PlayCorps Climbs ...

Each PlayCorps team is trained to let kids assess their own risks. That essentially means that we let children do activities that might be deemed somewhat "unsafe" in a school environment because they're fun, and because children are often better at taking care of themselves than we give them credit for.

Because of this philosophy, the kids at our parks end up climbing ... on fences and trees as well as traditional play structures. Often as high as they can go. 

At HARRIET & SAYLES PARK, a boy we'll call "D" expressed interest in climbing a tree. The team was right there to support him. The adults around were very nervous and were questioning our boundaries, but the team reassured them that D could climb on his own and assess his own risks. When D needed it (not often), PlayCorps staff offered suggestions about where to put his foot or where to climb next. The parents stood aside and watched nervously as D climbed quite high in the tree. All the hard work paid off because D succeeded in helping to run some fabric around a high branch and secure a makeshift swing. Even the adults that had been most nervous were amazed and started to help the kids attach the a "seat" to the cloth to improve the swing. All of the Playcorps participants couldn't wait to take a turn!


At GENERAL ST PARK, kids found similar uses for the giant mulberry tree. The team there had been encouraging any interested kids to climb the lower, more horizontal branches. Some would only go up a few feet while others, as they felt confident, went all the way to the tip of the large branches. The kids squealed in delight when the staff stood below them and shook the branches or tried to grab their feet. The kids at General Street also made a swing that they hung from one of the branches with the help of a particularly nimble climber. Most kids requested that an adult push them as hard as they could on the swing. Even if they were scared, they, like all children, were adept at pushing themselves, assessing what is good play for them, and having fun – even in settings that might be deemed "unsafe" in a traditional school environment.

One sunny afternoon when the Playmobile was visiting BUCKLIN PARK, one of the children thought it would be fun to climb the tall fence behind home plate of the baseball field. Other kids saw how high he was climbing and decided to join in. The adults at the park became very nervous and started to yell at the kids to come down. Playmobile Play Leader Casey assured the adults that she was watching closely and that the kids were engaging in positive-risk taking. "It's sort of like rock-climbing," she said. "They are engaging their motor skills, motor planning, problem solving, and building muscles while maintaining balance." An adult replied, "it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt." Though it is true that when kids engage in risk-taking there is potential for injury, there was a great deal of adult supervision and arms extended to catch their fall. Casey and Bucklin's Play Leader Monique were not worried and they encouraged the children to continue climbing. They knew not to set limits about how high the kids could climb because the kids would know instinctively how high they were comfortable going. Although it was making the adults nervous, the kids were smart climbers, had smiles on their faces and felt a sense of accomplishment when they came down, knowing they had completed a challenging task.

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