Pop-Up Adventure Play US to address the lack of playwork knowledge in her home country. Since then she has presented at over a dozen conferences, including the keynote at the Children’s Development Forum in Bogota, and trained frontline staff at new and established sites. At Pop-Up Adventure Play, Morgan leads on training and coordinates writing projects such as The Loose Parts Manual , the Pop-Up Play Shop Toolkit and a chapter in the recently released book “Playing It Up – With Loose Parts, Playpods, and Adventure Playgrounds”. Morgan is based in the US but is also working towards a PhD at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. She has also recently spent time training and supporting adventure playground sites on Governors Island, New York and in Houston, Texas. Together, Morgan and Suzanna designed and delivered the Playworker Development Course, and completed tours of the US, Australia, and the world.

🐞 Suzanna Law 🐞

Suzanna began as a mobile playworker, or playranger, in socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods in Manchester, UK. She then pursued a second BA, and graduated in 2012 with a First-Class Honours Degree in Playwork. At the same time, she helped to found Pop-Up Adventure Play in both the UK and US, and was Lead Playworker during a 2-month residency on Governors Island in NYC.

Based in the UK, she is currently working towards her PhD in Playwork at Leeds Beckett University. At Pop-Up Adventure Play, she leads on project coordination including all three Pop-Ups Tours, and manages online communications for all social media platforms.

🦎Andy Hinchcliffe🦎

Andy has more than ten years experience in playwork, beginning as a volunteer with out-of-school provision, moving onto managing and developing a playwork-guided community and children’s centre in Bradford.

He graduated in 2012 with a First-Class Honours Degree in Playwork following work with Fraser Brown’s charity in Romania and later researching theories around deep, dark and criminal play. Andy has been involved with Pop-Up Adventure Play since 2012, supporting the 2014 US national tour, 2015 World Tour and has recently co-worked alongside SCV Adventure Play on a loose-parts recess initiative in the Santa Clarita Valley.

See you at the Halifax Central Library and Halifax South Common – July 23 & 24……

CanadaPlays wants to recognize the support of the Province of Nova Scotia. We are pleased to work in partnership with the Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage in presenting these activities to the public. Thanks also to Halifax Recreation for their assistance with logistics and to the Halifax Public Libraries for the use of Paul O’Regan Hall at the Halifax Central Library.