When we enrolled our youngest (now 5) at her current preschool the things that really sold us on it were the merry-go-round out front and the wicked tall slide at the top of a tall tower. All the climbing bars helped too. The yard was huge and filled with all sorts of things that she could get into (healthy) trouble with.
Inside the building they had a science room with birds nests, animal skeletons, owl pellets and some kid-safe, non-toxic chemistry stuff.
They had all the usual pre-school amenities as well; teachers, food, books, musical instruments. But it was these little extras that hinted at a school that allowed and encouraged exploration, growth, and the occasional injury or sickness that really appealed to us.
Since that time a few months back I have realized, once again, that appearances are deceiving.
Yes, my daughter loves the merry-go-round, but she hasn’t been allowed to use it in months because it’s winter and they’re not going outside. (Despite snow pants, boots, gloves, hats, scarves, jackets…) Ditto the tall slide and monkey bars.
I haven’t heard much about the science room or any “spearmints” going on in there. (We do regular “spearmints” at our house, so I know I’d hear if she’d tried a new one.)
Now that winter aka “germ season” is here there are tubs of hand sanitizer littered throughout the school so that no child is ever further than arms reach from the goop. My daughter has to wash her hands so many times every day that they have begun to crack and bleed. Yet, when we sent her with a bottle of lotion to use after each washing we were told we would have to sign a waiver to allow her to use it at the school. (But anti-bacterial hand soap and hand sanitizer are perfectly OK for them to use without parental knowledge or consent. I can’t even begin to say how totally F’ed that is.)
I was coping with all of this and writing it off as “the sad new child-proofed America” when the latest assault on my child’s development came home with her.
They made sculptures at school yesterday. The materials they were given were marshmallows and… Q-tips.
Not toothpicks, like back in the day. Nope, Q-tips. Because we wouldn’t want anyone to poke their finger or get a splinter, right!?!
I can only imagine the frustration of trying to stab a marshmallow with a Q-tip and run it through. And don’t even get me started on the message there, that somehow toothpicks are more dangerous than marshmallows. Last time I checked toothpicks (properly used) actually helped prevent cavities and gum disease. No one I know ever died from a toothpick injury, however overdosing on marshmallows has been shown to lead to diabetes, heart disease, and of course, rotten teeth.
Think about it, when the Ghostbusters had to choose their own demise, it was the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man they chose, because he seemed so innocuous. How could a marshmallow man hurt anyone…
I don’t want them to do away with marshmallows as building materials. I’m glad there is at least one truly dangerous item left in the school. But ridding the school of toothpicks is ridiculous, our kids need to be learning how to navigate a world that is filled with sharp edges, pokey things, splinters, objects that will trip them up, make them fall, skin their knees, knock out teeth, break the occasional bone or worse.
Life is not all padded edges and air-bags. Life is tough, and if we keep taking away things like toothpicks our kids are going to become soft mushy little teens who become soft mushy little adults who wither at the slightest hint of danger or discomfort.
If toothpicks are so dangerous, how are we ever going to convince my daughter to pick up a scalpel and become a surgeon?