I wish I had a playground like that

Have you ever found yourself saying “I wish I had a playground like that?”

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

When I first started my preschool, I spent some serious time searching for play ground equipment. I really wanted to have a cool play set that the children could play on. There is so much out there but the things I really loved were sooooo expensive!

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And so, I have had to do with what I have but over time, I began to realize that not being able to afford the beautiful playground equipment I had once dreamed about may have actually been the best thing ever…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Had I begged and pleaded my husband to let me spend our life savings on a super cool climber (jungle gym), then I wouldn’t have ever let my students climb on our rocks. Oh no, I would have definitely have stayed with the mindset that the rocks were too hard, too dangerous, too big for the children to manage…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And had I purchased one of those super cool curly slides with a tunnel on top, I wouldn’t have ever considered taking my students down the big, sometimes slippery, leaf covered hill that we found way back in the woods. No sir, not me…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And there is no way on earth would I have considered letting the children climb on the logs that are out everywhere in our back yard. I am not being precocious here. I am totally serious. I would have thought the logs would be too risky to even consider such an idea…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

And I most likely would haven’t had a reason to take walks in the woods because I suspect I would have thought the playground equipment is a much better idea. You see, I am not naturally an outdoorsy type so I wouldn’t have even thought about making our woods a priority for the children’s experience at my preschool…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

But since I couldn’t afford pretty much any kind of playground equipment, I have had to make the most of what I have. Not having a playground like the one at the park has taught me to think outside of the box and use what I do have more creatively…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me how to try out other interesting ideas…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me to seek out materials for free that I can use instead…

Not having a playground like that

Not having a playground like that has taught me to take the tables and other things that I do have outside…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me, my co-teachers and my students to appreciate nature and all those little critters we find all over the place…

I wish I had a play ground like that! by Teach Preschool

Not having a playground like that has taught me all the many ways that young children like to play and how resourceful they can be…

Not having a playground like that

Not having a playground like that has shown me the different styles of play my students enjoy such as running as fast as you can…

Not having a playground like that

Or playing group games together…

Not having a playground like that

Or relaxing for a few minutes…

Not having a playground like that

Or using their imagination to stir up a warm fire for toasting leaf marshmallows.

Not having a playground like that

If I had a playground like that, I most likely would not want the children to play on it in the snow. It would be easier to keep them inside and avoid the struggle…

Not having a playground like that

And because the rain makes a slide or swings or jungle gym slippery when wet, I wouldn’t want to deal with that hassle either…

Not having a playground like that

Nope, if I had a playground like that I would be an entirely different teacher than I am today. I wouldn’t know the difference as I wouldn’t have been faced with the challenges of what to do with the children instead…

Not having a playground like that

On occasion, I still look at different playground equipment and admire them but I no longer wish I had a playground like that…

Not having a playground like that

I am a different teacher now than I was all those years ago. I see outdoor play from a whole new perspective and I am thankful for what I do have….

Not having a playground like that

And I am thankful for what not having a playground like that has taught me about myself, my students, and exploring nature.

Not having a playground like that

My students seem happy, my staff seems happy, and so am I.

Not having a playground like that

Links to Grow On

For ideas and beautiful natural materials for the outdoors, check out Nature Explore!

Five Tips for Taking Preschool Journals Outdoors! by Teach Preschool

Nature Shadow Boxes by Teach Preschool

A Collection of Inspiring Outdoor Play Scapes by Teach Preschool

By | April 7th, 2016|Categories: Outdoor Play, Powered by Play|Tags: , , , |24 Comments

Finding balance between outdoor safety and adventure in preschool

Behind my preschool we have a beautiful set of woods with a few trails that the children love to explore and hike. The trails have been there long before I started this preschool and along the trails are birds, squirrels, trees, tree stumps, rocks, fallen down logs, acorns, pine cones, and other items left there by mother nature.  Just as we all do in early childhood education, I have to consider and evaluate the issue of safety when my students head out to these woods for their exploration and hiking…

At one point along the wooded trail is a big hill. The hill veers off of the trail and my first thought when seeing this hill is that my students should not be going down this hill.  My assistant, on the other hand, never gave it a second thought.  “Can we go down the slide?” the students ask referring to the steep hill covered with leaves.   “Sure! Go for it, ” my young assistant enthusiastically replies…

Now had my assistant worked for someone else, besides me, and had she been given the latest “official training in outdoor playscape safety,” she might have had a different response to their question…

She would have first realized that there is risk involved in letting the children go down that steep hill. Someone might slip, fall, or in someway get hurt.  But my assistant and the children simply saw the steep hill as a fun adventure so down the hill they all went…

She would have also realized that she first needed to cover the bottom of the hill with some sort of mulch or other material – so many inches thick and so many inches wide – so there would be an appropriate and safe landing area at the bottom of the hill/slide.  But my assistant and the children only saw the adventure and so off they went down the hill…

She would also have known that the dirt on this hill and at the bottom of this hill is not sanitized.  There are animals that live in these woods and touching the dirt will make the children’s hands… well… dirty!  But down the hill and then back up the hill all the children went…

Had my assistant been better informed, she would have probably not let these children go down that hill the first time – yet alone turn around and go down it a second time!!

Instead, my assistant would have most likely told they kids that the hill was not safe and that they were not big enough to go down it…

They would not have had this unique opportunity to work together helping each other climb up and down the hill…

They would not have enthusiastically embraced this challenge with their whole body as they used their arms and legs to climb back up the hill and their sense of balance to go down the hill…

They would have instead accepted the idea that they are not capable of climbing up and down this hill or that adventure like this is too risky or unsafe.  Hmmmm, I am not so sure I want that to be the message my students come away with.  So we went up and down that hill!

This is not to say that safety isn’t important or to even make light of rules for safety – we do want our children to have safe experiences.  But it is to say that safety measures should be set in place in such a way that they foster opportunities for challenge, adventure, and exploration not remove these qualities from the early childhood outdoor experience.

I worry that too often, a concern and “over-emphasis” on outdoor safety actually removes quality experiences and a chance to explore the natural environment from today’s early childhood classroom.

Bam Radio discussion on playground safety

I recently participated in a discussion on Bam Radio titled, “Playing it Safe, Too Safe?”  also found on the list of Bam radio broadcasts here….

Rae Pica with Robin Moore, Thelma Harms, and Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed.

Take a minute to listen to the radio broadcast so you can consider your own thoughts on playground safety as well as listen to what the experts have to say.

What NAEYC had to say…

Safety and outdoor adventure do not seem to be two ideas that go hand in hand but folks are starting to realize that natural outdoor environments can lead to wonderful learning opportunities inside the classroom.

In a recent article in the October/November 2011 edition of NAEYC’s Teach Young Children magazine (TYC), there is an article titled, “Exploring Trees” by Ellen Hall, Desarie Kennedy, Alison Mayer, and Lisa Stevens.

The article discusses how to take an outdoor experience, such as I have described above, and then invite your students to explore the experience through other mediums in the classroom.  In order for children to want to explore their natural environment inside the classroom, they must first be given opportunity to explore their natural environment in a meaningful way.

In the TYC article, the children took an excursion to a local park to find a child’s “special tree” and from this excursion, the children were able to extend their experiences in all kinds of directions in the classroom. The article says, “The children climbed  the trunk almost as if it were a rite of passage or an entrance into another world. They discovered how the tree made them feel – joyful, brave, strong, safe” (TYC, Nov/Dec, 2011, pg. 13).

Links to Grow On

The Benefits of Climbing on Trees by Dinosaurs and Octopuses

Visit these wonderful blogs to learn more on outdoor play environments and learning opportunities…

I’m A Teacher, Get Me Outside Here

Go Explore Nature

Exploring the Outdoor Classroom

Playscapes

Getting Outside

Linking up to…