Flashback to summer camp. I had just taken an amazing course on creating environments that truly grow a child's brain and confidence. It was said that they need to have access to moveable parts outside that they can use to create. They need large things that work their muscles and encourage critical thinking, things they can use for "risky play." I must admit that made me a little nervous. But I got online to every Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, and yard sale listing that was within 10 miles and I scored large wooden spools, wooden crates, small spools, stumps, and pallets. A week earlier a friend called to say she had 4 Ikea balance beams taking up space in her basement and she wanted them gone. Would I like them? YES! Thank you very much!
All I did was put the items in the yard.
In the picture these kids have created this masterpiece. There is another large spool inside the box so it is safer than it looks. They allowed me to test how stable it was and I was AMAZED at their ability to make such a solid structure! Granted most of these kids would be off to kindergarten in a few short weeks and some had been with me 3 years so their confidence and engineering skills were quite high. They proceeded to jump off and onto the grass below with grace and cheers of encouragement for each other. It was exhilarating and a little terrifying to watch. But the pride and excitement on their faces was excellent! As less confident kids attempted the climb the older kids would assist them. By the end of the day our youngest participant who had been too scared to go down the slide the day before was also jumping from the top. She conquered that and the slide was no big deal from that moment on.
As far as the new crop of preschoolers goes, nobody has thought to create this kind of structure yet . I am totally okay with that. If somebody does think of it I will be nearby checking safety and encouraging their creativity.