Far from wrapping children in cotton wool, a growing number of WA public schools are doing the opposite, giving their students the opportunity to race around on rollerblades, fly off ramps in crates and slide down trees.
They are setting aside injury concerns to help children build resilience and squeeze in much-needed physical activity, in an age where screen time dominates and where one in four children is either overweight or obese.
Schools that have adopted the so-called “anti-cotton wool” approach cite a long list of benefits to the approach, which result in happier and healthier students able to play more creatively and cooperatively.
They say the children are more switched on in class after exhausting all of their energy in the playground.
Newly-opened Honeywood Primary School, in Perth’s southern suburbs, has “Wheels on Wednesday” every week, where students are encouraged to bring their bikes, scooters and inline skates to school.
So long as they are wearing a helmet and have signed permission, they can zip around the school grounds during recess and lunch to their heart’s delight.
From training wheels to classroom feels
Principal Maria Cook said the program was a huge hit with students and parents alike.
Despite a few falls and collisions early on, the children were quick to get the hang of it.
“[They are] super excited. They just love Wednesdays,” she said.
“We’ve had kids who hadn’t been able to progress past their trainer wheels suddenly being able to go without training wheels, because they get lots of practise just riding around this one-way track.
“I think kids need to learn how to manage a little bit of risk.
“If we cocoon them too much then they never know what’s a safe risk and what’s an unsafe risk. It’s been really positive.”
Students are also encouraged to use trampolines at the school.
– Rebecca Carmody
Image source – Flickr.com