Julia and I were talking today about the kind of culture that develops when children enter day care early. Specifically, we were talking about how kids are told constantly that they cannot do things (climb high, jump, etc.). This evolves originally for practical reasons - a DCP can't supervise each child well enough, and know each child deeply enough, to be able to coach and encourage them in an appropriate way in their physical coordination and spatial judgement. There's also the liability issue aside from that. But over time, when virtually all kids enter care at 1 year or less, and spend most of their time in these physically limiting environments, people - DCPs, parents, and the kids themselves - start believing it: "You can't do it. It's too dangerous." To me it's one of the most insidious aspects of early-childcare culture.
I know there is another way, I have lived it and am living it. Parents can be present with their kids, and pay attention to them, and decline the offers of styrofoam mats at birthdays. They can let kids fall and hit the hard floor and learn the lesson that floors are hard. They can let kids climb high at the park and recognize that their own feelings of anxiety don't mean the activity needs to be banned. We can just be honest with kids. (That should be a bumper sticker: WE CAN BE HONEST WITH KIDS!) We can say, "You are high." "Do you feel safe?" "That makes me nervous." "I am too tired/focused on my book/your sister to watch you as attentively as is necessary for your apprenticeship in this skill set right now. Can I ask you to wait?" And yes, occasionally, "I am going to make a judgement call, I am going to trust my instincts, that is too high, I am too scared. Please come down."
The only way to keep kids safe from play injury in the long run is to allow them to develop their own judgement. Repeat that till it sinks in. This means you have to let them fall, climb higher than you thought a two-year-old would want to, and do the same thing over and over even if YOU can't understand why they don't get bored. Let them get centered in their bodies now, let them learn to trust their instincts and listen to their bodies' voices NOW, while they are small, and their falls have only 35 lbs behind them. Children do not learn safety vs danger from being told things. Repeat that till it sinks in. They learn safety from being encouraged to pay attention to how they feel and being able to draw on memory banks of past falls, scrapes, and bruises.
I have a hunch that the early retardation in agility, coordination and spatial judgement this kind of over-regulation (and/or dishonest regulation; a DCP could validly say "no" without saying "it's dangerous", teaching kids they can't trust their own sense of an awesome fun exhilerating but safe play opportunity) brings about could totally be linked to the sedentary lifestyle that disconnects people from their own bodies and ruins our mental and physical health. It also feeds into so many creepy aspects of adult social problems - how adults having trouble listening to, trusting, embracing, and being able to communicate about loving their own bodies, their own instincts, and how this has negative ramifications on sex, eating, honest and charitable confrontation, etc.
Parents of two or more kids, and I want to hear from you who specifically do agree with what I'm saying in general, how have you handled putting this into practise as more were added to the mix?