Monday, March 21, 2016

"It's Too Dangerous!"

A. was building with our big wooden blocks, all of them, creating precarious looking structures, then attempting to climb on them.

A parent-teacher said, "That doesn't look stable."

A. answered, "It's not stable!" words he spoke while, in fact, standing atop it. "It's too dangerous." He began to balance along a plank when things shifted. "See? It could break." With that he cautiously climbed to the ground and began what looked like fine adjustments.

Meanwhile other kids arrived. When they tried to balance on his structure, A. backed them off with, "No! Stop! It's not stable. Let me make it stable first!" The command and urgency in his voice was compelling and the other three and four-year-olds heeded him, standing back while he officiously fussed with the blocks.

After a time, however, as more kids gathered, I said, "Maybe some of these other kids want to help you make it more stable."

"No! It's too dangerous." With this, he again climbed atop the structure, carefully. He walked back and forth along one plank then, when the blocks shifted again, he looked at us with wide eyes, "See? It's not stable. I'm the only one that can walk on it until I fix it." He returned to fussing with the blocks, moving quickly from one "tippy" point to another. To these wizened eyes it appeared that some of what he did was making things more stable, while others not so much, but everything he did he did authoritatively, like a man who should be holding a clipboard, while the rest of us stood behind imaginary caution tape.

There was a lot of experimenting in this game. As you can see here, everyone seems to know where the action will be on this "test."

After a time, however, a few of the kids gave up and moved on to other things. It didn't seem quite fair to me that A. should have all the blocks. I didn't want to wreck his game, of course, but at the rate he was going the thing was never going to be open to the public. I said, "I'm going to help you make it stable," and with that propped up the corner of a block with another.

A. paused then, watching me. I thought he might object, but instead, after checking my work, said, "That's good," before rushing off to the other side to move a block one inch left or right. That seemed to create space for other kids, some of whom joined the game of making the dangerous building stable, imitating A. by fussing about, then occasionally attempting to walk on it, making comments when the blocks tipped or tottered, like, "Ooooo, that is sooooo dangerous!" and "No body come up here until we fix it!"

After more than an hour, it was still not stable. When it was time to tidy up, the work crew managed it themselves, dismantling their "dangerous" building while discussing plans for how they would build an even more stable building tomorrow.

When the adults don't intervene with heavy-handed warnings, children usually take matters of safety into their own capable hands.

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Tricia said...

This conversation happened in my kitchen this morning-

Husband: That toy doesn't look very stable. I don't think you should be standing on it.
4 year-old daughter: No, no. It's fine. I'm going to stand on it all day!
Husband: Are you alright?
4 year-old: Yes. I guess that toy wasn't very stable.

Lynette said...

I teach in a Preschool and I hear all day long. Not safe, dangerous, that is danger, don't do that, that is not safe, sticks are not safe, this doesn't look safe and the list goes on. Drives me nuts.