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  • Writer's pictureMike Douglas

Rural Areas Play Project

This half term I have been back at my out of term time job, as a Playworker. I have worked as part of the RAPP Team for many years, often returning between jobs or when I am working a term time only job (which I am at the moment). I guess that in itself tells you what I think about the Rural Areas Play Project (RAPP).

I started working in the Team back when I was at university at the end of 2006. It worked pretty well with my studies as I didn't have a weekly job. I made sure to keep up with work during term time, so in the breaks I could work with RAPP. These days there is a bit more going on so managing my time can be hard on occasion. Fortunately I have, with my Boss, managed to take time when I have needed it. Wether that be for a job interview, to help a family member move or because of my health.

The job itself is fairly different to my term time job, but there are similarities and respective skills / experience required.

Rather than working with the 16 to 19 year olds and over, I get to play and chat with young children, often 3 to 7 years old, and their adult companions. It is quite lovely to sit at a craft table drawing or making something that in no way resembles what its meant to be and just taking some time out to chat with people. Of course we are making sure the activity is running to time, that everyone is safe, that no stranger has just walked in and that that child hasn't been in the toilet for 20 minutes before we wonder if they found the next way to get to Narnia. That being said its remarkable how quickly you get used to looking, observing and risk assessing without thinking about it. If your a parent you are probably more familiar with this ability than non child raisers like myself.

My favourite ever RAPP memory is playing imaginary snakes and ladders with a young girl probably 5 or 6. We were at a school with boards carved onto picnic benches and she asked to play, but we didn't have any dice or counters. So we decided we could use our fingers as counters and roll an imaginary dice. Now I know what your thinking, my niece would be the same. 6, 6, 6, 6, 6 right! Nope. This little girl rolled 2's 4's and 1's. She even ended up going down a couple of snakes. It was great to just play and use our imaginations. Its what childhood should be right. Before it gets all competitive and theres worries about winning, losing, what you look like if your playing, or if you talk to someone that you don't know (in a safe place obviously).

It has been good for me to have something stable in the background too. As some of you know I have jumped around job wise (five different jobs in 2015). Having a Team that has kept taking me back has been good for me I think. I would like to think I have added a lot to the Project too, not just with hard work (theres been a lot of lifting and shifting) but ideas and thoughts on best practice, creating a calm positive environment for visitors and providing some fun along the way.

I can't not mention one of the other best bits for me. Wearing shorts and flip flops. Such a dream. Especially in the summer. When I went back to my term time job in September my feet felt very strange going back into shoes. It was unnatural #HobbitFeetForLife haha.

I have had the pleasure of working with a variety of different RAPP Coordinators in the last 10 (Holy Cow!) years and RAPP itself has changed over time. Different staff, volunteers, venues, facilitators and families have been part of this outreach programme. I have loved being part of all the different Teams, visiting those venues and welcoming all our visitors.

I remember when I started and 'Basketball with Alex' and 'Music with Amba' used to be half our programme. Alex and Amba were amazing and very popular. However, it has been great to see the activities grow, to include sessions like painting with marbles, pizza making, den building, circus skills and pirates treasure hunt.

While mums are our main bookers, its lovely to see grandparents and dads come along to join in the fun too. Wether they join in by spending some quality time with their little ones or meeting other parents and grandparents, fun seems to be had by all. I often think its one of those overlooked positives. Its a great way to meet other local parents / carers, who could be your new potential friend. For some people having children can lead to a very isolated life, so the chance to get out and attend a fun morning or afternoon session could be a great way to meet someone else being run ragged by a little monster, I mean lovely child.

I have and continue to enjoy my time as part of the RAPP Team. Providing play opportunity across all of East Hampshire, especially the rural areas we visit where there often are no play schemes or play provision for children in the area.

If you fancy seeing what RAPP has going on in the holidays (we are in East Hampshire) then please check the website for more information.

This is an non-sponsored post, these views are my own. If you never see me in the purple jumper again its because Lisa didn't like me revealing toilets are the way to Narnia.

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