Knock knock goes the door. Who can it be? What can it be? A box? This looks odd. Baby Unicorn? Curious. Turn the box over…….
Oh my goodness, can it be, can it finally be…….?
Some context: I attended Counterplay Festival in Aarhus, Denmark earlier this year. Its a wonderful 3 day event celebrating and investigating play. The conference has grown year on year and I was lucky enough to volunteer there this March. A discussion took place on the final day- how do we continue to play in this collaborative way, with each other when we are spread around the world? The answer was (re)play box, a simple box, full of playful starting points. It is send to different players the world, all of whom get a month to play with the items, record their time, regenerate the box and pass it onto the next person. All is asked is that you add an article to the blog at https://playreplaybox.wordpress.com. So to continue with my posting….
In my (re)play box I got:
Balloons, party blowers, bubblegum, lego, set of Jacks, material bits, rice, medals, kaleidoscope, modelling balloons, a toy beaver, chalk bunting.
Immediately, my son and I got stuck into the box, it’s items and its possibilities. After taking everything out and spreading it around in a chaotic and mildly unnerving way we focused on the lego as our first task. Given that my son has a huge box of Duplo, I appreciated us being limited to a few pieces. The wheels led the way and unsurprisingly we built a futuristic space buggy.
It was fun to keep the beast off centre and I enjoyed playing with the weight distribution. Special parts bush as aerial and ‘lights’ also added to the fun and my son B made sure the thing could fly, wheels or no by shwooshing it around the room wth expert skills. Coming back to the lego play a few days later, we added some ‘ramps’ from a box of loose parts and raced Mark II (a simpler contraption) around a mini skatepark.
I was surprised to find my favourite ‘exercise’. The invitation was there from the start: ‘make your own stress ball’ and we were supplied with rice and a balloon but it took a while for me to take the offer up. We loved filling the balloon with rice, in particular expanding its mass when we thought it must already be full. We squished and stretched, pulled and poured. The textures were great and a four-year olds tiny fingers were perfect for adding one grain of rice at a time.
The young beaver reminded me of a game my friends and I used to play with a squirrel. Based internationally, we would post the rodent around and photograph it in exotic, (or not-so-exotic) locations. This was before social media so we’d share the photos between us on rare trans-global meet ups. I thought I would relaunch this game so here is the young fellow schmooozing in Warwickshire.
I was in Stratford- Upon- Avon with ‘Roman Games’- a set of ancient boardgames and playscape for the public to play on the street, inspired by the ‘Rome!’ season at the RSC. Knucklebones is one of the pastimes we share as part of the project, so it was apt to receive its descendant ‘Jacks’ in the (re)play box.
Knucklebones- Tali in Latin, were played by children in Egyptian and Roman times, possibly long before that too. Originally they used the ankle bones of goats. Rules have varied over time, but the play is especially the same, you complete tricks by throwing, sweeping, knocking and catching the ‘bones’. Jacks came into being sometime in the 20th Century as far as I’m aware, and in the 1990’s a Spanish company released ‘Crazybones’, a plastic, character based version. We were gifted a set of Crazybones during our (re)play box time so we had 3 versions of the same game, spanning thousands of years!
I was interested that the box I received featured mainly items that had been created with a set purpose. I use a lot of loose parts play in my work and have boxes of junk for playing and making in my office. One item that gave wonderful free rein though was the material scraps. We played ‘paths and maps’ and expanded around tables and chairs.
My final play was the joy of sending the box on, a month later. I wanted it to be as safe as possible, so wrapped it in sticky back plastic. The material was pretty heavy-duty and it took on a life of its own.
Farwell (re)play box. We loved having you in our lives this summer. Go well and prosper in play.