This the slide in our backyard. It is not big. I did not buy it. It was donated to us a few years ago. It is the typical child sized slide found in the backyards of most families. The usual way to use a slide is to go up the ladder and come down the slide on your bottom of course.
I went out into the backyard this morning and this is how I found our slide. Now, this is certainly is not the first time I have seen our slide in this position. I often see the children flipping it over on its side or completely upside down and creating various games and play using it. As I looked at it this morning, I smiled to myself thinking of all the play that this slide has been used in over the years and never as it was originally intended by the makers.
This slide is used as a slide occasionally but more often it is used in a lot more creative ways. You can only go up the ladder and down the slide on your bum so often before it becomes dull and boring. Children want to challenge themselves. Children love to slide down head first on their tummies or more challenging yet, on their backs. I have watched the children move from sliding down the slide to running up the slide. The look of pride and accomplishment on a child’s face the first time they achieve this makes my heart smile. They just shine with pride, especially if is something they have been working on for a long time. I have also seen children go up the ladder then jump off the top. Another huge accomplishment for some. Then you add several children to this activity and you get children encouraging each other, cooperation and team work and you get laughter!
The play always changes. How hard is it to climb over the slide when it is upside down? This was the side of a boat. Once the boys climbed over it they jumped off the top into the ‘water’ and ‘swam’ away, trying to avoid the sharks!
Children need these challenges. They need to take these risks. We as the adults need to back off and let children work through what we see as risky behavior. We need to be there to help when necessary and to support them but not to stop them… unless it is truly dangerous. There is a difference between risky and dangerous. We can ask questions like, “I wonder what will happen if you climb up the bottom of the slide?” The child will either have an answer or it will give them a moment to reflect and think about their plan. Children have been bubble wrapped for so long, they don’t know how to assess risk. We need to let them practice that skill. That is a lifelong skill we all need!
I believe we need to believe in children and their capabilities. If we take the time to slow down and watch children, we will see them be able to monitor themselves. Children love to jump. I have several children in my program that like to climb onto the picnic table or the top of the slide and jump to the ground. I also have a couple who know their capabilities and stop themselves at the edge, shimmy off, and pretend to jump… they spread their arms, smile big and yell, “Tada” when their feet touch the ground. They know themselves and they know they are not ready to jump from the top yet.
So when is a slide not a slide? When it is a mountain, a spaceship, a ladder, a boat… that’s when!