Thanks to a link from Lena, a fellow Montessorian, I was whisked back into the wonderful world of TED for some interesting talks on human creativity. This one by Gever Tulley, founder of the Tinkering School, is no exception.
I'm curious to hear your reactions to the video. In a world of sippy cups versus real glass, for example, we Montessorians come down firmly on the side of real glass. (For more information on this, you can read about the characteristics of practical life activities here). My students learned to make tortillas on a real stove, light a candle from a match, and prepared snacks using a real knives, among other "dangerous" activities.
Of course, there's a clear distinction between allowing the child to do whatever he or she wants and the Montessori model of "freedom within limits". In the classroom (and in the Montessori home) the limits are defined by the individual child's true needs as well as the needs of his/her community. Is the child developmentally ready to "x"? Is anyone else's freedom and right to safety taken away by the actions of one particular child? If so, that is not an appropriate activity. Of course, an important factor in introducing the child to any potentially dangerous activity is to do so with care, respect for the potential consequences, and loving supervision.
Me? I'd totally send my children to the Tinkering School once they are 7. Bring on the power tools!
So - in your opinion, is our society's obsession with child safety valid, detrimental, or a mix of both? (I'll just insert here that I find it ironic that, while super-concerned with physical saftey, mental safety isn't even considered! After all, if the safety of the whole child was important, wouldn't they be required to broadcast a warning message on television before any overt or hidden marketing to children? Just imagine: WARNING! The content of this advertisement is detrimental to and disrespectful of the developing mind of the child. Repeated exposure can cause brainwashing and lead the child to believe that happiness is owning this toy/looking this way/eating this carcinogenic junk food. Do not let your child watch this programming!)
I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this! Do you have experience with introducing your own children to "dangerous" activities? What activities do you feel are appropriate and/or inappropriate for children of a given age/maturity level?