“It is argued that taking risks can have positive implications in terms of children’s developmental, social and emotional needs, as well as their overall health. By providing the opportunities for children to manage their own risks in a controlled environment, they will learn vital life skills needed for adulthood, and gain the experience needed to face the unpredictable nature of the world.” (Gill, 2007)
We have always advocated that, where possible, our children will always use real tools and equipment. Why have a plastic screw driver when you can use the real one? It seems many parents I have met are astonished, some horrified, that we let our children work with real tools to create with or just to explore. There is the safety aspect but this is addressed through modelling and explaining to the children how it is expected to be used and the consequences of not using it safely.
When Joseph was nearly two we asked my Grandad to make him a tool box that contained real tools for his little hands. It was the best Christmas present and two years on is still being used in earnest. I set the toolbox out with some wood off cuts, some with screws partly screwed in for him to take out with the screwdriver. He would sit for long periods marking the wood, screwing the screws and building all sorts. His imagination went wild but it was all based on real life experiences.
Last year a rather large box of rusty tools was purchased from a car boot sale and slowly Joseph and his Dad have been renovating them. Joseph really wanted a saw “like daddy’s” and in the set of rusty tools was a little saw, perfect for little hands. A couple of days of soaking and filing, sanding and sharpening, his little saw was ready and the joy that bought him was beautiful.
I watched as he carefully sawed from an old bit of wood to “make Daddy his s-prise” (surprise) and asked me how long it was till Daddy’s birthday. None of that could have happened with a plastic saw and a plastic log.
I believe that children need to be given these real experiences, to be trusted. Maria Montessori states, “Only through freedom and environmental experiences is it possible for human development to occur”.
I love watching our children learn through real experiences, developing their sense of self and their language and vocabulary. The joy of listening to your child discuss the merits of Allen keys is priceless and could only have happened if he’d been given that freedom and opportunity.