Tag Archives: safety

Ice & Snow

We love playing in the snow.  We climb up and slide down mountains of snow.  We sculpt and build with chunks of snow.  We dig tunnels and dens as homes for all sorts of creatures.  There is no end to the things we can do with snow – when we have some.

This winter we have had far too little snow.  Just look at this picture, taken last year, of the pathway through the garden;

It was one of our favourite hiding places.  This year it looks like this;

Last year the snow was piled high on the deck.  To get from one side to the other the children had to scale mountains that were taller than they were;

This year the snow pile poses little challenge other than making sure you lift your feet so you don’t trip as you cross the deck;

It is pointless to bring out the shovels since the temperature fluctuations have caused the snow to melt and freeze so often that it is now mostly ice.

There are some benefits too – for example, last winter we couldn’t even find the stumps but this winter we can still use them for balance games and follow the leader;

Did you notice the layer of ice on the top of the stumps? The children have.  In fact, in many of their games they have ‘safety inspectors’ whose role it is to point out hazards to the others.

Interestingly a ‘hazard’ doesn’t mean the area is off limits.  It simply means that when one child begins to jump across the stumps another child will stand on the ground beside them to ‘catch them if they slip’.  I guess this could result in two injuries instead of just one but they have also modified the speed and other factors in this familiar activity.  I think many drivers on the road today could learn from these children and modify their driving habits based on road conditions.

The children have also created some new activities with the abundance of ice instead of snow.  One of my favourites is the ‘music’ activity where they throw ice chunks against the gong.

Notice the skill it takes to pick-up/release ice chunks and hit the centre of the target while wearing bulky mitts.  I’d also like to point out the incredible photography skill, um, amazing reaction time, unbelievable luck it took for me to capture this picture. 🙂

Whatever the conditions are there is always something to do outdoors so get outside and play!

My Problem With Play Structures

If you ask them, the children may tell you that I don’t like play structures. They would be correct because I do think there is little value in taking a group of children to ‘play’ on a play structure. We often go on outings to places that have play structures but I try to avoid the actual structure.

First you have to consider that I have a mixed age group and although many playgrounds have a smaller structure for the 2-5 year olds and a larger one for the 5-12 year olds the children don’t read the signs and choose the appropriate one.  Even if they did that would mean that my group was playing in two different areas and I can’t adequately supervise them all.

Sure, some of these structures look pretty cool – they are designed to attract our attention.  Each one has funky shapes and bright colors but ultimately the goal is to climb up and slide down.  Now, here I’m talking about the main purpose for which the structure was intended to be used.

I remember many years ago when I was a parent council member of a school which had just installed a new play structure. For the grand opening of the structure a company rep was on hand to demonstrate and ‘teach’ the children how to use the equipment properly.  For most children, using a play structure ‘properly’ translates into don’t ‘play’ on it.

You see, real play is learning that is interesting and fun.  So, once you’ve mastered the climb up/slide down aspect then the play structure becomes boring and you have to create other ways to use it.  Ways for which it the structure was not intended to be used.

For example my own son, at four years of age, had mastered all the aspects of the play structure at the neighbourhood school – a structure designed for 5-12 year olds.  So, for a new challenge he expanded his skills and climbed onto the roof of the platform at the top of the slide.  Now standing more than nine feet in the air, on a sloped platform without a railing he was free to leap off the structure and land – safely – on the ground below.

Play structures are simply too easy to climb up. Most toddlers can manage the steps and ladders on structures designed for school-age children.  But they can’t recognize the risks – hence the sign ‘For 5-12 year olds’.

On play structures children don’t learn to identify the hazards associated with heights. They don’t learn that getting down is often harder than getting up.  They don’t learn that if you don’t wear appropriate shoes climbing is difficult or impossible.  They do learn to ignore safety rules and take unacceptable risks because there are few real consequences.

So I don’t like play structures.

I originally wanted to write about our last field trip and this was intended to be a little background information – but I babbled too much.  My ‘introduction’ became an entire post so now that I’ve explained why I don’t take children to play on play structures, in my next post I’ll tell you about why I made an exception.