Climbing up the slide; imaginative play or a playground faux-pas?

Going to the park with two under fours is no child’s play. Baby Girl’s game of choice is playing chicken with the swing while Bouncing Boy pushes it round like a wrecking ball. And then there’s the roundabout. Give it a spin and watch body parts fly, like a blender with no lid. Quite frankly, I breathe a sigh of relief when they take to the slide. No moving parts. How bad can it be? Except recently I’ve been getting tuts and sighs from other parents.

‘We don’t climb up the slide, we climb up the stairs,’ I hear them telling their children over and over, while mine abseil merrily past. Oops. Am I missing something? To me climbing up the slide is no biggie.
Is it a mud thing, I wonder, quickly feeling all smug and earthy about my dirt tolerance levels. Get me, down with the kids, in touch with my messy side. No one knows I’m itching inside and flexing my fingers round a family pack of wet wipes. Promise I’ll clean it after they’ve finished!
Perhaps it’s safety matter, but come on people, this is a slide not Bear Grylls’ assent on Everest. I might step in if there’s another kid about to come down (shoes-in-face is not a good look,) but think we can stand-down the rescue mission.
Maybe it’s a control thing. If kids stop using the equipment as intended, who knows what anarchy might unfold? Yikes, it’ll be Lord of the Files, with Bouncing Boy as chief savage leading the revolt before we know it. What’s next? Standing on the swings?
I quite like that idea, and now I think about it perhaps there’s lots to be gained from the slide rebellion.

What about the physical benefits? Climbing up the slide looks pretty high-intensity to me. The child equivalent of treadmill-on-an-incline, surely? Who knows, maybe it’s the answer to Broken Britain’s childhood obesity crisis? 😉

Not to mention the creative thinking it encourages. Surely climbing up the slide is all about kids using their imaginations – no different to using the sofa as a pirate ship, a rug as a desert island or a footstool as an Octopod? (Don’t tell me yours don’t do that?)
I recently surfed across a RIE parenting forum (Resources for Infant Educators, and so-hot -right-now parenting trend, don’t you know) where it seemed climbing up the slide was positively encouraged. Trusting children to play interrupted is a basic tenant of this approach, whose founder Magda Gerber advocated respect between a parent and child and said adults should allow their children to solve problems without interference. Helicopter parenting, it’s not.

Now we’re talking! I hadn’t thought about it that deeply but instinctively I hope I am the sort of parent who encourages independent, off-piste thinking. Maybe that’s why I let them play on the skate ramp sans skates, wear fancy dress to nursery and contradict me too. Maybe.

Or maybe it’s just about picking my battles. I’m all about saying yes and making things as easy as possible. Climbing up the slide is just another rule I don’t have the conviction to put into force, on a par with taking shoes off at the door, bouncing on the sofa and not talking with your mouth open. I see the point – just – but really; can it be worth the fall out?

Yes, there are safety issues I won’t budge on; mainly to do with roads, water, hot and sharp objects and going out of my sight. Not to mention all the ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ enforcements, but that’s as far as I have the energy to take it.

I like the RIE explanation better. Get me, such a rebel! Now, what’s the RIE take on policing my son’s obsession with the word ‘poo’ and snacks between meals? I will be reading Baby Knows Best by Deborah Carlisle Solomon to find out, but something tells me I’m on my own…

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3 thoughts

  1. I think it’s more a courtesy thing, if there are other kids waiting to go down the slide is it right that another child goes up and down until they’re finished? The other part is if there’s signage saying ‘no climbing up the slide’ then they shouldn’t go up the slide. We can’t just pick and choose the rules we want to follow, can we? Of course if there are no signs and no waiting children, then they should be able to fill their boots.
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  2. I dont let my son climb up the slide at the park. If there is a que of people waiting to go down i think its important for children to learn how to take turns.
    The main reason I dont let him climb up the slide is because my brother climbed up the slide and fell over the edge landing on his face and knocking his two front teeth out. He was about 5 at the time.

  3. YES! This is pretty much how we have parented for the last 17 years with our 5 children. Let them climb, why not? Sure if there is a queue that’s different but parks and playgrounds are meant to be used and explored! Rules, smchules who decides what the rules are anyway? So long as no one is being rude or dangerous (well maybe a little danger can be exciting) then I am of a mind to let kids be kids. They can have a bath when dirty or messy, a bruise, bump or scrape soon goes and even a broken arm isn’t the end of the world imo. The benefits of letting kids be kids outweigh the perceived dangers of not standing over them and telling them how to play.

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