The playful nature of Slacklining
Guest post – Harry Cloudfoot (Slackline Instructor and Performing Artist)
To both children, young people, and adults alike a slackline immediately presents endless possibilities for play. But for those not familiar with a slackline or its potential, allow me to elaborate…
A slackline is essentially a long, thin, bouncy strip of tensioned material that you try to stand and balance on – the feeling is similar to being on a narrow trampoline. You attach it between two sturdy points (trees are best – how convenient!) and after about a 3 minute setup time, the fun begins! Best of all it costs next to nothing!
I was privileged to be asked by Play England to join in at the FTC Canvas Conference recently, where my colleague Ash Burleigh (also from UK Slackline Association) and myself set up a couple of slacklines in the woods. The intention was to showcase to the various organisations in attendance just how much fun a bouncy line can be. And I’m quite sure everyone that tried it, loved it!
As a slackline instructor, I have the amazing job of seeing people of all ages faces light up when they try to balance themselves on a line. The beauty of the slackline when working with kids is that the only limit to your fun intake is your imagination and your perserverence. Are you walking over a river with crocodiles? Perhaps seeking treasure at the end of the castle’s carpeted path? The context is up to the kids.
I am very interested in seeing what creative games can be created and explored with the slackline. We use a few already in our workshops, but I can think of no better audience than play organisations and adventure playgrounds to come up with some new, fun games ideas. Saying that, the enjoyment gained from simply making a couple of extra steps along the line gives most people a huge buzz in itself.
My approach to slacklining is open-source – so please feel free to share ideas / concepts etc. Collaboration is a powerful tool, and I think together we could come up with some really cool ways to make slacklining in natural surroundings even more fun than it already is!
Some other by-products of slacklining are (but definitely not limited to!):
- An appreciation of nature
- Risk and challenge
- Focus and Concentration
- Recognising different tree species
- Understanding tension / gravity / sciencey stuff (for the older ones perhaps)
- Proprioception – awareness of their bodies in space
- The joy of playing barefoot
- Helping one another (to balance and walk along the line)
I know some of you have already been in touch regarding slacklining in your areas – there is funding to be had for getting a set-up going, so please get in touch if you have any questions about this, and would like to explore how slacklining can benefit play in your area – firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you had as much fun as we did at the conference, and for all of you who didn’t make it, I look forward to hearing about your slackline-successes soon! Check out the video below to see where slacklining can get to with some hard work and commitment…