I taught for several years at a school that had many teachers with over thirty years teaching experience. I loved talking to a wonderful kindergarten teacher in the classroom next to me because she had taught long enough to see patterns and make observations that come with time. She and others were struck by the explosion of sensory issues they were witnessing. When this article came out all the older teachers were all nodding their heads in approval. Finally, someone had given voice to their observations. Earlier that same year I traveled to Denmark with my family. I had an experience in Denmark that completely echoed the sentiment of this article. I took my children to the National Museum in Copenhagen. After viewing the beautiful exhibits a kind docent asked if I had taken my children into the play area in the museum’s basement. I had not, my children were thrilled at the prospect of a play area.
I have taught long enough to keep composure in most child related crises. For the first time in my my life I literally threw myself against a wall for safety when entering the play area of this museum. There were children everywhere running around with wooden swords. For a brief moment I feared my children were about to be run through right there in the National Museum in Copenhagen. Once I had my wits again and looked around, guess what I saw? I saw no tears, no blood, no panicked parents or teachers, just kids, parents, and teachers having a fabulous day at the museum. Many of them having a fun medieval inspired romp using beautiful wood swords. Upon closer examination, I was struck how much more agile these kids were. They appeared to have better motor control. Their swords seemed to stop just short of the other child they were engaging. When someone did accidentally get jabbed there seemed to be way less of a fuss than I was used to.
I went and spoke to several Danish teachers who were supervising their classes in this play area. When I brought up liability, insurance problems, they needed me to clarify. I explained how schools have to be careful what play equipment they have because of law suits. I told them how many teacher education programs require its student to take a class on the legalities involved in teaching. They were genuinely surprised when I told them you could never have this play area in the US for fear of lawsuits if a child was hurt and that it was unlikely an insurance company would insure a museum with such a play area in this capacity .
I left the museum that day with a mix of emotion. I was so happy my children had this amazing experience which I knew they could never have in the states. Hence, why we travel all over with them! On the other hand I felt so sad that we as American society have created an atmosphere where we are so fear driven of harm and litigation that we have perhaps taken it to an extreme that is impairing our children’s development.