Playfulness facilitates the introduction of new concepts and ideas and thus breaks down barriers to full participation with otherwise ‘intimidating’ tools or spaces. We inevitably engage in play when (co)developing technologies and initiating collective research. Through case studies of ‘playshops’ I here show that playfulness provides an engaged setting for learning through curiosity and wonderment but also through embracing mistakes as a way to overcome the fear of exploring and welcoming new outcomes. This is especially true when engaging in scientific exploration using Do-It-Yourself tools and methodologies. Our role as facilitators and educators is to tap the potential of people to engage in civic science with a playful component.