This week we had a visitor to pre-school (not a parent or future parent) the visitor made a comment that there is little opportunity to climb or balance. So having the pleasure of being in ratio for the whole day on Thursday I was able to observe just what the children do to let off steam and how we support physical challenges in the setting, in particular our outdoor area.
We do not have and will probably never have a climbing frame that takes up valuable space in our garden, instead we have logs, tyres, cones, planks of wood, steps, fencing, bricks, balance bricks and beanbags. What I observed today made me stand by my decision to not have a climbing frame. I saw a two year old negotiate a safe route from one end of the garden to the other end using her balancing skills and an assortment of logs. Some of these logs were very wobbly, some were a little spiky, some were high and some were very low, not one of them were as uniformed as the steps you might see on a climbing frame. This little two year old used her cognitive and physical skills to work out how she can get across without falling in to the river underneath her where the crocodiles and sharks were waiting to bite her toes (her words not mine)
I watched as she held tightly on to her doll with one hand and the fence panels with the other. She got to a tricky bit on her journey so decided to put her baby doll under her arm so she could hold on to the fence panel with both hands. When the dreaded 'wobbly' log was next on her path she did not give up, she tenderly stepped on to it with one foot, gave it a little wobble to see if it would fall, and once she was satisfied it was safe to step on to she successfully clambered on and forward. She demonstrated so many skills in this one short activity that I was felt impelled to write how a child will use her natural instincts to climb. When other children saw her they too joined in and each of them used varying degrees of skill to negotiate the log path. Later on I then observed two children climbing on to the tyres that were piled in two's, the strength in their little legs to haul themselves up was incredible to see, they did not have a nice handle bar or ladder to help them, they had to use strength and balance alone, yes they fell a couple of times and yes they fell in to the tyres but they persisted and persisted for over ten minutes until they achieved their goal. They shouted to me to see them standing high on the tyres and when asked if they found it hard to climb up they said yes it was but it was fun! One of these children asked me to watch her jump off the tyres and proceeded to jump up high with an impressive star jump. One of the children put each foot on both sides of a wobbly and spongy tyre tower and you could see her using her core strength to balance and steady herself until the moment she could jump off the tyres.
Then I observed another child who wanted to be the tallest in the land (her words) and stand on top of the large cone shapes. She, like the children on the tyres, tried and tried and tried again and again and again. This was more difficult because she only had a small space to stand on once she had found her balance. When she had finally (after many, many falls) mastered the art of standing on top of the cone she then taught herself to stand on one leg and balance. She was able to count up to 10 seconds which was her personal best for standing on one leg and told me she was a flamingo!
So even though in an ideal world and with a huge outdoor area yes a climbing frame might be quite nice to have, my children at pre-school will always find a way to climb, to balance and to have fun while they do this. I would challenge anyone that says otherwise. I have put some photographs of the children mentioned above, not in the moment as such as it was not staged but you will get the idea from the pictures and from when they repeated the fun of climbing and balancing the following day.
Thank you for reading, I hope it has inspired you. Feel free to make a comment below if you would like to.