Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pointers From the Playground

It's was one of those conversations that you're not meant to hear, though it was obviously not a private one. Some days sound really carries and this was one of those days.  I could easily hear the discussion between a parent and child at the playground across the street as I was near my fence doing some fall weeding on this quiet Saturday morning.  Though it wasn't until she was wanting to play on the structure nearer to me that I could hear the words of the girl and the replies of her father.

Image from here
This image is similar to the structure in the middle of our playground; I include it to help you visualize the choices this little girl had before her.  Unlike the 'kiddy' equipment she had been playing on, this piece has higher climbing surfaces, a fireman's pole and multi-levelled approaches to the various slides to accommodate the differing abilities and daringness of the older child.

At first I didn't notice anything except the laughter from a little girl who was moving around the various pieces of equipment with her dad following along behind.  They had the whole playground to themselves.

I was already struck by the fact that the father and child were talking a lot with each other; frequently parents sit on a bench and watch.  As they moved around to the front of the structure, I could easily overhear the interaction between parent and child. It went something like this:

Girl: Which one should I try?
Dad: Which one do you want to try?
Girl: The big pole.
Dad: Go on then.
Image from here
Girl: But I might fall!
Dad: Look, I'll do it first!
Girl: But I might fall. You've done it before.
Dad: I'll stand right next to it.
Girl: You won't move?
Dad: No, if you need me, I'll catch you!

Which he did the first few times.  
Through my fence, I heard her squeal of delight and the sound of her feet running up and around to try it again and again. 

Then I overheard something new; this next time she told her dad to stand back a little. He did. And she landed in a bit of a heap but un-fazed. Up she went again and again.
Her dad reminded her on how to position her body and use her feet but remained back and nearby.

"I did it! I did it!" 

I smiled and was struck by so many many thoughts:

*Isn't this the gradual release model we want for our kids in so many aspects of their lives, their schooling?

*Isn't it wonderful how he showed her first? (I think he enjoyed himself!)

*Don't we want our children to move confidently from the known into the less familiar, from the comfortably easy to the slightly more challenging?

*Isn't encouraging them to persevere part of our role? Isn't letting them know some things take practice, hard work, stick-to-it-ness? That sometimes there's bumps in life?

*Don't we want them to try new things they are truly interested in, even if they don't know how...yet? 

*Shouldn't they believe we (as parents and teachers) will catch them if they fall? Dust off their knees and help them with the next step?

*Shouldn't they know we have many ways to support them in their attempts ... pointers, information, ideas? 

*Isn't celebrating their accomplishments, especially the little ones, an amazing opportunity to show them we care?  

Dad (next to car): Oh, we said we were only going to be gone half an hour. We're a little late.
Girl: That's alright, Daddy. Mommy will understand when you tell her about the pole.

I'm sure hoping she does!

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