Summer of Play 2018

What a summer, one of the hottest and busiest we have ever had!

85 play days across 23 different locations ranging from rural open spaces, urban play parks, a university campus, an army barracks and a sheltered accommodation complex for a morning of grandparent play.

We have seen lots of grandparents at play, the heroes of free childcare for many families this summer! Lots of the grandparents we spoke to loved what we offered because it reminded them about their own childhoods, roaming free, playing outside with friends, making dens, getting mucky and having lots of fun.

Our community sessions provided all of that and more, over 2000 different people visited our play sessions and enjoyed days of play in the sunshine for FREE, all thanks to our kind supporters and play champions who help to fund and support play.

The importance and the power of play is currently hitting the headlines, discussions about how being outside moving/playing more can help with mental and physical health in people of all ages are taking place at high levels of government and the health service. For years now we have been in the privileged position to witness the impact of how play can help an individual, families and communities thrive.  This past summer is no different and over 5000 play visits to our sessions across Gloucestershire tells us those individuals, families and communities have loved the offer of free outdoor play on their doorstep. Hundreds of people at any one time enjoying their local green spaces, getting active, creative, socialising and reclaiming these community assets for play and recreation.

The equipment we pack into the vans varies from team to team (no play session is ever the same), but one thing that has been in every van this summer; and that has been hugely popular with all ages and abilities is our sensory play kit. Making ooblek gloop with cornflour food colouring and water for a squidgy hands on experience was a highlight for most, we even ended up playing catch with handfuls of it and watched how it changed shape in the air, making catching the gloop a challenge. Oats are a great tool for play too, from burying toys in an oaty desert and having an archaeological dig, to mixing with water and having a sticky ball to hold and manipulate. By the far the most popular sensory offer was our big bubble mix, asking people to help mix cornflour, baking powder, washing up liquid and water together to make a mixture that not only helps to create hundreds of bubbles but also make HUGE bubbles for popping, chasing, or just to sit back, relax and watch fly across our play site. We all spend time using the flat screens on our phones, TV’s, monitors for work and play, but they don’t give the tactile feedback that slime, gloop, paint, oats, sand and bubble mix provide, we suspect that is why we ended up going through so much of the sensory ingredients. (we are always looking for sponsorship and/donations of play kit to help support what we do, so if you would like to help or know someone or businesses that can help please get in touch)

Foraging for play equipment and engaging with nature allowed us to add to our kit by using blackberries for eating, smoothie making and painting. Picking lush green leaves and smashing them with rubber mallets in between material or paper leaves (excuse the pun) an imprint for some take home nature art. Bug hunts, looking for big sticks for den building, playing with water (vital on those very warm summer days) all things that can only really happen outside.

We have been lucky to have worked with some amazing partners who really appreciate the power of playwork. Funding for play has come from parish councils, town councils, county councillors, Sport England, local community groups (fundraising to make play happen), neighbourhood partnerships and we have worked with the Gloucestershire Virtual School to provide play nurture for children in care. Without these people/groups believing in play our Summer of Play 2018 would not have happened. We thank them for their ongoing support, we thank our amazing young volunteers who helped make play happen in their local communities, we thank our Play Rangers who worked tirelessly over the summer holidays and we thank those that came along to our sessions