Erin treeThey are all gathered around the tyre swing, a bunch of 6 and 7 year olds, baring their knees and tucking elbows under chins to find the scars. I feel sad for the ones that have no scars. They have no stories of heroism or stupidity, and ‘safe’ kids are not the popular ones in a playground.

As a society, we are surrounded by people intent on keeping our children intact. Schools, councils, nurseries and manufacturers all seem very keen to provide ‘safe play’ for our kids and it’s easy to get drawn into thinking that is the best way to be. Remind yourself that, no matter how they spin it to you, their intention is not to protect our children from harm, it’s only protect themselves from a law suit.

I’m thinking that we shouldn’t be bamboozled into believing that we are doing the best for our kids if we only ever let them play on the designated rubber mat, where nothing bounces or spins because any type of movement can cause injury. I’m thinking that alongside “Every child should be allowed to grow up free from abuse and molestation..” The Children’s Charter should read:
“Every child has the right to scrape a knee while climbing, to bump elbows falling in roller skates and to prick a finger playing Sleeping Beauty.”

Every child needs to know the fear of swinging themselves too high and be allowed to make their own decision about wanting to do it again, or not. They need to understand that they can be injured and get better again. They need to fall off the lower branches so that they are better climbers by the time they reach the high ones. As parents we need to let them. A guardian’s job is not to prevent every bump, scrape and cut. It is to be there to pick them up afterwards, to tell them they are brave as they as they suffer the dreaded… antiseptic! And to show them how to unwrap a sticking plaster. These are life-skills.

I’m wondering if we should abandon schools and council playgrounds in favour of a tyre tied to a tree. Here, at this party for 7/8 year olds, there is a marquee full of activities, a bouncy castle and a little log house with a tiny slide attached. Yet here they all are at the tyre swing, learning Newton’s third law of motion at the same time as how to share. They are Galileo Galilei experiencing the thrill of discovery… and how to fall off.