Hier findet ihr die deutsche Version.

The Railjet 130 has just started moving. I return from Udine to Vienna, after four days of touching and emotional encounters, rich conversations, wide exchanges and intense play. Voilà my personal report.

Cristina Piovesana from Udine and Alessia Zanella from the small village of Pagnacco near Udine invited me to offer four days of play in the area around Udine in various kindergartens with participants of the last Original Play workshops. For months, Alessia had prepared everything, contacted kindergartens and participants and synchronized appointments. She even came to Vienna in January in order to collect playing experience. On 19 February 2018 four days of Original Play with over 140 unknown children stood in front of us.

On Monday we visited the Scuola per l’infanzia “le colline dei bimbi” in Buttrio and on Tuesday the Scuola per l’infanzia SMNS Elena Bettini in Pagnacco, both in the vicinity of Udine. On these two days, only Alessia and I played to get to know the children and build an atmosphere of trust.

On Wednesday, Cristina Graffeo joined us and on Thursday Mariangela Pivo completed our troupe. The kindergartens were the same as on the days before.

First day of Original Play in Buttrio

We were warmly welcomed in the kindergarten in Buttrio. On the eve of Sunday late at night, Alessia received an expectant text message from Sandra, the psychological supervisor of the kindergarten. The teachers supported us before and during the play and showed a keen interest in Original Play. They asked if it was allowed to take pictures and videos. (As for the videos, we agreed on very short clips – if they were used for internal presentations, we would still be asked before.)

We played with a total of seven subgroups – first with the little ones (3 years), then with the “medi”, the middle, (4 years) and in the afternoon with the big ones (5-6 years). The red floor of the large auditorium made our six mats look small at first, but as we played, they became the center of a moving togetherness, full of trust, closeness and joy. From the ceiling, paper-hearts stuck to old CDs hung down, as if symbolically reproducing what was happening on the mats.

Already with the second group, the accompanying teacher told us that it had deeply touched her heart to watch the children play and that she also had to cry a bit. She had noticed that we reacted sensitively to the impulses of the children and only played with them according to their original actions, as if we already knew them well.

The quick change of the usual behavior of the children surprised her. So, according to her observation, a very shy girl opened up to play and developed a familiarity that the teacher had never experienced with her before. She inquired immediately after a workshop and would like to attend in June.

While I was playing I was able to watch how much sympathy another teacher attended for the play. When I spontaneously invited her to join in, she immediately said yes, took off her half boots and apron, came to Alessia and me on the playing field and played along as a matter of course. In the final discussion, she shared with us her observation: through imitation the children would gain new ways of playing that would no longer lead to escalation. When we told a group of children that we would come back in two days, a three-year-old girl said “No!” to us. Immediately, she snuggled up to Alessia and hugged her. Her body had a completely different reaction than her head.

From all participants – educators, parents, playmates and especially the children – we received a warm and emotional positive feedback. “Una meraviglia” – “A miracle” – would have been the play, Sandra told us. In the evening, Alessia received the following message from Sandra: “What can I say … beautiful, beautiful, beautiful … from different worlds, from original instincts, from the play of young puppies and from other species, to touch the child in us… and let the children play as it comes, so it seemed to me … So much emotion, thank you.”

Third day – presentation

Two days later, all the children met Alessia, the newly joined Cristina and me with the highest trust. As soon as we were three of us on the mats, the kids just played with every adult who was free. They did not really care who they wanted to play with, but just tried us all. I felt a lot of presence, respect, appreciation and joy during the play coming from all children and adults. There was not a single kid that was not on the mats that day – all the kids played along. From their experiences while playing, the children made drawings that sparkled with color, joy and creativity.

That same evening, Alessia and I were invited to present Original Play to the entire team and to the representatives of the parents. I felt great pleasure to hear the educators enthusiastically talking about their observations. On Monday, June 18, 2018, in the afternoon, Original Play shall be presented to all parents after the practice morning with Fred. Until then, it seemed to be more than likely that Alessia is invited to play more often.

Second and fourth day – lots of laughter and attention

On the second and fourth day we had to deal with very heterogeneous groups. Especially with the younger ones, there were both extrovert-sociable as well as introvert-shy children. From the adult participants this required a high degree of empathy and adaptability. The heterogeneity continued in the groups of the four to five year olds.

We played in a spacious multi-purpose room, which was equipped as a movement room, bedroom and extra study room. Also on these days the groups were staggered by age in small (3 years), medium (4 years) and large (5-6 years).

The energy in the first two play groups was very different, although the children came from the same kindergarten group. The first group was very restrained, the second group, however, already very lively and playful. The teacher also noticed the different playing behavior.

A good way to get in contact with the kids was to ask for their names. Twice we started to play with the children on the mats right from the beginning and invited them individually afterwards. This also created a very spontaneous joy of playing.

At the beginning of the first round, a boy yearned for his mother and his father crying, but then he came to play on the mats three times and stopped crying. Original Play visibly facilitated the transition process here.

A teacher, Julia, was suddenly surrounded by the girls at the edge of the mat during the play. I immediately invited her to play, she agreed and vividly played a round with us.

The two groups of five to six-year-olds played in the afternoon very self-confident, open and round. The boys were very space-demanding and lively, several times I had several of them at once on my back. Some girls played a little quieter, others moved like the boys. There was a lot of laughter. In the first group, some guys wanted to try out what it’s like to hit my butt and pull on my T-shirt. This behavior calmed down in the course of the play. It could also be changed by direct eye contact. I did not particularly care, as I still considered it as play.

Since we were four adults on the last day, we were able to invite all the girls and all the boys several times and twice the entire group. At the very end I played once again one by one. Alessia noticed how noiseless the play was now – the children came to rest again. In the ensuing discussion and while photos of playing animals, the entire group was highly focused and attentive.

Immediately after our visit on the last day, we received appreciative feedback from two parents. One mother wrote the following short message: “L. (her son) loved the plays you made together, and he does not stop asking if you can organize more encounters.”

Also the director, Chiara, gave us her appreciation and sent Alessia a video in which a psychologist, Daniela Lucangeli, describes the importance of good touch for the development of the child.

Italian Original Play Team

In Udine and the surrounding area, exists now a new, highly motivated team of very dedicated ladies who want to integrate Original Play into their lives and collect intensive play experience: Alessia Zanella, Cristina Graffeo and Mariangela Piva.

I wish all three of them a lot of intense play encounters, open exchange and a connecting team spirit so that they can immerse themselves in the love and the feeling of connectedness, which can be experienced through Original Play and so that they can make these experiences tangible, visible and accessible to others.

My heartfelt thanks go to Alessia Zanella, Cristina Piovesana, Cristina Graffeo, Mariangela Piva, the kindergarten teachers, the parents and of course the children!