There were two four year old boys and just one balance bike to share between them.
The first boy had a turn, riding confidently along the circular hill track. He went around the climbing equipment, gradually moving his way up the slope. He then lifted his feet off the ground to zoom down the curved path. Even with high speed, he maintained his balance. Upon reaching the bottom, he triumphed at the fun and success he had just experienced.
Then it was the second boy’s turn. He worked hard to move around the equipment until he found himself at the top of the slope, just as the child before him had done. But he was noticeably less balanced and confident than his peer. It was at this moment that concern started to bubble up inside me. What if he tries to zoom down the hill too? Will he bounce? Will he graze? Will his bones break in two?
As trusting educators do, I stayed silent and simply watched what happened next. I wasn’t disappointed.
At the top of the hill, boy number two climbed off the bike and ran down the hill alongside it. His glee when he reached the bottom was almost as contagious as that of the child before him.
The turn taking lasted a few more turns. Boy number one continued to zoom down the hill while seated on the bike. Boy number two ran down on foot, rolling it next to him.
Both experienced joy. Both worked within the limits of their development.
Children are capable. And they’re best placed to assess their own safety. What was just a little bit risky for the first child was way too risky for the second. But he didn’t need me beside him telling him so, or uttering the mantra “be careful”. He needed time. Time to watch his friend, time to try it out for himself in his own way.