I love hiking. My favourite outings to take the children on are those that allow us to explore our neighbourhood, nearby parks or hiking trails in forests and nature preserves around the city. Adventures like collecting leaves in the fall, following footprints in the snow in the winter, watching the activities of the birds in the spring or checking out the trees and plants in various seasons.
Many years ago I used a Safe-T-Line when out walking with a group of young children. It looks similar to this one which is available at Quality Classrooms
Mine has twelve pieces in total – two adult belts with a long lead, two additional extensions which can be attached to the adult belts, and eight children’s belts with clips. I usually wore both the adult belts and fitted each toddler with a waist belt before we headed out.
Most of the time the children roamed freely through familiar trails and open spaces. However the walking line came in handy for the parts of the outing where we encountered busy roadways, major intersections or large crowds where noise and distractions made it difficult to communicate. I could quickly attach the toddlers belts to my belts to ensure we all stayed together until we reached an area where we could explore independently again.
It was like having extra hands and the best part was that all of us had our ‘real’ hands free to pick up treasure along the way, point out exciting things we saw, wave at passing motorists, tie shoes etc. It allowed the toddlers to venture freely within an acceptably safe distance. They could begin to learn self control and to follow verbal directions. Even the strong willed toddlers who balked at holding hands and staying with the group seemed to feel independent.
Then, a few years ago when my coordinator was here for a licensing visit she informed me that I was not allowed to use the safety line as it was designed because it ‘restrained’ the children. I was instructed to make the belts into loops and have the children hold the loops with their hands – as long as they were free to let go when they chose to. Sigh.
I don’t really mind not being able to use the safety line but it has limited our outings. When new children are enrolled our walks are very short – just out the front door around the block and in the back yard to play. Once I am confident that they understand the safety rules we expand the distance we can travel a block at a time. I never take the entire toddler group beyond our secluded residential area and I rarely let the children decide the route – those major intersections are so enticing.
Recently, curious to see if my new coordinator would have the same response as the previous one, I asked for her opinion on the safety line. She reiterated that the children could hold on to the belts with their hands but the belts could not be attached to the children as this would be considered restraining the children. Just to clarify I then asked if it was acceptable to put them in a stroller with a belt. She said yes.
So, I still can’t use the safety line as it was designed but I could go for a ‘walk’ if I piled my group of toddlers into one of these.
Apparently a five point harness in a vehicle that doesn’t allow the children to touch the ground or anything else is not considered a restraint.
I would disagree.