The re(p)laybox

At this year’s last day of the Counterplay festival, the seven of us talked about how we could keep the play alive after the festival. This festival is a three day bubble, where you’re surrounded by likeminded people. Work, doing your laundry and other errands are far far away. But how do we keep the play-spirit alive when we’re back home?

We wanted to do something small. Create a small ripple in our own lives. Us seven, were the exact right people at the right time. Here’s what we came up with.

Continue reading “The re(p)laybox”

Featured post

Goggly eyes and making mazes

In my playbox were

  • A play it forward card
  • Postcards saying “You Are Amazing” on them
  • A Google Cardboard glasses set
  • Some origami cranes
  • Ideas of things to do to make you feel good
  • Confetti
  • Spinners
  • A teeny ball of wool
  • Arrow stickers
  • Goggly eyes


The first thing I did was send one of the You Are Amazing postcards to a mate who is going through a hard time.

I then tried to figure out what the Google Cardboard glasses were, download the app, and have a play on them. This box arrived half way through Freshers week and to be honest the five minutes distraction it gave me was so lovely and calming, gazing out as a VR sea landscape and pretending to be a bird for a bit (though it may have gotten me some funny looks from my co-workers).

I put googly eyes on all the presenter computers in the classrooms my office teach in. A couple have stayed up and still make me smile when I see them.

My favourite thing, however, was making a little maze using the arrow stickers in my library. I have no idea if anyone else found it or followed it, but it gave me a lot of joy!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The RePlaybox comes to Manchester

I was genuinely thrilled and surprised when the Replaybox turned up on my doorstep (largely because it had been long enough since Counterplay ’17 that I sort of forgot about it). I tore the wrapping open to find a random assortment of colourful objects, most of which I recognised as Smurfs. The box had clearly been to Europe…

The presence of any cardboard box in the house excites my cat, Olive, a lot.


So it was even better that the box was full of colourful choking hazards that she could try to murder. I made an effort to play with Olive more over the month with a few of the toys (mostly to make sure she didn’t eat any of them). Her favourites were the brightly coloured ball (which was the right size to wrap herself around completely) and the glittery tinsel pipe-cleaner things, which I stringed together to make some sort of glitter worm which she chased around the kitchen for a few days. I later found bits of the snake ‘buried’ around the house so I decided to get rid of it before it started to decompose….

It was great to be reminded of how simple things can be turned into toys, even cardboard boxes and used cable ties. Olive should be an example to us all.

The box arrived at just the right time as I’m getting heavily into the ‘serious’ part of my PhD research on the role of play in education so I needed some reminding to play myself. I tried to incorporate some of the toys into my work. For instance, I used lots of the box’s contents as props during a ‘playful research’ session with my Education and Childhood Studies students at Manchester Metropolitan University.


My students were genuinely excited by some of these objects, which took them back to childhood (mostly the Smurfs), and genuinely mystified by others (the Skylanders figure – its amazing how quickly expensive toy brands become redundant in the mind of young people!). They used their imaginations to try to figure out what they were and where they came from.


I made this little guy out of the Lego bricks in the box, and no matter how many times I reconfigured the bricks I kept returning to this duck-like version. He sat on my desk next to my computer reminding me to be playful in my writing. In fact he’s so enjoyed being around that he has refused to get back in the box (Olive tried to murder him a few times but he’s fine). I like having him around too, so sorry future box owners, but he’s staying in Manchester.

Having reached the end of the month, I also decided to keep the ‘Play Jar’ that I found inside; this is basically a miniature play box that fits in my bag, so I’m planning to carry it around with me so I never had a reason not to play!


Finally, I rolled a dice to decide on the box’s next destination:


Congratulations, Person #2 – you’re next! I hope you like what I’ve added to the box. Enjoy, and keep playing!

Brown Paper Packages…

Brown paper packages

The genius of the (re)playbox is the unexpected arrival of a parcel in the post. You feel like a kid when you realise what the hand-labelled parcel must be and look forward to exploring the contents (when the kids aren’t around).


My box arrived late June, put together with lots of care and attention by Giskin. You know, the Giskin who created ‘kitchen think adventures’…and she made one for me!

My kitchen think adventure universe


Lot’s of beautifully dymo-d components. Ok kids, you can come back in the room, this is for sharing.

My space adventure

Little touches in the adventure included through provoking questions for discussion revealing themselves in the stars.

Reflecting on the messages in the stars

Kid’s got really into it as it’s designed to get your imagination flowing.

and we’ve landed on our planet!

Also in the box were jacks, lego, cuddly toys and of course, sneaky cards! I bought a twix and happily gave it to the next person I met, with instructions to share the love by buying someone else a cup of coffee.

sneaky cards and a twix for someone

And then time to add some new goodies, repack some existing goodies (I think that beaver is going to do the rounds) decorate it all up and send the box on it’s merry way…

[this blog post has been sitting in draft between June and Oct – oops, sorry!]

Finally, it arrived!!

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…….?



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.







Playfulness with the re(play)box

I received a delightful box from Andy Walsh who started our group.


I’d forgotten what fun popping candy can be so that was a nice bit of nostalgia. There was a pack of ‘sneaky cards’. I posted this one on a bulletin board at Charing Cross Hospital:


I also wrote a haiku for a friend:


Rosie Jones and I found that the fake moustaches came in useful at this year’s Playful Learning conference when we were asked to go in disguise…


I’ve always wanted a set of storycubes so it was great to receive those. I carry them around with me for spontaneous storymaking.


Andy challenged me to make something imaginative from Lego:


It’s a machine that loads flowers on to floats for carnivals and festivals (obviously!).

Finally it was time to repack the box with playful stuff, including a space-themed ‘Kitchen Think’ adventure, and send it off to Katie Piatt.


Even when you lose…you win!

It seems the cat didn’t choose my name. But I am very excited NOT to be one of the first recipients of the re(p)laybox…because instead I got a special delivery from Marian with this lovely postcard and my very own confetti to keep me amused while I wait for my turn!


Thanks Marian, that was really thoughtful and it is an epic postcard 🙂 Thanks so much.

Blog at

Up ↑