Children getting free rein
Preschools encourage risk takingJOANNE BENNETT
In a world where health and safety regulations can get out of hand, South Canterbury educators are still making sure that kids get the chance to be kids.
"They might fall over, but we make sure they're OK and encourage them to get back up. They might get hurt, but they'll know what not to do next time," Gardengrove Montessori teacher Erin Williams said.
This week, the children at Gardengrove climbed trees, dug holes, hammered real nails into real wood and cut fruit up with real knives.
"They learn to be responsible when working with real tools," Ms Williams said.
The youngest are two nearly three, and they're capable of using them. They learn real life skills from working with the actual thing."
She said children learn what they're capable of when they're able to play reasonably freely.
"They need to be given the freedom and opportunity to reach their limits while they're still kids, otherwise they'll be scared to try."
Safe Kids national director Ann Weaver said that part of the reason for our relatively high rate of child injury rate is our environment. New Zealand is the fourth from the bottom out of 26 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.
"We do allow children to play and explore a lot, and we don't have a child friendly environment. In other countries there are split cycle lanes resulting in less cycling injuries.
"Fewer people live in cities here, and we have a lot of long driveways, which can be dangerous."
Fears of "stranger danger" also prevent parents from letting children play outside unsupervised.
"Cognitively children are not ready to make good decisions until they are 10, 11, 12 years of age, so until parents are confident that their children can make good decisions on their own, they should be actively supervising," Ms Weaver said.
Ms Weaver said it is a caregiver's job to show children how to play safely, and as confidence and ability grows, to let them do it on their own.
"I think there is confusion about what is wrapping them in cotton wool. We don't want to see children not outside being active.
"Some parents do over-react, but it's their role to take responsibility to be active and show them what's safe and what isn't," she said.
The majority of the 22 children hospitalised in New Zealand each day from preventable injuries have suffered a fall.
Zero to four year olds mostly fall from change tables, furniture, and down stairs. Five to 9 year olds fall in playgrounds, and 10 to 14 year olds from scooters, bikes and skateboards.
"A lot of these falls can be reduced or prevented. We don't want to stop them having fun, but parents need to be there standing beside them, helping and encouraging."
Wearing helmets is a good example of reducing the risk of serious injury, but still allowing the experience, Ms Weaver said.
South Canterbury Free Kindergarten Association general manager Margaret Whitford said that local kindergartens are very good at allowing children to take calculated risks.
"We encourage children to be risk takers in kindergarten education and we support them to be confident learners and problem solvers."
SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD
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