A hot topic these days in the childcare world is risky play. For many years we have been working hard to bubble wrap kids and eliminate all possible risks and hazards that might be in their way. There is a new thought out there that says if we don’t let kids take little risks now, then they will not know how to deal with any kind of risks when they get older.
When faced with this topic I often think back to my own childhood and the time I spent in the school playground by myself. We had the traditional playground that I am sure most of you remember from your own childhoods. There were the swings, slides, teeter totter, and monkey bars; the kind that were about 4 feet or so high and 4 feet long.
I remember swinging as high as I could, pumping my legs and trying to get high enough to see over the bar. I also remember standing on the seat and pumping myself up that way. The feeling in my stomach I would get the higher I went was exciting. I loved the feeling of the wind in my hair and oh, the feeling of flying when I jumped off that swing!
I had a mission when it came to those monkey bars. I would climb the 3 steps and hold onto the first bar. I would look across them to the end which back then felt like a mile but I am sure was only 7 or 8 bars until the end. I would hold the first bar and hang there working up to reaching for the next bar, and the next one only to drop after 3 bars. I kept at it for weeks. I would begin hand over hand,going as far as I was capable of and each time I got up there I would challenge myself more and more. Eventually I made it. It took me weeks of trying and trying but I made it! The feeling of accomplishment I had when I got to the end was amazing. Wow! I did it… all by myself, I did it. I was so proud of my accomplishment.
I never went further or faster than I felt comfortable and safe with. I can say the same about the swings. I never went higher than I felt comfortable with.
The kids love to climb up on chair to get higher or they climb on the picnic table outside and jump off. It is very interesting to watch them as they identify their own comfort levels and regulate themselves. The little ones stand up there with pride and them ask for a hand to help them jump off. The older ones get up there and jump off all by themselves. The smiles on their faces when then jump off and land show how proud they are of themselves. Then they race back up to the top of the table again and again.
These are important skills for kids as well as adults to have; to be able to look at a risk, assess it and decide if it something they can feel comfortable attempting. When kids don’t have the opportunity to take risks at an early age, they can’t learn how to take risks when they get older.
So… climb up on that table and fly!!