Destroy Something With Your Preschooler
November 16, 2011
by Shawn Bean
Gever Tulley’s mission to expose kids to danger began in his friend’s kitchen. After breakfast, Tulley’s friend called out to her young son in the yard, who was wielding a stick. “What’s our rule about sticks?” the mom said. The boy put the stick down. That was the seed for the Tinkering School, a camp in San Francisco that teaches kids to build, experiment, and take risks. (Projects range from dismantling a dishwasher to building a roller coaster.) “Those experiences allow kids to hit the reset the button on their own expectations and limitations,” says Tulley.
For those who can’t make it to California, or any of the other four outposts, the Tinkering School is now available in book form: 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). “These days, parents are under incredible social pressure to be safest parent around so no one can point a finger,” says Tulley, who doesn’t have children (“I borrow other people’s kids,” he says). “As a society, we’re looking for the bad parent to point at and differentiate ourselves from. This situation creates parents who suppress their kids’ natural instinct to treat the world as an experiment, a laboratory.”
Whether it’s flattening pennies on a railroad track (“I probably squashed $50 in coins growing up,” recalls Tulley) or putting strange things in the microwave (try three marshmallows at 30 seconds—you and your kids will be amazed), the book “invites parents to examine their own perceptions of risk, and consider what we lose when kids don’t engage with the real world.” In today’s overprotective parenting landscape, a world of hand sanitizer and soft plastic playgrounds, making a baking soda bomb might just do our children some good.