We’re never too old to Love Outdoor Play!
I was having a conversation with a colleague who works in the outdoors sector recently – you know, those tough, hardy bods who go climbing and trekking up mountains – about our approaches to work with children, and found that we have a very similar approach to risk in lots of respects. While obviously neither of us want children to injure themselves and nor do we want to force a child into doing something they really don’t want to do, we’ll both encourage children to stretch themselves and try a challenge they may never have encountered before. We recognise the benefits that achieving a challenge such as abseiling down a cliff can bring to a child’s confidence and self-esteem, and we read the signals from each individual child carefully, to ensure that we don’t push them so hard into tackling a challenge that they feel cornered. We also ensure that any child who decides not to undertake a risky or challenging activity still gets some positive attention in some way – even if it’s only to let them know that their decision was the right one for them at that time.
Our conversation reminded me of the time that a few of us took a group of children to the Lake District with the intention of canoeing from one end of Ullswater to the other (approximately seven miles) over a weekend, carrying our tents, food, sleeping bags and dry clothes in our boats, and camping overnight half way – a really adventurous expedition for nine and ten year olds from the city. The weather was great, although a moderate wind which whipped up quite quickly on the second day made paddling quite a challenge for some of the adults, let alone the children. But it wasn’t the children who needed encouragement to keep going – they were loving it all, splashing each other, engineering ‘surprise’ capsizes and imagining themselves explorers or pirates – but the adults who had come along to help who were fast running out of energy as they discovered muscles in their arms and legs that they had not used for years. I’m sure all of the children who took part will remember that weekend for a long time, for the fun they had and the sense of achievement they gained, and thinking back, that might well be the case for some of the adults too! We’re never too old to Love Outdoor Play!
Written by Lesli Godfrey, a long-time Woodcraft Folk volunteer and avid camper who works for SkillsActive, the sector skills council representing playwork. For more information on the Woodcraft Folk, visit www.woodcraft.org.uk and for information on SkillsActive, visit www.skillsactive.com