Recently, I posted about having received Gever Tulley's book Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) as a gift from Max, and mentioned the plan to spend our summer session giving as many of those things a go as feasible in preschool.
We threw spears, we tried licking 9-volt batteries, we broke glass, set out to master the perfect somersault, hammered nails, threw rocks, made bombs in bags, and deconstructed appliances. This time we made a rope swing.
Our first step was to select a rope we thought would be long enough and strong enough.
Tulley suggests starting with a rope with a known "test strength," but since none of our ropes still retain their original paperwork, Hattie and Thomas tested rope strength by playing tug of war with each of our candidates: a cotton rope, a hempen rope, and a nylon rope.
They weren't happy with the slippery-ness of the nylon, nor the tendency of the hempen rope to "burn" the palms of their hands, so I'm not convinced they made their decision based entirely upon rope strength.
After a survey of our outdoor classroom, the only reasonable place to hang a rope swing, we decided, was our actual swing set superstructure. The children were unable to toss the rope over the top bar on their own, even while standing on a step ladder, so I performed this function, including the tying of the knots.
Had Orlando been there, I might have let him have a go at it (he's a self-taught rope tying master, something I know from having had to untie many of his knots over the past couple years) but even the children felt they wanted an adult to tie this all-important knot.
We didn't go with the pure rope swing as Tulley recommends, but rather added a tire, making it, of course, a tire swing.
We also discussed how it could be properly called a pendulum swing, which gave us the idea for, at some future date, making a giant pendulum painter using the same basic technique.
The ultimate strength test came when yours truly put his full weight on it. We figured this meant our tire swing could hold up to 3 kids.
Tulley also advises to check the ground under your swing (what is sometimes called the "fall zone") for any hazards. We added gym mats for good measure.
As you can see, we had a lot of different swinging styles. Interestingly, only Charlie L. wanted a push. Everyone else wanted to impart their own momentum. I see this as a sign of good judgement, wanting to perform their own risk assessment before turning over part of their safety to an adult who they know only knows as much about this particular swing as they do.
After all, they saw me tie it up. This is the kind of thing we work towards at Woodland Park and it's gratifying to see the kids taking on that responsibility for themselves.
We then enjoyed a kind of bonus dangerous thing: finding a beehive. Okay, so it was actually a hornet's nest and we didn't set out to find it. We did, however, do a bit of detective work, carefully observing 3 or 4 of the black and yellow creatures crawling into the cracks in one of the tree rounds we've used to encircle our sand pit.
If you look very, very carefully you can see one of the hornets amongst the wood chips.
Since it's right where we play, I suppose we'll have to do something about it.
(Note: several people have asked why we've not tried the dangerous activity of "Kissing Hello Like The French." We did, in fact, announce that we were going to attempt this, not once, but twice, and so far we've only had one taker, which makes kissing hello a little challenging.)