Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Does Being Overprotective Hinder Development?

Yesterday the NY Times published an article entitled Can a Playground Be Too Safe? The article discusses that whether removing monkey bars and jungle gyms have actually reduced injuries over the years or not. In addition, it states the importance of children learning to take risks and overcoming their fears at a young age. With only "safe" playground equipment replacing older equipment how are we affecting children's development? Definitely worth the read.

Most children love to climb whether it be a tree or a jungle gym. If you are only climbing 4 feet off the ground into an enclosed area do you really feel like you accomplished the great climb? We wonder why children in the tween age group reduce their daily physical activity time. Perhaps it is because playgrounds are not so challenging anymore. Or maybe parents interfere when the play may become a bit risky ie Keep Away boys versus the girls. (read tomorrow post for more on this topic).

If you are lucky enough to find a playground with a nice jungle gym let your child climb it. See if they can make it all the way to the top. Instead of saying no for a fear of falling, observe your child on the lower bars. Does it appear that they are being safe? Let them go a little higher. Be close by but not too close by if possible. If you do need to provide assistance, start with a verbal prompt i.e. "try putting your hand on this bar". If a verbal prompt is not sufficient offer a physical prompt i.e. placing the child's foot on the right bar. Maybe your child needs a verbal and a physical prompt with close supervision. Whatever it may be let them try it.

These tips hold true for when a child is practicing and learning any new skill. Obviously, it is best for the child to complete the skill independently. An adult should provide the least amount of assistance possible. Therefore the goals to complete a skill are as follows:
  1. Independent with skill
  2. Verbal prompts necessary to complete the skill independently
  3. Physical prompts necessary to complete the skill independently
  4. Physical assistance necessary to complete skill independently

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