L is for Learning Environment


“To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely.”

(Marie Montessori )

I am currently in the middle of an MA in early years childhood studies and it would be hard to ignore how important a good learning environment is for young children’s development. This got me thinking about how Play-away could provide further resources to The Revival Centre nursery to develop and help stimulate the learning experience of the young children. Play-away’s mission is to provide support through play for young children , which includes every aspect of their learning. Here are some of the ideas ….small steps….

Book Corner

Create a quiet carpeted book corner area, where children can sit with a teacher or their friends and learn to enjoy books and develop their communication skills away from a large group. This lovely photo I found from lovelylittlebookworms.blogspot.co.uk shows how simple but effective a quiet space could be.



Role play and Dressing up

I am collecting donations of dressing up clothes, puppets and dolls to see if we can encourage some further creative play. It will be interesting to watch how they respond but I am aware of the culture difference in attitudes to play. Education is so vital in Uganda for all children and is taken very seriously that this type of play may not be seen as a tool for learning as we understand it. Children learn so much through this type of play , it could become a valuable tool for children who often have very difficult lives to express their emotions and re-enact their lives which helps them make sense of it.



Outdoor Play

In 2012 Play-away provided the first playground for The Revival Centre nursery so I am looking forward to seeing it in action and how we can further develop their resources. We often see young children in a playground full of equipment running around using loose materials, cardboard boxes and musical instruments, improvising and creating their own games. This type of child-initiated play could be expanded and developed further in outdoor play. Play-away would like to introduce some musical instruments outside made from basic resources, such as old pans and  spoons.


Hopscotch could be painted on the floor which would help children learn games together, build relationships, encourage number recognition and build confidence.

 I can’t wait until our next trip to Uganda in April and to sharing ideas and working with the dedicated team at The Revival centre. Two weeks are never enough!
For more information please visit: www.revivalcentrematugga.org.uk

K is for Kids Around the World



This is me and my big sister Deborah in the early 1970’s. I think we were very lucky growing up, although we didn’t have masses of money, we were surrounding by a backstreet full of kids of different ages. Our school holidays were filled with games, back street rounders, cycling, skipping, creating plays and even pretend school days. I was never happier than when playing a simple game of marbles.  Suggest this to my three children now and they will look at me like I’ve just arrived out of space!  “But where is the remote control?”… But what strikes me during our travels with Play-away is that children all over the world all love to play and manage to create their own games, even when they really have nothing. This is what motivates me to see Play-away reach more childrens lives and provide better access to play, giving them the same opportunities to explore as our kids have at home.

boy hole uganda


2 boys jinja



Kids playing in Matugga,, Uganda.


This is one of my favourite photos from Matugga, Uganda.



J is for Journeys on a Bicycle


Another year on and it seems Mark and I are destined to be back on the saddle! This time last year Play-away had a team of 10 cycling the Leeds Liverpool canal , all 127 miles of it!. The team raised a fantastic £1800 which was well spent on helping provide two indoor soft play centres for disabled children in Southern India. Mark and I are visiting the centres again this November , where we will be finishing the painting and adding some more equipment. I can’t wait to see the rooms in full use and bring back lots of photos.


This year Mark and I are taking the challenge of cycling from London to Brighton, 54 miles, on September 8th. We will join over 2000 people, starting  the challenge in South London, travel through Mitcham, Carshalton, Chipstead, Banstead, Haywards Heath and finally to Brighton having completed 54 miles! You can sponsor directly at: http://www.doitforcharity.com/MPeru

cycle challenge

Training has been slow as I have had my foot operated on recently so cycling many miles was not part of my recommended recovery,however we are committed to completing the challenge and have made good progress in the last few weeks. What keeps me motivated is the reason why we are doing it. This years funds will go along way to provide a playground for jaajabarbs ‘Home of Angels’, in Jinja, Uganda. I have written about this wonderful place before and am very happy to report that Barbara’s first set of orphaned children, suffering with HIV have moved into her wonderful home. Please spare a minute to read about her incredible story and achievement so far, it really is quite moving and truly inspirational.


orpans moving in

The first children to move into their new home


Play-away would appreciate any support and sponsorship for our London to Brighton challenge to help fulfill our promise to some more young children that deserve the chance to play. You can sponsor directly at: http://www.doitforcharity.com/MPeru



Thank you for reading and we  look forward to finishing our cycle ride with lots of photos to share along the way.

I is for Inspiration all over the world.


There are so many wonderful and inspiring projects all over the world that provide and support outdoor play in disadvantaged countries. All sharing one common goal to enrich children’s lives and give them the same opportunities to play as children born in less disadvantaged countries. Watching the work these charities and individuals continue to do inspires and motivates Play-away to play a small part in this campaign.

One of my favourites to follow is The Naked Heart Foundation. In 2004, model Natalia Vodianova became motivated to set up this charity, after the appalling events of the Beslan tragedy, aiming to provide modern safe play parks in urban areas of Russia.

During the last 9 years  the charity has grown and provided over 90 play areas in over 68 cities and towns across Russia, building over  90 accessible playgrounds in 68 cities and towns across the country. Natalie has used her famous contacts and her modelling stature to stand up for what she believes passionately about, raising money through the very glamorous Love Balls and charity auctions. This year the charity will reach opening  its 100th playground , something worth celebrating!  for more information on the charity and all the great work www.nakedheart.org


Here are some of the Naked Heart Foundations fabulous playgrounds, I would love to go visit some of them one day!


(photos: www.nakedheart.org)

This playground is in the small town of Kokui, in the Sretensky District and the finished project looks wonderful. The safe play area provides outdoor play for a wide range of ages and all levels of physical ability. I love the bright interesting  fairy castle and it even  has a rollerdome for the older children.

Let’s move to Sweden for inspiration with playground-project.org. A playground charity founded by two women in 2010, Sofia Hellqvist and  Frida Vesterberg, to help children struggling in deprived areas of Cape Town, South Africa. Playground Project focusses on providing recreational projects, such as football and sports activity clubs and safe play areas for children of mixed ages



Playground Project focusses on children aged 3 to 21 in  Langa, the oldest township in the Western Cape. 50% of the population in Langa is  under 18 years old , which can lead to issues of child-headed households, gangs, abuse, alcoholism and unemployment. These young children find themselves dealing with situations that no child should have to be involved in. Playground Project supports these children through providing recreational activities and creating a safe environment to come together and play in their community.

What draws me to Playground Project is our shared beliefs of what an important tool play is to helping young children develop into a more rounded,  confident individuals.

 “Play is for all the children in the world a cultural way to express themselves and a natural way to communicate with each other and others around them.” (www.playground-project.org)

I’ll leave this post with one of my favourite playground images, mixing innocence, creativity and world full of exploration just waiting to be discovered……


 This is St.Kildas Adventure playground , found in Port Philip, Australia, . It covers four hectares of land and includes a beached pirate shipwreck and a submarine.  It was built after World War II to help disadvantaged children  in the area develop mentally and physically. I love its creativity and use of recycled resources.

H is for Health and Happiness


There has been so much research collected on the health benefits of playing outdoors for young children. Not only does it increase their levels physical activity, but helps to reduce anxiety and stress. improving a childs mental well-being. Think about what a positive impact outdoor play can have on those young children in disadvantaged countries, whose daily lives are much more demanding and stressful than our own.


These children often have to get up in the early hours of the morning to help with house chores before walking to schools some distance away. They may have to help look after family members suffering from ill-health and giving them more opportunity to play within school is a valuable opportunity to just be a child.

kids walking

kids water

Play in early childhood allows children to give voice to their experiences and to have a safe place to express confusing and painful feelings, and to find ways of overcoming emotional traumas (Hirschland 2009).


Playing sports outdoors and specialising having fun with friends is equally important in the senior school. Play-away would like to help raise money in 2014 to provide the senior children at The Revival School, Matugga in Uganda with a proper outdoor area to play netball, football and just hang out.


Play England, 2012, carried out a literature review and stated that,

“Play is a fundamental human right for all children, regardless of age, gender, culture, social class or disability. This must be reflected in a range of play environments that offer children, who are otherwise disadvantaged, with experiences that help improve their quality of life.”



Outdoor play allows a child the freedom to use their imagination more freely and engage in creative play, that’s why I am passionate about the benefits of learning through play.

(Photo: www.letthechildrenplay.net)

G is for Games

Children get creative all over the world in their quest for fun and playing games. Playing games is a wonderful tool for learning, developing friendships and building self-esteem. Play-away would like to provide outdoor play areas which encourage young children to use their imagination and encourage free play, which is so often lacking in classrooms in disadvantaged countries, struggling with resources and striving for a better education.


Children playing with sacks in , Mataugga, Uganda. Simple fun.

Blowing Bubbles

Bubbles at The Revival Centre, Matugga, Uganda. One of my favourite days spent in the nursery there.



Children are always ready to share a smile, whatever their circumstances.

Snowing in Uganda!


Simple stickers., always seem to end up on their foreheads.!

(Photo: www.kathrynmckinney.wordpress.com)

F is for Friends


We have been so lucky to have met some incredible people on our Play-away journey so far. When I set about volunteering for the first time in 2009 little could I have imagined who I might meet along the way. People who inspire and motivate you. People who share their stories and open their hearts to you. People who become friends from all across the world


Joyce (above) and Josephine are both nursery teachers in Matugga, Uganda. They do an amazing job with the little resources they have and are an inspiration.


Working with 2bears.org.uk has been a wonderful experience and I would recommend anyone thinking of volunteering or visiting India to go on one of their organised trips. Families in India welcome you into their homes and share their stories. They amaze me with their generosity, always wanting to give you  fresh coconut milk and  to feed you, when they have little themselves.

india group

group 2 india

Meeting new people from across the U.K, sharing new experiences and learning from each other.


Friends and their families that take you into their homes to stay, making you feel welcome and part of the family.


Meeting Tobito , the young boy that I sponsor at The Revival Centre in Matugga is something that I will always cherish and feel privileged to help gain an education. I look forward to seeing his cheeky smile again in 2014.


If any one is interested in volunteering on a Play-away project in Uganda we would love to share our experiences and give you the opportunity to meet some of these wonderful people yourselves!

E is for Early Years Outdoor Play at Home and Away!


Pioneers such as Margaret McMillan built their early year’s curriculum upon the value of outdoor play and its learning opportunities.


“children in a good outdoor play area will appear active, absorbed, motivated and purposeful” (Bilton, 2006)


The Uganda Child Rights NGO Network, (UCRNN) conducted research into the state of the country’s nursery education in 2003 which confirmed that most respondents were still complacent with children   learning through play (UCRNN, 2003). I have found progress to be slow in this area , partly due to the financial obstacles and lack of qualified teachers.

The importance of play has been reinforced in the United Kingdom through the introduction of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) ,2008, which states that

“Play underpins the   delivery of the EYFS and children must have opportunities to play indoors and outdoors”, (DCSF,2008)


Scandinavia views the early year’s environment as one contributing to the raising of the next generation, preparing for life in society, not just for the role in school.

 “outside is a half of a whole, inside being the other half” Nicholson (2003)


The Department for Education (DfE) in 2010 announced that all local authorities were to freeze funding on new playgrounds and since then this sector has remained in a state of uncertainty.

In 2004 the Greater London Authority stated that “poverty has shaped the experiences of children’s play outdoors and continues to do so today” (Tovey,  2008).

A universal problem? Play-away would like to become more involved in play areas in need within our own communities in the U.K


I find the direction which Liz Truss MP , Childcare Minister, appears to be taking rather worrying and a  step backwards from the learning through play and exploration ethos.

Liz Truss  stated at a recent Nursery World  conference that ” Free-flow play between outdoors and indoors is not a requirement and not something Ofsted is looking for.” (April, 2013) and has also been heavily criticised for her comments  stating many nurseries were filled with toddlers ‘running around with no sense of  purpose’. In my professional opinion under 5’s should be allowed to do exactly that! There is plenty of research to show Liz Truss that learning through play and outdoor play has a positive impact on development and I only hope she begins to listen to the experts in this field!

I am passionate about early years outdoor play, which is what motivated me to set up Play-away in the first instance, it has struck me recently that Play-away could be more involved at home with current early years issues as well as those overseas. An evolving project!

The voice of the child and the early years practitioners are perhaps more important than ever to continue to progress and develop outdoor play.

D is for Dreams


Dreams…………….a cherished aspiration, ambition, or ideal

How often do we ask our children what they want to be when they grow up? I have weekly conversations with my three children about what they would like to do when they are older, their thoughts change constantly, anything from a doctor, musician, teacher and politician has been on the table at some time. My response is always the same, you can be whatever you want to be as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve it.

Whilst volunteering at The Revival School in Matugga, Uganda I have had the privilege of meeting all the orphaned children which are collectively named ‘champions’. I love this name , it gives the children a sense of belonging together and is much more positive term. Part of our time with the champions is used to find out how they are getting on at school and how they are feeling about life. These children are sponsored by people in the U.K so it is important the charity spends time with each individual child to monitor their progress and well-being.

These champions have the same aspirations as my own children, some want to be doctors, nurses, teachers, professional footballers, scientists, lawyers and even the occasional astronaut! There struggle to achieve these aspirations are so much harder simply because of where they have been born. The reality is they will  not all achieve their dreams, not because they haven’t worked hard enough,  but because their are too many obstacles placed in their way. It is amazing to see and hear of the few champions that are now managing to get scholarships and support to go onto university to allow them to achieve their dreams.

Early years education in disadvantaged countries is so important in beginning the creative development to allow such dreams to evolve and for these children to think outside their current environment. These children’s dreams and aspirations deserve be cherished, nourished and encouraged.

All children have dreams!


I want to be a racing driver when I grow up!

DSCN0430I want to be an architect


I want to be a footballer

This is a picture of me!

I want to be a teacher

happiness in uganda

I want to be happy