Play at heights outside of your centre
Allowing children to play at heights outside of your licensed centre, such as on structures at the playground or in trees at a park, can cause uncertainty among early years providers. Within your licensed space, certain standards of practice are in place to keep the children safe from any potential hazards. These can include the recommended heights that the children can climb to based on their age, or the surface below the climbing structure. This legislation is in place, both inside and outside the centre, in order to keep children safe from harm.
When travelling outside of the centre to a play location, there are a number of important steps to consider. The specific details of these protocols can be provided to you by your licencing officer. One of these components includes obtaining a signed letter from caregivers that has stated the location and intent of the field trip. In this letter, it is important to outline that if you are going to allow the children to play on the man-made structures or natural environments at the location and any other features present. This will allow you to be clear with caregivers before the planned trip about the benefits of playing on these structures, but also highlight the potential risks that the children will face in that environment. In order to be able to effectively write this letter, a site visit before the trip is essential. This will allow you to ascertain the areas of play that the children can use, the surfaces that are on the ground, the heights of any equipment or trees for climbing and any potential hazards that need to be mitigated by the adults.
It is important to also remember that a large component of safety is the ability of the child to manage and understand the risks in the environment, their confidence and their movement ability. If you believe the child is able to efficiently climb both up and down a physical feature in the environment, anticipate and judge the risks associated with the climb and is confident in their ability to adjust to any unexpected circumstances that may occur in that environment, you can allow that child to continue climbing. In addition to this, the rapport and knowledge you have as an early years provider to engage the children in conversations, supervise all children appropriately at the same time and understand your own comfort levels with letting the children climb are important elements to consider.
There is no definitive answer to the question ‘how high can children climb?’ as each child is unique, each environment contains a multitude of factors and each early years provider will have different comfort levels in this situation. But by understanding and following the guidelines set out by your Health Authority, informing parents of the benefits of the play and how you will engage the children in it and using your skills as an early years provider to understand the ability and confidence of the children in each situation, you can begin to let the children explore their boundaries by climbing to the heights that they feel comfortable to.
Source: Chris Wright