My notes from “The Playwork Primer” by Penny Wilson

The Playwork Primer by Penny Wilson (Alliance for Childhood 2009)

4 Sentence Summary
Playwork comes from serious professional efforts to support children’s playing. The first efforts were with adventure playgrounds in London which developed the profession of playworkers . Playworker support children’s play that is freely chosen, personally driven and intrinsically motivated. Play is important for children and youth and it’s deprivation has serious consequences.

It may be helpful to think of an adventure playground as a Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total artwork,” a space and time where all one’s senses are engaged.”

The first bomb-site adventure playgrounds were staffed by “wardens.” … One of the first adventure playground wardens, Pat Turner, wrote a book about his time as Lollard playground that he called Something Extraordinary.
Makes me think if something like this might be useful or valuable for Iraq or Afghanistan and how children are playing there.

“A good playworker will have resources as readily available as a first aid kit so that if and when children come and ask for face paiting or a deck of cards these materials or their approximations can be furnished to them. What a playworker does not do is schedule events and say, “This afternoon we will be face painting and playing canasta. Then you will do 30 minutes of “keep fit” and then have a healthy snack.” This contaminates the play frame and corrupts the freely chosen, personally directed, and intrinsically motivated playing that children must experience.”

Makes me think of how I can do something like this in the workspace and as manager/leader.

“The theories of complexity provide some interesting metaphors for understanding playwork. Arthur Battram describes an ideal state for a play setting by likening it to a wave. Before the wave breaks, there is stasis, order. After the wave breaks, there is turbulence and chaos. At the curl of the breaking wave there is a delicate balance between order and chaos. … Look at the curl of the wave, which is where we surf because that is where the power is … It is a framework for creativity.”

I want to surf!

“Loose parts (Nicholson’s theory of loose parts) do exactly the opposite of battery-powered toys that require the child only to push a button to send the toy into an ecstasy of beeping and flashing a tinny music. Such toys do the playing while the child is reduced to the passive role of an audience.”

“Have the best time that you can while you are here and try not to hurt yourself or anyone else.”

“We are poor indeed if we are only sane.” by D.W. Winnicott

“He terms the space between the GEM and the child, in which this playing occurs, the “transitional or potential space.” It is a space where things can happen that are “me” and “not me.”

This is bodystorming for me.

One Response to “My notes from “The Playwork Primer” by Penny Wilson”

  1. Penny Wilson says:

    Glad that you enjoyed the Playwork Primer. It’s great when one world of work informs another.
    It is also interesting to know how people stumble across such specific documents that fall outside their fields.

    If you want to read more writing about play, please visit
    This is a collection of play memories gathered in the East End of London and illustrated to form a teal world and an on line exhibition.

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