It was 2006 and Tash and I were working in a community based service. As a team, we had established that we needed a new outdoor play space, one that allowed children to connect with nature, take risks and really get back to basics. Working with the educators, children, families and community, Tash designed a trickle stream that was to make the most of a then unused space at the side of our building. The vision was for a rocky, sandstone river with a pond at the bottom, where the water would circulate through hoses and run across the rocks. The idea was that the children could immerse themselves in our creek bed. There were some concerns from educators about how this would work under the regulations (the regulations at this time were much stricter around the use of water) but instead of being weighed down with "we can't do that" we thought "how can we do that?"
We worked closely with the our Children's Services Adviser (as it was known at the time) to ensure that we were meeting the regulations and when we were finished, we invited her out to have a look at the space and she was thoroughly impressed. We often had visitors to the service say "have you had accreditation or a licensing visit (as they were both known at the time) I can't imagine they are happy with it" and we were delighted to say "yes to both and in fact - they love it!"
The reason for telling this story is not to toot our own horns, but to remind educators that things are possible and that it is important to check your facts with the regulatory authority. During training sessions, consultancy visits and even in discussions online, we often hear:
" Oh that's great, but we wouldn't be allowed to do that"
" The assessor told us we couldn't do that"
" How did you get around the regulations?"
It's actually not about getting around the regulations. It is about being prepared to ask questions. Not sure if something meets the regulations (which by the way are far more encouraging of risky play now than they were back then)... ASK! Hearing from another service that "it's a requirement to do it this way".... CHECK THE FACTS. Just because someone says it is so, doesn't make it so. There are a lot of myths in early childhood! Have an assessor say "you can't do that" ... ask them CAN YOU SHOW ME WHERE IT SAYS THAT?
We need to be advocates for the child's right to play and take risks and sometimes that means asking questions, challenging thinking, doing more research. Don't just hear one answer and accept it as gospel!
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