One of the RIE basic principles is to create an environment for children that is safe, challenging, and nurturing. As the children of Cohort 7+9 continue to gain confidence and ability in their two-year-old toddler bodies, I have been thinking a lot about the physical challenges they seek out and create for themselves.
Recently, the rope swings that hang down from our giant tree in our yard have become a huge source of interest. For months, when we took the ropes down they were used for big, unpredictable games of pass. We watched older siblings come out into the yard and swing on them. We have been feeling the physical weight of the rope in our hands - coming to understand its character and what it can do.
Then, one day a few weeks ago, AJ approached the rope, grabbed it up high, and jumped, lifting her knees up high. She looked at Elizabeth and me with pride and joy and came running over to describe what had happened, "I hold on tight and pick my knees up and WHEE!" AJ ran back to the rope swing and swung, again and again, all the while smiling with pride and accomplishment. Soon, she was gathering her friends from around the yard, showing them what she could do and giving them tips on how they, too, could join in the magic.
A rope swing is a good example of the physical confidence and joy of movement that can come when we trust children to construct their own challenges in their own way. AJ was ready for that kind of challenge. She had researched by feeling the rope swing, by watching other children swing, and by feeling her own strength in other activities. She had a clear idea about what she wanted to try, and while lifting her legs up and swinging must have still taken a leap of faith, at that point she had had the time to assess the challenge and her own abilities, and she had an understanding of the risk she was taking.