Updated: Dec 26, 2020
Written by Kelly Humphrey, Founder of The Willows Child Development
Have you ever told your child not to run up the slide at the playground, maybe through fear of them falling or maybe even at the thought of being judged by other parents? I certainly have in the past.
When I take my children to the park, I hear people telling their own little ones not to go up the slide because it's 'the wrong way' or they say 'we go down the slide, not up it!'
I am normally the only parent allowing their child to climb up the slide, I have even been met with glares from other parents and comments such as 'she'll fall and hurt herself' or 'aren't you going to tell your child not to climb up the slide?' I'm not going to tell my child to stop climbing up the slide, because this playful act of rebellion is actually greatly beneficial for a child's development, here's why....
Climbing up a slide builds perseverance and motivation
The sheer joy a child feels when they finally make it to the top of the slide - after numerous attempts, then shuffle their body into the right position and zoom down the slide is a fantastic reward for not giving up. It's self directed and not done for any extrinsic motivations.
Climbing up a slide helps build gross motor skills, strength, balance, concentration, spacial awareness and imagination.
Pulling yourself up a slide is a hard task. Feeling your body weight as you pull yourself up, keeping your balance and being aware of how much room you have before you fall into the lava or the swamp full of crocodiles that are awaiting beneath you. A child is testing their own limits and boundaries, as soon as they find their limit, they stay within it. Children are natural scientists and will experiment at any given opportunity.
Climbing up a slide teaches consideration for others and problem solving
I have been trying hard to take a step back and not jump in to help my children with their problems straight away. I mean, not full on neglect. Just borderline. It's hard, but when I do manage to keep myself distanced, I have been amazed at how my kids are able to problem solve all on their own.
One day we were at the park when a little boy wanted to come down the slide when my son was happily climbing up the slide over and over again. I stood back for a moment to see what would happen. This was the perfect opportunity for my son to problem solve and to consider the needs and emotions of others. My son decided to simply stand back and allow the other child to come down the slide. No words were spoken, not even a glance in my direction, he simply let the little boy slide on past and then carried on climbing up the slide.
I was at a playground last week when a grandmother told her grandson not to run through the swings while his friends where swinging on them. She turned to me and said 'I was knocked over by a swing when I was a kid, it scares the life out of me when he runs through the swings like that'. I said 'did you ever run through the swings again?' 'Of course not' was her answer. Kids love danger. The boy didn't listen to his grandmother and continued to run through the swings. It felt exhilarating for him. He didn't get knocked over and I'm sure he was learning more and more about the capabilities of his body every time he ran through. It can be scary to let your child live a little dangerously but it is fundamental that we allow them this freedom so they learn their own limits as they grow into adulthood.