A Sense of Play


noun – engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose

verb – activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation


noun – the quality of being light-hearted or full of fun.

In our work on The Storybox Project, play and playfulness has always been central to our approach. That irresistible sense of energy, freedom and fun is encouraged and supported through the content and structure of our activities. Reigniting a way of being that many people will have left behind with their childhood.

From our perspective when we talk about playfulness what do we mean? Through Storybox we aspire to create shared spaces that celebrate in the moment participation regardless of outcome. We also see playfulness as a tool that places imagination at the forefront and that empowers participants to take the lead in how and when they would like to take part, and in shaping what that participation means to them. When working with people living with dementia it is our experience that this approach can have particular power and possibility as it celebrates the increased dis-inhibition, and changed / renewed sense of identity that many people may experience as a result of their dementia.

So, on a practical level what can you do as a facilitator to create a playful space?

  • Create a space where people feel comfortable and safe to take part and to find their own flow within the group, and then to follow that flow. In order to do this you may need to create a space where you will not be disturbed by other things, or where people feel empowered to come and go as they please, or to engage as and when they please…
  • Make it clear in your behaviour and response that the space that you are creating is one where everybody is valid and value.
  • Have faith in freedom both as a group and as individuals. Make sure that people are able to respond and participate in their own way, and to explore what freedom means to them within this creative context.
  • Remember that everybody in your group is equal, and as such all response are also equal regardless of how different they may be from the response that you may have been anticipating! Celebrate and encourage participation in all forms!
  • Try to facilitate rather than lead. Try to act as a guide on a creative journey without being concrete about your destination. You may have an idea where you would like end up in an activity or workshop, but be equally happy if you end up in a location that is totally different or unexpected.
  • Have fun! Laughter, joy, connection. All hugely powerful but frequently relegated in importance in situations of care / support. Place your faith in fun and allow yourselves to enjoy together!

Image credit – James Mulkeen