The great slide debate

The question, “should I let my child climb up a slide?” rages on, debated by Facebook focus groups, parenting blogs and Mumsnet forums. If you have missed, or not been party, to these discussions, I have outlined below certain of the key messages and concerns being conveyed by parents and professionals alike.

FOR allowing a child to climb up a slide

Going up the slide teaches basic bodily awareness. Most children don’t get enough movement in their lives.

Slide climbing helps children test their limits, building confidence.

Children need to learn to play independently and take risks.

We need to teach our children about self preservation and freedom.

I don’t want my children to have a sanitised childhood.

As adults we should not decide what is the correct way to use something designed to fire a child’s imagination.

We can still teach our children to respect others by using the play equipment creatively.

AGAINST allowing a child to climb up a slide

Ladders are for climbing. You’re teaching them how to interact with and in society … that is basic fundamental parenting.

As adults, we need to enforce playground rules.

Climbing up can be dangerous and makes the slide filthy.

It doesn’t teach children how to take turns.

There is only one way to use a slide. To go down. It is not a climbing frame.

Children need to learn they cannot please themselves at the expense of others.

It is common decency to use something in the right way.

So…to climb up or to slide down?

Notwithstanding the arguments set out above, as portrayed by the image of my son featured in this article, are we not missing the fundamental purpose of slides; to provide a child with the opportunity to HAVE FUN? As the photograph illustrates, my son neither slides down, nor climbs up, the slide. Instead, he finds his own route, as children often do, navigating his way, overcoming obstacles and challenging himself in the process. These challenges, at times, necessarily entail assessing risk, be it in a physical sense or negotiating social encounters, just as two children would who approach a slide at the same time from different angles.

Through our own adult playground debate, we risk taking the joy out of play in a space designed for just that. There are of course ways in which confrontation in this space might be tamed, but these social graces apply to the observing, and questionably interfering adults. If we were to stand back and observe our children’s encounters, we might be surprised by the free thinking approach used by our children to navigate life’s hurdles. To do so, however, we need to take a risk of our own; to choose not to worry about what another parent will think of us as we stand back. In my view, giving freedom to our children to explore and to make choices, gives back their right to play.

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