I read through a few policies for my research (more than three hundred in fact). The ones that really irked me were those that focused on children’s limitations and the potential consequences if children tried to do something that they could not already do. Now by all means, I don’t think letting two year olds sit on window sills, allowing kids play footy on a freeway, or encouraging teenagers to surf trains are wise decisions.
However, many of the warnings about kid’s potential injuries can be outrageous! They assume children are incompetent and all injuries are bad. Age rather than experience and skill is promoted as the major factor defining injury. Most irritatingly, qualified trainers rather than trial and error are seen as essential for children to learn how to do things. Take the following quotations for example:
“Climbing and falling in a range of settings are a constant part of the lives of young children. A better understanding of how they fall and what causes the injuries is needed to target interventions effectively” (Waters et al., 2001: vii).
The Outside School Hours Care Injury Prevention: Training Manual (2006) emphasises the importance of “[m]aking sure children are using age appropriate equipment and undertaking age appropriate activities” (Centre for Community Child and Safety Centre and The Royal Children’s Hospital, 2006: 11).
An information pamphlet on skateboarding: “Beginners should take lessons from a qualified coach/instructor to develop balance, good technique and bailing skills”.
I wonder, how children are suppose to learn their own limits and extend their boundaries. Are the number of broken arms or sprained wrists a useful measure when children, through determination and perseverance, overcome their pains, fears and bruised egos to gain mastery over an activity they want to do? I dread to think about the personal and social consequences If we only try to do things we know we will succeed at.