When I was four years old and my sister was five, we intentionally did something that was Very Naughty. Our parents were having a party one evening. We had been put to bed and could not sleep for the excitement of hearing all the voices downstairs. We had been told not to disturb the party. So that’s what we did.
We stood at the top of the stairs and took turns to yell, “Nosey Parker” and, “Bossy Boots” down to the party. As we were ignored, we took more and more steps down the stairs (running quickly back up after each call). Eventually our mum came and spoke to us firmly and made sure we were back in bed once and for all.
We were blatantly out of order. We had decided to do the crime and accepted that we may have to do the time for it. And today I witnessed exactly the same cheeky glint in two children’s eyes as they decided it was worth being naughty.
It all began quite innocently. In the photo above, the child had been decorating the outside of the den with tarps and material. He moved onto designing the interior and was just getting comfy in his “bed.” Another child decided that it would be fun to try and push a tyre inside the house too. After several thwarted attempts, he chose to abandon this in favour of lifting the house up to get the tyre inside. And that’s when everything kicked off.
Within seconds, the house was on its side. Inspired by the excitement, the children had to fill it up with stuff – anything to hand and start rocking it.
Because they realised that they could move the house about, that quickly became part of the experiment. At which point I was in a dilemma. Do I step in and intervene, because it’s not good for the house to be used this way? After all, it’s designed to be upright. Also moving a big bit of kit around in a small place with other children liable to get in the way, does up the possibility of a child getting hurt.
Or do I step back and see what happens? After all, the children are well, engaged, experimenting, exploring, using their gross motor skills and developing spatial awareness. And – a big deal in an SEN class – the children are working together. A third child who generally prefers to be on his own, decides to join in the action. This is quite significant and unusual.
So, here was a good example of dynamic risk assessment which educators and childcare professionals have to deal with on a daily basis. In a split second we have to weigh up the situation, make a decision and follow through with the consequences of that instant decision-making.
There is never a policy that covers every situation. It’s impossible. Professional judgement is needed. Having worked on a weekly basis outdoors with these children for 18 months, I knew them pretty well in this particular setting. There was a very good ratio of adults to children, owing to the level of support the children require.
Also, as I was nearby, I could supervise and keep an eye out for other children too. By this time, the upside down house was getting pretty full of loose parts – so much so, that the children could no longer get inside and rock the house from within.
More moving around and rocking of the house continued. At which point bits started to fall off such as window frames and we heard a plastic cracking sound… oops! The children paused momentarily. At this point I decided that I better step in.
We all removed the stuff from the house and turned it the right way up. What interested me, was how readily the children were up for this. Had I intervened earlier I’m not so sure that I would have had such compliance.
By now the house was in the middle of the outdoor space. We put the frames back in the windows – mercifully the cracking sound was just one frame falling out.
Then one child looked around and realised that because the house can be moved, it didn’t have to go back to its original place. So through consensus the house ended up in a new corner of the playground beside the wooden stump sand pit. All ready for its next adventure.
No more naughtiness. For a moment…