Wisdom on a tire swing

In his post A ‘Dangerous’ Tire Swing, Teacher Tom shares some of the wisdom he and the children he plays with discovered on their way to build a tire swing.

The bulk of the article is devoted to describing the process of building the tire swing, and the attendant multitude of “teachable moments” that he shared with the children.

I was especially impressed by the observations he made at the end of the article. They seemed to resonate, to be teaching us something even more important than what we might learn from making a tire swing:

There is no proper way to swing on a tire swing, although none of them chose to sit inside the circle, probably because the whole thing wound up being only a few inches off the ground. Some of them didn’t want a push, others did. Since we’d moved the other swings out of the way, I gave them an option of swinging “straight” or “in a circle.” Some figured out how to use their bodies to keep the momentum going. Other just hung on for dear life, then ran back to the plank for another turn.

It’s impossible to come up with a definition for play that does not include risk. Preventing risk is not the job of adults; it is rather to help children learn to take their risks with eyes wide open. The only thing truly dangerous is not allowing them learn to make these judgments for themselves.


  1. Natalie Kinsey on August 9, 2012 at 4:12 pm

    “It’s impossible to come up with a definition for play that does not include risk.”

    Umm, I just want to say a hugest amen ever to this. Which I just did. So, I’ll stop typing. But I also want to say that I love Teacher Tom’s in the mud learning/living of play as much as I love amens.

  2. Lily on August 10, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Agreed. Just read an article about “over-parenting” the other day. http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/crop+experts+best+underparent/7053433/story.html She talks about risk assessment and how it’s a life skill that must be learned, and how, if kids don’t learn it when they are young, there are repercussions when they get older. Games fit that bill nicely, since there typically isn’t any real threat (I suppose playing Red Rover might result in a few minor injuries), but kids feel the consequences of their decisions.

    “If your child has never had to take a decision about how to spend an afternoon or been left to figure out the best way to climb a tree, he or she will fail to develop cognitive ability.” -Dr. Amanda Gummer in the Calgary Herald.

    Love and laughter,

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