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The program on play was terrific!! Even though the topic is being studied, too many children are not getting enough, if any, of the play they so badly need. Adults are not doing that well either.

My story comes from my role as a preschool teacher and director.

I found that, while, as a whole, the early childhood profession is committed to the importance of play in the lives of young children, the fact that it is largely a profession of women, and women tend to be uncomfortable with them, the subjects of risk taking and rough-and-tumble play are too little addressed.

As soon as I entered the profession, I began questioning some of the unwritten but regularly invoked rules of the playground and realized I needed to teach the children how to safely do the "dangerous" things they wanted to attempt (and show teachers how to safely premit more freedom in the play).

Until I intervened, children were not permitted to climb up the slides - they were required to go up the ladders/steps and slide down. I insisted that children could climb up slides safely - if they learned to check to be sure there was a clear path whichever way they wanted to go. And to negotiate with the other children using the slide. Beep, beep has moved many a dawdling child along to make room for an impatient classmate.

Pushing and shoving and "wrestling" were not permitted. Because I felt that those rules were suppressing rough-and-tumble play and that the children were failing to develop important skills as a result, I taught them how to recogize when play was becoming too rough for them and taught them the concept of time out the way it's used in sports - as a break for regrouping. They learned to give the handsignal and learned to honor it when a playmate invoked time out for regrouping.

This sort of approach was a great help to many children who had the drive to take risks and had been in noncompliance with the constraining rules. I noticed that the children who had complied began to become more adventurous. And there was no noticeable increase in accidents and injuries.

I should also note that before I became a preschool teacher, I was the mother of two young children. My husband, a HS teacher, quickly developed the routine of coming home and taking our child (and, later, children) to the playground for an hour or two in the late afternoon. When she about 15 month I was about to take our first child to the playground without him, but I was unable to leave until I had received a list of instructions about how to let her take risks, climb, etc. without sacrificing her safety. Evidently, he had seem too many mothers and nannies preventing the kind of toddler adventure he felt was important. That has stuck with me as an amusing and illustrative anecdote that I use when talking with teachers and parents. That and, at about the same time, a comment by a slightly more experienced parent than I: She informed me that if my child were to reach her first birthday without any scratch, bump, or bruise, then I should consider myself an overprotective parent.

My experiences with preschoolers and as a parent have made me a strong advocate for play in the lives of everyone, and have continually reminded me that the playful approach is often the best. I also find it helpful, as a naturally cautious person, to have this experience as a reminder that I, too, should not fear taking reasonable risk.

I wish I had a photo to share, but I do not.

Janet Sherman