Mary Sue Reese, Early Learning Program Manager at Chicago Children’s Museum, shares her experiences of watching our youngest visitors taking “safe risks”.
I’m sitting on the floor as I watch a toddler climb onto a tall stool and slowly stand up. She looks like a strong and stable warrior as she makes her ascent to vertical. Her mother, along with every caregiver in the Playspace, watches her perform this feat. As soon as she makes it to standing, she squats down confidently, climbs off the stool and continues to play.
There wasn’t a single cry out to “Be careful!” or an outburst of praise after she successfully descended; instead, her mother described why she had chosen only to observe. She explained that it was safer for her child to have the opportunity to challenge her body and master skills. She had observed her daughter practice this skill before and sometimes felt judged when she allowed her child to take similar risks on the playground.
On another occasion I observed a young child attempt to sit in a child-size rocking chair. Her limbs became tangled as she climbed forward on the chair and attempted to maneuver herself around.
Her mother looked at me and said, “I’m trying really hard not to rescue her. She needs to learn to figure these things out, but it’s so hard to sit and watch!”
Eventually, the child untangled herself independently and crawled out of the chair.
I asked, ‘Does she sometimes surprise you with what she is capable of?’
The mother responded, “YES! She really does!”
At Chicago Children’s Museum, even the youngest visitors have opportunities to take safe risks and challenge their growing bodies with the support of confident caregivers and CCM staff. When infants are allowed to move in their own time and in their own way, they explore the many ways their bodies can move without restriction, and toddlers who seek out challenging opportunities are empowered to advance their abilities and gain confidence as independent movers and thinkers.