Since Jan has been supporting play at our monthly meetings at Firstsite there has been an increase in the amount of children asking their parents to come to these meetings…
Children often arrive asking ‘where is Jan?’ – she welcomes them in a way that shows where training and expertise meet real life and offers activities and a warm safe place that truly enables them to have fun.
Jan explains how she became involved and explains more…
Attracted by the Syrian pop-up cafe on a visit to Firstsite, I met Clare who told me about Refugee Action – Colchester. As a recently retired play therapist with a play room full of toys and play materials lying idle I asked if there was anyway I could be useful. I was invited to bring play to the monthly meetings to occupy the children.
Since then I bring a car full of activities and toys each month where they are laid out in one end of the room so the children can play freely and safely… I say children, but the ages range from babies to teens and can be as many as thirty!
There is plenty of adult support plus a team of students from the sixth form college, keeping the play fun and safe – engaging with table crafts, being the patient at the doctors or drinking pretend cups of tea. In the summer we can use the outside space where the children can really let off steam!
Play in its self is healing, and children know what they need to do and rarely get the opportunity these days to play freely with a mixed age range and with space to run.
The only rules are “no hurting” or deliberately breaking the toys, so once the play space is set up , all that is needed is to stand back and watch.
Every meeting is different as the children follow a mysterious inner ebb and flow – one day bubbles, another balloons. Recently throwing a rubbery mouse as far up the wall as possible was very popular – and then came the challenge of getting it down, tall adults needed or ingenious solutions!
We have special toys for the babies and a quiet corner where they won’t be squashed by enthusiastic ball play.
It is very rewarding watching the quiet ones come out the their shell and start enjoying playing with the others, learning to share and take turns.
Play is infectious and it’s good to see adults tossing a balloon around or enjoying a game of draughts or uno. As we go into another winter I pack the car, set off for Colchester and wonder what will happen tonight…