While playworking on an adventure playground like Play Adventures we follow something called the Play Cycle and through this we are able to understand where children, during their play, are in the cycle and their different play needs.
Playwork has done a fantastic job at understanding the notion of meta communication in an all embracing context like that of a child's cue to play. These meta signals can be eye contacts, facial expressions, and even body positions that start processes of social and non-social engagements. A a playworker we learn to better understand these communications with time and even more so as our relationship with the child grows and strengthens.
Play Drive: All play begins with the play drive that is the instinctive desire and need to play.
Play Cue: From this drive the child may produce an action which can be very subtle or very obvious. An invitation to their play.
An example of an obvious play cue:
A girl said to me (cue): “ Come and when we go in this fort we enter into a different realm. One long long ago.” I entered and saw that she became very old (cue), I followed and also became very old and spoke like I had no teeth”. We discussed what it was like to have only a horse to ride and no cars, knowing that cars will one day exist.
When we exited the fort we came back to reality and she stretched her arms and legs and held herself up straight (cue that we returned to normal), as did I! Then another child came to play with us. We entered the fort to a new realm and we became like monkeys. I again took the cue of the girl who started the game and became a monkey, but the new kid wanted to be a sorcerer. And tried to put a spell on us to become frogs. I now took his cue and became a frog The original girl I was playing with said: “ that's not in this game and refused to morph into the frog.” So she took a stick and changed me back into a monkey. Then the game became one where I was changing back and forth from different animals until they finally moved on. It was very funny… for THEM! (jK, I enjoyed it too!) I was no longer needed and they kept up the sorcerer realm game for a while longer. More kids came to join and I quietly and cautiously stepped back. Every now and again they would find me and turn me into something else!
Sometimes kids misinterpret each other's cues as do we. This Story is from childrenscrapestore.co.uk:
A mom came to pick up her child and brought him a water bottle. He ran back to the playground and began to use it like a water pistol. He looked around for someone to engage in his new game. He caught and maintained eye contact with a young girl from his class. They both knew they had committed to playing something from this exchange (eye contact was the cue). Maybe his intention was to spray her while hers was to make sure she didn't get sprayed. To find out more about what happened in this exchange read tomorrow's blog The Play Return.