I’ve got plans for six or seven projects that I hope to have completed this spring/summer. Some of them are minor changes that may be completed in a single weekend. The bigger projects will have to wait until my vacation or at least a long weekend.
Some of these projects will involve changes to the daycare spaces. As I make the plans and supply lists for these projects I always consider safety. What types of materials will I use? Where will I need a gate or door to restrict access to off limit areas? What latches or locks will work best? I try to envision all the things the children may do in the space.
As I consider the various options I briefly reminisced about an entry I wrote for my CBA portfolio. My advisor had suggested that I create a safety checklist for my home. I used a variety of sample checklists to develop my own safety checklists. I considered many of the items on these sample lists to be somewhat ridiculous. Items like ‘make sure stairs are free of clutter’ and ‘turn pot handles inward when cooking’ – not because I didn’t think they were unsafe but they were things that I considered to be common sense and certainly didn’t require a checklist to ensure I did them. In fact, even the items that I did include in my checklists would take less time to correct than the time required for me to complete the checklists.
In my evaluation of the checklists in this CBA portfolio entry I stated; ‘I can see the benefit of having a simplified safety checklist for substitute providers who are not family members. If a substitute is unfamiliar with my home and our procedures a checklist may be helpful to remind them to keep baby gates and doors closed’.
Possibly the director of a large childcare centre would find safety checklists to be helpful. If there are many staff members there may be confusion as to who is responsible for safety checks and a completed checklist could provide evidence that staff were doing regular safety inspections. Even then, I still think that safety checks should be a regular habit for everyone and you shouldn’t need a checklist to tell you what is dangerous and when to fix it.
Then I recalled an occasion a while back when I was visiting the home of an acquaintance. Although we spent some time sitting in her living room she periodically went to the kitchen to check on the progress of the meal she was preparing. Every time she stirred the food in the pots she would leave the pot handles sticking out past the front of the stove. Each time I entered the kitchen I would automatically turn the pot handles inwards. After doing this several times it occurred to me that maybe this was not a hazard that she recognized.
This brings me back to my original topic. I do not ensure that my childcare home is as safe as possible. If the environment was as safe as possible there would be no need for the children to think about safety. I want them to learn to assess possible hazards and take reasonable risks.
There are some uneven surfaces. Certainly there are gates to prevent infants and toddlers from climbing up or falling down an entire flight of steps. However, there is also an unprotected single step at the entrance to the nature area. Occasionally a child will trip on it if they forget it is there or they are not paying attention. Sometimes a crawling baby will tumble off the step – I show them how to turn around and back off the edge safely. I teach unsteady toddlers to hold on to the wall when then step down – don’t rely on me to hold your hand, I may not always be near enough. This single step is an acceptable risk – the opportunity for learning outweighs the chance of injury.
Before the children arrive I don’t walk around with a safety checklist and check off boxes. During the day, if I notice something unsafe I don’t block off the area or make a note to deal with it later. In fact, I often point out unsafe situations to the children and enlist their help to determine what should be done about it. Rain or frost will make the deck and other surfaces in the yard very slippery. This doesn’t mean that we cannot play outside – we just need to be aware of situation and adjust our activities to suit the conditions.
I don’t allow running or jumping indoors – there are too many obstacles so the risk is not an acceptable one. Out in the yard we do run and jump. As a child climbs onto a stump and prepares to jump I ask them ‘what do you see?’ They check for any objects that may be in their path and pose a hazard to them or others – I assist if necessary. They are taking acceptable risks – they are learning. Learning about textures. Learning about space and distance. Learning about force and speed. Learning about responsibility.
If we live in a ‘safe as possible’ bubble we never learn to be aware of our surroundings, observing the environment, assessing possible dangers and taking necessary precautions. Learning safety is a process and it requires practice – practice requires taking risks.