Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Making A Rope Swing (And A Bonus Dangerous Thing)

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 somersaulthammered nailsthrew rocksmade 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.)

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Mary said...

love everything, but the excess rope dangling down is giving me a bad visual

Jeanne Zuech said...

I am loving this Very Dangerous Summer 2011! Looking forward to a future post about the bees and hoping there is limited danger involved :)

Sarah H said...

I keep filing your great ideas! Thanks!!! I'm a fairly new ECE and also work in a co-op preschool. Love my job and I'll bet you know why! The "dangerous things" thing has been a process for me. I came to parenting and teaching/learning with preschoolers later in life, and I found that bringing up a boy who was active and curious led me on a slow and steady path to taking on more and more dangerous activities, or at least watching children tackle them. From his very first steps our son has shown us that he doesn't have a death wish and that he has a very clear idea of what he is capable of. His mother did not embrace risk as readily as he did, but I did learn rather quickly to follow his lead. It wasn't very long before I needed a mantra to keep my anxiety levels down. What I came up with was, "if he isn't going to maim or kill himself in the process, then let him do it" (always keeping in mind that accidents can happen). So far it has served us well, he's 14 now, has only a few scars to show for it and the scars he does have were mostly due to equipment failure, not incompetency....rope broke on tire swing and resulted in impaling his arm on a branch....18 stitches later, the scar is now a badge of honour that he draws happy faces with by adding eyes....DEEPLY impressive to the other kids. Anyway, long story short, it took me a while to embrace my mantra at preschool (other people's children etc) but I have more or less gotten there. Thanks for bringing the subject up, it sure helps to know I'm not an alien in the risk department!

Juliet Robertson said...

How did I miss this post!!!

So pleased your children had the chance to build and swing on a tyre swing. It's so much more satisfying than a bog standard kit swing and the pendulum part is a real bonus.

Hope all's well in Seattle.