The amazing childcare centre that lets kids play with fire

Posted in Childcare.

A Melbourne childcare centre is providing a very adventurous curriculum for its curious little charges, and it’s started an interesting discussion about whether we’re wrapping kids in cotton wool.

Playing with fire

The Age reports that at Fitzroy’s East West Child Care Association children are not only allowed to light the fire in the centre’s outdoor fire pit but “toddlers cut fruit with knives, sew pieces of material together with needles and climb trees in the centre’s rambling yard.”

These activities are pretty unusual in early childhood education where removing potential risks – and opportunities for litigation – is often a priority.

One of the Fitzroy centre’s coordinators, Ruth Harper told The Age that their centre has a different approach.

“We have always allowed them to experience risk,” she said. “You have to respect and trust children.”

While the children are allowed to help start fires and cook jaffles on the open flames, they are also taught about fire safety, how to gauge the fire’s heat and carefully extinguish the flames.

The Age reports that a number of other Australian childcare centres and kindergartens are taking a similar approach, exposing children to activities and play that might seem risky.

While this might make some parents shudder, experts say this sort of play helps children learn, boosts self-esteem and encourages teamwork between littlies.

Learning vs litigation

Commenters on this story had divided views about this interesting approach.

“I agree kids need to learn to deal with all sorts of dangers – crossing roads, stranger danger, online bullies, etc but exposing them to wood smoke is not the answer” one person posted, citing spiralling asthma rates and the effect of smoke particles on little lungs.

Kids playing outside

“My child attends a childcare like this and it is wonderful,” an approving parent commented. “They encourage kids to be outside playing in nature and to teach them to have respect for their environment. There is nothing better than picking my child up with a bag of wet, muddy and sometimes smoky clothes with a happy tired face.”

“Eliminating all risk is about protecting the teachers and management from lawyers,” another person suggested. “The Government needs to step in a back this sort of thing up with legislation.”

Others noted that this was how they were raised and that modern parents were wrapping kids in cotton wool – to their own detriment.

You can access the full story – and find out what the research says about risky play – at The Age. It’s a must-read.


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