After School, After Dark

I’m finding wordpress horrifically inflexible, so have made this blog post into a pdf download instead.  I do apologise if this is inconvenient – my snazzy new website will have a simpler blogging system for me, but in the meantime, here’s my meandering thoughts about outdoor play after dark: After School, After Dark – click this link.

An early iteration of the After Dark trug – stacks more in there now.

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‘After Dark’ club

A Learning through Landscapes project in Lambeth last autumn explored the opportunities for play after dark – with fascinating and unexpected results.  The programme was actually about helping 15 After School clubs make better use of the outdoor space they had access to; more often than not, children were cooped up, albeit playing, indoors, having been pretty much cooped up all day at school too.  So fabulous Kyrstie worked with the club playworkers and the children to test out ways of making the grounds accessible after dark.

There wasn’t time enough during the projects to really investigate this in detail, so LTL are now putting together proposals for a bigger pilot programme, specifically to identify creative ways of engaging children and young people in playful activities after dark.  I’m not going to ‘share nicely’ any more than that, because research into the proposal is still a work in progress, but I can say that one of Kyrstie’s real successes last year was with glowsticks.

Let’s face it, in the UK we get a whole load of darkness and at this time of year it’s a real shame that children aren’t out enjoying the smells and sights and sounds of dusk.  Well tonight, the Junior PLLs and their trusty crew from across the Green spent a good half an hour playing with glowsticks of various shapes and sizes.  My pics are awful, I know (apologies) but if nothing else they surely get across the sheer energy and excitement of being out in the darkness.

There were three main games:

Bang loudly on the lamp-post with the glowsticks.  Made a great noise, obviously, and created spooky psychedlic (sp?) patterns in the air, sparkler style.  Now, much as children love making a racket, this actually only entertained them for a few minutes, so they soon came up with the next game.

Hurling the glowsticks as high into the night sky as possible (one of them definitely hit the ISS, really) and avoiding them as they come spinning back to earth was a hoot – for the children.  I have a small, but perfectly formed and slightly sore bruise on my cheekbone as testement to the need for the Littlest PLL to develop his gross motor skills a bit more.  One of the glowsticks ended up in the tree all the children round here ‘learn’ to climb trees in – it was very high up and beyond the reach of even D, the best and most fearless tree climber of the four.  However, M realised that the long (2m) straight stick I keep by my front door would be perfect, so long as someone was prepared to climb the tree in the dark… step forward, Elder PLL, ‘like a rat up an aquaduct’.  We all discovered that tree climbing in the dark is somewhat more challenging than in the bright sunlight we’ve loved getting used to over the last week or so.  But the glowstick made it back down, and so did Elder PLL.  And my stick, more to the point.  My stick obsession deserves a blog entry of its own…

After that, a game of ‘hide the glowsticks on the green’ caused much merriment and mayhem.  Surprisingly, it is possible to hide a very bright emergency beacon type glowstick in undergrowth.  At this point, the four children were joined by two curious cats, who luckily remembered Just In Time what curiosity did to the cat, and scarpered before the children could attach anything to their collars.

I’m afraid at this point, big bad mummy suddenly remembered her responsibilities as a Sensible Parent On A School Night, and called my two in, sending D and M back to their own homes, their radioactive pink and yellow hands fading slowly into the gloom.

I must get the manual out for my DSLR as the quality of the pics is a real shame, and I do want to be able to illustrate the fun to be had outdoors after dark, to encourage others to consider it as a viable context for play.  If anyone reading has experience of play after dark, I’d love to hear about it.