Monthly Archives: May 2015

Adventure Playgrounds

   
  

 What is an adventure playground anyway?  Well, it looks a little like a junkyard, with lots of loose parts. I recently attended a screening of “The Land” by Erin Davis.  This event was put together by a local group, MUD, encouraging discussions in our community. It explores the concept of an adventure playground in Wales.Click here for Erin Davis interview.

The idea is that children are free to take risks with a variety of materials and experiences, with limited guidance.  Play workers are there to remove hazards, but offer no interference or intervention unless there is a request or hazard. (A hazard refers to something that the children are unaware of like broken glass or nails).

After the film, there was a bit of discussion about this concept and how to make it work here. One of the questions that came up was how to circumvent legal issues that could arise.  The panel answered this by saying that the adventure playgrounds in use are offered primarily to children age 6-11.  There are fewer rules and restrictions in this age group.  A fence with a lock is also traditionally included so that play workers are there to prevent hazards from harming the children, and to encourage risk taking in a physically and emotionally safe space.

A large portion of the audience were families, and while there were a lot of great conversations among parents, the early educator perspective was not present. That’s why I’m writing this…I have something to say as always.

We want to encourage risk-taking too. Unfortunately, we have state regulations and insurance liability to worry about.  I’m speaking mostly as a home provider, because if our insurance company doesn’t like our space or practices, they will drop us as clients-not just the childcare policies, but home and auto as well.  So that means no fires, no water deeper than 24″, and no heights greater than 36″.  That’s just to please my insurance company, the state regulations aren’t as tough, but no standing water, all sand covered when not in use…so basically our play space has to be picked up every afternoon.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t adopt some basic concepts of the adventure playground: risks are encouraged with minimal redirection and interference, loose parts are offered, and children are able to experience and witness disappointment, failures, achievements, and successes. 

What do they gain from this type of play?

Freedom in their play

Ownership and pride

A deeper sense of self

Rich social environment

To be challenged everyday

Become better problem solvers

Children develop resilience factors

So think about your experiences with playgrounds in the future, and maybe adjust your thinking a little.  Children are capable of so much, let’s see how far they can go! And as always, I welcome your comments!

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For more MUD events, click here

Click here to see a recent article about adventure playgrounds

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“Is the Game Over Yet?” How to survive team sports with your athletes siblings

  

After spending the morning cheering for my son and his lacrosse team, while observing a mom struggling with two younger kids, I decided to write this post.  The mom kept her cool, but I could tell she was aggravated with her other two children.  She spent most of her time telling them not to go anywhere, stop fighting, and no, the game isn’t over.  In all fairness, they brought a blanket and that was it. I’d be bored too. 

Now, I can look at this a couple of ways: how irritating to have the constant disruption for those of us trying to enjoy the game, and then there is the perspective of the mom who is trying to support one child while the other two are bored and behaving in a way that makes mom feel like people are judging her.

Bottom line: it made the morning kind of miserable for everyone, especially the mom with the two bored kiddos.  So, as a child care provider who is trained to prevent behavior issues ahead of time, here’s my two cents (or 20 since I tend to ramble).

1) set the expectations before your arrival. Just make it very clear to the children what they are to expect for the outing and how you would like them to conduct themselves. 

2) be prepared. Have each child pack a small bag of things to do.  This can include a frisbee, coloring book, or deck of cards.  Even a pair of binoculars will provide engagement.  Remind them that the bag is theirs to carry and keep track of. This builds a sense of ownership, responsibility and pride.  (And don’t forget snacks!)

3) include the siblings in the athlete’s activity in some way. Encourage the siblings to make a banner to cheer on their athlete.  Give them jobs like gathering a water bottle or cleats.  Remind them why you’re there, and engage their interest: “did you see how she kicked the ball?” Or “look how fast he’s running!”

4) give them a little freedom. There are many other families at these games, and plenty of other bored siblings.  Set some limits, but let them go play together on an empty field when possible.  Just situate yourself so your kids are in your sight line, and let them roll around in the grass with other kids.

I hope this helps! 

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