Parents are great at worrying, especially when their kids are at preschool or day care all day. We wonder if our kids are somewhere crying for us over a skinned knee or a bruised chin. Every once in awhile when parents get a call from the school in the middle of the day our hearts jump right into our throats hoping we are not about to hear about a broken bone or concussion, or some other ambulance situation. Usually emergencies like that are not the reason for those midday calls, it’s usually a forgotten lunch box or a tummy ache. Occasionally, kids do get hurt at school, despite every precaution in place and the vigilance of teachers and caregivers, kids can injured and require medical care.
How can this happen? The simple answer is; they’re kids. Kids fall down about an average of five hundred times before their fifth birthdays. They grow rapidly, have not fine tuned their eye, hand and foot coordination and don’t know their own fragility, despite getting many “boo-boos” a day. Teachers know this, that’s why each preschool, nursery school, or daycare staff must take and pass infant and child CPR/AED and First Aid courses in order to work in a licensed care center. What’s more, nursery schools, preschools and daycares must also pass regulatory muster when it comes to the environment. Special oversight is in place to ensure that child care centers are safer than most homes. There must be fire extinguishers, furniture bolted to walls so it cannot fall on children, the taps turned to 120 degrees or below in the sinks, and all the dangerous stuff under lock and key. Yet still kids will get hurt.
Most injuries in a care center will not require an ambulance ride. Usually it’s bumps and scrapes; occasionally a kid gets the wind knocked out of them. Rarely there are broken bones or head injuries, or injuries that require stitches, and seasoned teachers have seen all of the above in their years of work. Often teachers will learn when kids repeatedly hurt themselves in the same places or doing the same things that some changes need to be made to the school environment. More often though, child care professionals know that kids need to get hurt.
Kids need to get hurt? Absolutely. They need to learn from their mistakes. They need to test their personal invincibility theory. They need to see how strong their hands are to hold them up on the play structure before their body weight pulls them down. They need to know that falling on asphalt is not the same as falling on bark mulch. Kids need to learn how to fall correctly, and they need to test themselves. It’s what kids do, and have always done. Hopefully, children learn the lessons before they get a painful abrasion or a bone is broken, but sometimes they do not, and that’s unfortunate.
It is important that parents and caregivers do not overreact to these injury events, automatically blame the child care provider for their child’s injury, or try to prevent any other children from playing so that no one has another accident. It is just as important to speak to the other students in the center to discuss what happened, how it can be prevented from happening to them, and to tell them their peer will be OK. If changes do need to be made, whether it’s to disallow certain behaviors like going up slides or jumping off swings before they stop, the kids can be part of making those new rules and will understand them better when they are involved. Kids are not invincible, but they are capable!
The management teams at Prime Time Early Learning Centers in Paramus, Edgewater, Hoboken and East Rutherford NJ constantly wrestles with the issue of when to allow (or encourage) children in their regular child care, drop in child care or after school programs to explore their physical capabilities and to test their limits. It’s hard to do; and potentially fraught with allegations of negligence, or perhaps even a lawyer’s letter from an angry parent if a child injures themselves, or they mistakenly injure another child. But most parents understand. It’s not fair or helpful to children to wrap them in swaddling all day, force them to stay seated on the floor, restrict any running or climbing and to pad their entire world at school to eliminate any change of injury. An “Early Learning Center” has to teach children to develop their gross motor skills. To learn personal boundaries by letting them explore their world with proper supervision. And to develop the skills to succeed in the real world, the one with hard surfaces, corners, hazards and risks, and where the concrete, asphalt and steel surfaces that exist outside the child care center won’t typically be padded.
Prime Time’s staff works hard to supervise children so they are safe in preschool and during camp, while also allowing them to take some of the normal developmental risks of childhood and personal development. Teachers are trained in first aid, and on the rare opportunity when ice and a kiss on a boo-boo isn’t enough, an ambulance can be called if more significant medical care is needed. Kids get hurt. Kids will heal. Its why you, and we have medical insurance for them. So parents, please try be understanding if an injury occurs, because its only by allowing children to run and jump and leap and play with others in a joyful, interactive and educational manner that your child will learn how to do so safely and responsibly; even if It means he or she may sustain a bump or bruise (or rarely, a sprain or even a break) in the learning process.