"As I sit here at my desk in my home in Victoria BC, I realize it has been nearly 6 months since I made my way (solo) to Reggio -Emilia, Italy to study the Reggio Philosophy. In those 6 months, I have not even begun to unravel all that I absorbed while visiting this amazing place.
Where do I begin? How do I start to describe all that is Reggio?
As I flip through my very worn out notebook that I used for the 5 days I was immersed in class study, two words stand out page after page.... COMPETENCE and RIGHTS! The Italians have really taken these two words home... and they believe powerfully that children are very capable human beings. Much more capable than what we seem to believe here in North America, I think.
I keep remembering the super high metal outdoor slide I saw at one of the centres I visited. It reminded me of one at my school here in Victoria when I was a small child. (Way higher then allowed by Licensing now days)... and it used to get so hot in the summer! Today, Licensing has strict guidelines around fall distances for each child's age group. (Under 5 feet fall distance for under 5 years, under 3 feet for Infants and Toddlers.) I understand why these rules are in place, but when outdoors in nature, there has to be a grey area here!
As a child, we would take turns running indoors at recess and filling up little paper cups of water to pour on the slide, trying to cool it down in any way we could. (with little success) We would fly down that slide at 30 miles an hour, often landing way past the worn out dirt patch which was supposed to stop us at the bottom. Ahhhhh.....I loved that slide!
It's funny, I don't remember a teacher ever saying to us, "Don't go down that slide it's too hot, you'll burn your bottom!" We found out for ourselves through trial and error. No one actually left the play ground with third degree burns on their bums! We would take our coats off and slide down on them; find cedar branches and pile them up, we used our brains to figure it out!
That's what I think the Italians have remembered over the past 30 years more than we have. Yes, risky play is out there, but it's how children learn. Accidents happen, inevitably someone may get hurt while at play, but bubble wrapping our children, standing over them while they make decisions isn't going to do them any favors! Chances are VERY high, that they won't die sliding down that hot slide! But the chances are extremely higher that they will learn something valuable through that risky play!
I broke my arm three times when I was a child. The first time, I fell out of the cherry tree in my back yard. (I think I was 5 years old or so) The second time, I slipped off the trampoline that we had put a sprinkler underneath and covered in dish soap. (I was 6 years old) The last time, I was pretending to be princess Laya (from Star Wars) and Hans Solo was pulling me up by a rope through a climber at school. (Well, he ran out of rope, and I slipped back and broke my arm.) Poor guy, I still remember his face when I returned to school the next day in a cast. I was eight when that happened.
Inevitably, my broken arms healed, the casts were removed and I learned to play more "carefully".
The point that I am trying to make is that risky play didn't kill me, it taught me my limitations and that I really was able to climb almost to the very top of that tree! It taught me how to slide across and entire trampoline in one giant burst, it taught me to reach for a higher branch, it taught me to climb a rope hand over hand up a climber. Play is necessary for growth, play is how we learn what our bodies can do!
I have three children of my own now. Jesse is 11, Jaysun is 9 and Eva is 5. None of them have broken their arms (to date), but they all have taken risks which I have been uncomfortable with. They all LOVE to climb trees, we have a trampoline in our yard which has an enclosure, and they climb everything they shouldn't where ever we go! We now know that trampolines are pretty dangerous (but so fun), and most come with netted enclosures now. (removing an element of risk) Some may say that I should "watch them more closely" or that I shouldn't allow them to climb the trees near the school because it gives other children bad ideas! I say, "Let them play! Let them learn.. let them discover for themselves what it feels like to be alive!" I did....as a kid, and I am so thankful I was allowed to do so! Moreover, I have some pretty awesome scars to prove it!
Thanks for reading!