If you could go back 50 years, you’d see almost no kids wearing helmets as they zoomed around on bikes. So who knows if, 50 years from now, bareheaded kids on the playground circa 2018 might look crazily unprotected. If so, we may have one particular daycare in Canada to thank for igniting this playground safety trend. Global News reports: “An Edmonton daycare is defending a policy that may raise a few eyebrows. It has asked parents to bring a helmet to protect children in its playground.”
The center’s helmet policy states, “It is also advisable for young toddlers to wear a helmet while in the playground because they can easily trip and fall. It is the parents’ responsibility to provide a helmet and to upgrade it in order to fit their children’s growing needs.” Daycare owner Mircea Bailesteanu explains the reasoning: “You feel like you protect the child.”
Kids are hardier than we think.
Toddlers are BUILT to trip and fall. This is a feature (not a bug) of learning to get around. Kids get to know their body and test their limits so they can walk, run, and jump better, and trip and fall less. This doesn’t occur to anyone looking at the process only through the lens of playground safety risk. That lens magnifies the downside of normal childhood activities, and blocks out any upside, including the fact that falling down is the corollary to getting back up— a nifty and optimism-building process.
We are getting to the point in our culture where we define almost any negative activity— splat, a spat, a boo-boo, a B+, a moment of sadness, fear or regret—as something no child should be forced to endure. As if they are fragile as glass animals. As if you can build any kind of resilience if there’s never anything to, er, resil against.
“You feel like you protect the child,” is what the daycare owner said. But protecting a child from being a child is not protecting them as they grow. It’s protecting them from growing.
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