On Tuesday, it was the Pre-3 class' turn to play with the giant tube for the first time. After observing the older kids play with it the day before, I figured we'd mostly be rolling balls down its length, so I set it at an incline, got Vivian and George's dad Terry and Connor's mom Trisha going with the kids, then tottered off outside to set the gears in motion for our activities out there.
When I returned to the gym a few minutes later, I asked something like, "Are you having fun rolling balls down the giant tube?"
And Terry answered something like, "We were, but now we're crawling through it."
This was interesting. Not a single member of the 3-5's class, during their first time playing with it the day before, had summoned up the courage to crawl more than a few feet into the giant tube before backing out, but here were the 2-year-olds, waiting in line to not only crawl through it, but to crawl uphill!
Maybe it was just their smaller bodies that gave them the sense that they could make the attempt, whereas their older colleagues have perhaps grown just a little too big to feel comfortable in that long, dark confined space. Terry did point out that Vivian, in her puffy coat, could barely fit.
Of course, it could also be that the judgement of the older kids is a little more developed. Having spent more time on the planet, they're perhaps better equipped to perform the mental exercise of thinking the entire project through, understand the risk, and in that assessment arrive at the conclusion that it isn't a risk worth taking. That's exactly what we want kids at Woodland Park to do. There is no better way to keep children safe in the long run than to teach them the habit of performing their own risk assessments.
I mentioned in a previous post about the giant tube, that my biggest concern was that a child would get to the halfway point, find a friend coming at him from either end and panic. My plan to avoid this had been to make it a "one way" giant tube, guaranteeing that one end would always be open. What I hadn't counted on was what happened to poor Finn. He got about halfway up the inclined tube, had second thoughts and turned around only to find someone already crawling up behind him. When we heard his whimpering, Terry was able to get the second child out, but Finn was by now immobilized by his fear.
Now, I did have a handsaw handy in anticipation of such an eventuality, and being cardboard, we could have had him out in a matter of minutes, but we started by trying to coax him one way or another, to no avail. We could see that he wasn't physically stuck. That's when we had the idea of just increasing the incline and sliding him out, so I raised the uphill end and slowly raised it until I heard the sound of his little body moving along the inside of the tube, sliding right out into Terry's arms. The whole episode took maybe 2 minutes, but seemed much longer.
Someone handed Finn a ball and in the true spirit of being two, he bounced right back, helped immensely, I think, by the fact the adults had remained calm. This is an important point. Children get hurt or frightened or even stuck all the time and it upsets them, but it's been demonstrated time and again that adult over-reactions are often the worst part of those experiences.
The rest of the kids were by now eager to get back to the giant tube game, so we made a policy of only one child at a time and that we would henceforward crawl downhill, with Trisha serving as gatekeeper at the top, and Terry at the bottom letting her know when the tube was clear for the next crawler
A few minutes later I noticed Finn standing along the flank of the giant tube, patting it. Or was he hitting it? Either way he was calm, smiling a little, back to himself, and clutching his prized ball, having had a lesson in risk taking. It will be interesting to see if he has another go at the giant tube in the future or if he has now graduated into the ranks of the big kids.