As one of our local organisations said ‘We may be all in the same storm at the moment, but we are not in the same boat’.
Children and young people have lost so much, and in the places we work large numbers of them are on free school meals, with no access to the internet and some of them have no paper or basic art and craft materials at all. Given all that is happening, art, creativity and the opportunity to express yourself becomes more important than ever.
In Torbay our local play organisation joined forces with colleagues from Imagine This… a partnership of 43 voluntary sector children and young people’s organisations in Torbay, and we developed and provided Let’s Create and Play Packs for children and young people across ALL age ranges 0 – 19 years including treasure and sensory baskets for little ones and acrylic paints, sketch books and opportunities to take part in on-line sessions for teenagers.
Play Torbay is providing Packs for children aged 5 – 12 which included a range of scrap and craft materials that would usually end up as waste, along with instructions of fun things to make and do. Participants can access a weekly virtual session led by experienced playworkers, who talk through ideas of how to use the pack to its full potential, as well as providing opportunities for the young people and their families to engage with each other. If any families would prefer not to join the online session, the playworker can contact them directly instead with ideas of how to get the most out of the pack. We are also offering support to families who may be struggling to cope, with signposting and referral to other services where that’s required.
With support from a number of different funders, since March we have developed 4 differently themed packs and jointly delivered over 1,000 packs with over 80% going to families who are disadvantaged in some way. We have a waiting list so fund-raising is continuing because we would really like to ensure the service can carry on through these difficult times. Anyone who feels they may benefit from being involved in the Let’s Create and Play Pack project can contact Play Torbay by emailing email@example.com
To get an idea of the different things the packs offer, in the ‘Winter Play Pack’ there are separate bags for 8 planned sessions where you can try out different skills. There are detailed instruction sheets, so you make can things in a similar way, or you can use the materials in lots of different ways including making your own ‘fidget board’, ‘creating a plastic planter and growing seeds’ and designing your own ‘tree decorations’.
The exciting news is that we are now planning a fifth Play Pack with an eco-theme. This new pack is currently in design phase and subject to funding, will be available from January and run till the end of March 2021. The aim of the Eco Play Pack is to develop creative and playful ways for young people to actively be involved and take their share in protecting the planet. We are working with Torre Abbey and the Trove Scrapstore, a resource hub providing materials to re-make, recycle and re-use; and with Torbay Climate Action colleagues to develop opportunities to explore how solar panels work, re-using plastic and creating eco bricks, the importance of insulation and zero carbon solutions, passive house building, supporting natural habitats, permaculture and plants, etc.
Building on the success of weekly Zooms with Play Packs, where we can host as many as 20 families in a session, we are now planning to invite different presenters to join to talk through and demonstrate an idea, such as building a mini solar-powered boat, or planting winter salad leaves and then discuss further possibilities with young people. One of our ultimate aims is to explore the possibility of developing an inclusive, eco-friendly, people-powered, carbon-neutral adventure playground and we hope that the Eco Play Pack will support and encourage young people and their families to contribute to the future design of the playground.