Last week I took my three children to the local wetlands centre. After a big walk and some bird spotting we stopped for a picnic lunch and a play on the beautiful, timber playground. My youngest is 16 months. She is a climber, an adventurer, a risk taker. She is the one who is most likely to give me heart failure! But, every time she is climbing something or stretching out to do something that she sees her older siblings doing, I have to hold my tongue. While the mama bear in me screams "no....you'll get hurt!" the educator in me knows that she is well and truly more capable than I give her credit for.
On this day I watched her test her physical skills as she climbed into a large netted area. I resisted the temptation to help her, to lunge for her when she appeared to be struggling. And... she did it. She climbed up the side and over the top of the net and she finished with a look on her face that I once heard the amazing Claire Warden describe as "chuffedness"
The quote above (main image) by Loris Malaguzzi really resonates with me, as I think it does with many other educators. Yet, for as much as we (as a profession) say that we view children as capable, in practice, this often seems to begin from about the age of three. What do I mean by that? Well, taking a look at the vast majority of outdoor play environments for babies we see that they offer very little risk or challenge. They usually comprise of synthetic surfacing, round edges and low, even surfaces. It is delightful (and often rare) to find an outdoor space for babies that encourages risk, supports them to explore different textures or to really challenge themselves. While I understand our desire to keep them safe, by limiting their opportunities to take risks, we do the babies in our care a great disservice.
It is time to really embed this view of "children as capable" into our practice with babies. It is time to trust them!
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