Guest Post: Toothpicks Too Terrifying for Tots?

Hi Readers! Here’s a lovely little essay from Bree Ervin, author of the blog Think Banned Thoughts (which, apparently, she does).  — L.

Making a Point about Toothpicks by Bree Ervin

My husband and I are very picky about the preschools we chose for our children.

The preschool our daughter attends has a merry-go-round which they had to fight the state to keep, a ridiculously tall slide, and a science room with real animal skeletons, bird’s nests, owl pellets and some safe chemicals like baking soda and vinegar for the kids to do science “spearmints” with.

We knew when we enrolled her that she could come home with skinned knees, bruises and epic tales of adventure and learning!

But then, something happened. They got soft. They got scared. They stopped letting the kids go out in bad weather and made them have quiet time inside instead. They made them wash their hands so many times a day that my daughter’s hands started to crack. And I have yet to hear about them conducting a single experiment in the science room.

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. 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. At least they didn’t do away with the potentially teeth-rotting 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 and break the occasional bone.

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?

63 Responses

  1. well said!

  2. I’m not sure where our education system is headed, but I believe it may involve a hand basket. This sort of thing is just sad.

  3. Has she talked to the school yet? I’m a firm believer that you don’t get to complain about a problem until you’ve tried to fix it.

  4. When I taught pre-school, for that one wonderful year, the school policy was that every child went outside for an hour every day. It was the parents’ job to make sure they had good snow clothes. It was below zero for weeks on end. We smeared their cheeks with Vaseline and told the kids not to lick the metal bars. When Oopie (self chosen name) rebelled, we had to come out with warm water and unstick his tongue. This is science in action.

  5. Very well said. I have been complaining to friends and family about how the schools are getting so much softer and it actually works against the kids. I know my daughter is going to fall down, hurt herself, and make mistakes but thats what I WANT.

    By the time D is school aged I’m sure they will be sitting on pillows and using Styrofoam desk tops because heaven forbid they fall off a plastic chair!

  6. I actually had to tell my kids’ preschool that they were NOT to wash their hands except for before snack or unless they were truly dirty (like paint-covered, etc.) and that they were NOT to use Purel because their hands were cracking so badly.

  7. In German preschools the kids go outside every day, except when there’s pouring rain or hail. Parents need to make sure that their kids have appropriate clothing. The playground at my son’s kindergarten (preschool) would be a safety nightmare in the States. There were tall slides, lots of climbing structures, a small trampoline that kids could land on by jumping from a climbing structure, a wooden playhouse, and a large sandbox. Kids also jumped from the windowsills in class or from the top level of a bunk bed in the classroom onto a thick mattress. Sometimes the class went to a local playground with lots of wooden equipment, a merry-go-round, and “Tarzan swing.” If a child got a splinter, the teacher removed it and sent him back to play.

    When the kids ate lunch in kindergarten, the teachers lit candles at their tables. Many of the kids also brought their drinks in reusable glass bottles (disposable drink containers, like juice boxes, were not allowed). One of my son’s kindergarten art projects was a glass jar decorated for Easter with bunnies glued onto it. Every year for St. Martin’s Day (11 Nov) kids from the kindergarten marched in a parade carrying paper lanterns on a stick that they made. Inside the lantern was a tea light candle. The teachers showed the kids the correct technique for carrying the lanterns so that they wouldn’t catch on fire.

    By playing on wooden equipment, drinking from glass bottles, having candles at the lunch table, and making art projects with glass, kids learn to handle them properly. If they don’t learn how to handle those materials when they’re young, they will be afraid to work with them when they’re older.

  8. “One of my son’s kindergarten art projects was a glass jar decorated for Easter with bunnies glued onto it. ”

    Where they live bunnies? 🙂

  9. You know, every time I watch Wall-E, I become more convinced that it is not so much a cautionary tale about the environment, but rather a cautionary tale about what becomes of the human race when they are cushioned and prevented from truly experiencing the outside world.

  10. “They got soft. They got scared. They stopped letting the kids go out in bad weather and made them have quiet time inside instead. They made them wash their hands so many times a day that my daughter’s hands started to crack. And I have yet to hear about them conducting a single experiment in the science room.”
    My heart sank even before reaching the toothpick-part of this piece.
    And I think of all the temper tantrums; the crying fits; the panic attacks that must come from turning all loud, boisterous and outwardly directed activity into quiet, inward and safe ones.

    And I wonder what the school will do once one parent brings forward a complaint that Q-tips shouldn’t be used because if children handle them them the way they were used “in the olden days”, sticking them all the way into their ears that could cause permanent damage to the ear drum…

  11. Kudos for a wonderful essay! I too think Q-tips for marshmallow sculptures sounds ridiculously protective.

    Sue, it sounds like your son went to a Waldorf (Steiner) school, just as my son is doing. At our Waldorf school, the kindergarten kids climb up and down a steep cliff every day, rain or shine, while they go on their 1-2 hour walk. They cut vegetables for soup in the Winter, and fruit for fruit salad in the Spring – with real, honest to goodness knives.

    Now that my son is in third grade, he is sawing and hammering on woodworking projects, not to mention learning how to cook, again with knives and now an oven.

    Recently, he and a friend were spending too much time standing around and talking during their lunch break, so their teacher gave them the assignment of digging out a “river bed” in the garden area. Every day he comes home from school absolutely filthy. I couldn’t be happier, and neither could he.

  12. A merry-go-round!? I’m glad to know they have survived somewhere in captivity at least.

    Has any sighted a see-saw anywhere in last few years? My kids have only seen them in books, like dodos or tasmanian wolves…

  13. **** The teachers showed the kids the correct technique for carrying the lanterns so that they wouldn’t catch on fire.

    Oh, well, it’s no fun, if not at least one of the lanterns catches fire, 😉

    One time one of these lanterns actually caught on fire _in_ church — quite an event which is well remembered, but nobody ever had the idea of banning lanterns from St. Martin’s Day, ;-).

    So long,

  14. Time for a talk with the teachers at that preschool, find out what’s happening and maybe put your foot down about the hand washing. Seems to me that cracked hands are worse for kids than slightly dirty hands any time other than when they’re going to eat.

    I’m also trying to picture how “quiet time” benefits kids when they’re stuck inside all day due to bad weather. Take away their running around time and say be quiet? What?

  15. That stinks. I would also say — speak up. There are most likely other parents who are as disappointed as you are, and probably even a teacher or two.

    No worries, the fear mongers already have the marshmallows-are-potential-killers business covered: The package has one of those little pictorial warnings that states children 0-8 years should not attempt toasting a marshmallow over an open fire. It seems only the US produces marshmallows, so they’re sold here in Germany with their ghastly warnings. My 7 yr old daughter noticed the warning and said, Look Mommy, I’m not allowed to do that. I decided to keep my own council this time round, and uttered not a word. I figure I’d save my “that’s ridiculous”es for stuff that might actually come up — she as a potential underage marshmallow toaster, not being one of them.

    But low and behold: Her 2nd grade class is going on a 3 day class trip, meaning overnights. She came home the other day and excitedly informed me that they can bring whittling knives! to sharpen! sticks to use to toast marshmallows over the open campfire!!! Hee. Hee.

  16. My daughter’s preschool won’t allow the teachers to use staplers because of the risk to the students. So each week my daughter brings home homemade books for me to staple the bindings and send back into school. The teachers are also not allowed to use those metal pin clasps-the kind you would poke through the hands of a paper clock to show the time, due to the risk to our children. Sigh.

  17. @Kerry — WTH????

  18. @ rachaelh…My son didn’t go to a Waldorf kindergarten, but to a regular one that was run by the city. Like some of the previous posters, the kids there used knives to cut fruit for fruit salad and vegetables for soup. I’m sure that somewhere along the line, a child cut himself with a knife. But knives were never banned. I also laughed at the story of a St. Martin’s lantern catching fire in church. In Germany there’s a lot more common sense about working with “dangerous materials” than in the States.

    When my son was in 2nd grade, his class was learning about nutrition. When they learned about fruit, they went to the open market in groups to buy different fruits, accompanied only by their teacher. Then they walked back to school and made fruit salad, cutting the fruit with real knives. A few weeks later, when they learned about vegetables, they did the same thing. They cut up their veggies and made soup. Those kids used the deadly combination of knives and a stove. But they somehow survived the experience.

    When my son was in the Cub Scout troop on base, he got his Cub Scout knife. But instead of demonstrating proficiency with it by whittling on wood like I did as a Girl Scout, he had to whittle on a bar of soap! It was “too dangerous” to use wood. My husband showed my son how to whittle on wood. After his wood whittling lesson, he made me a wooden bow and arrow set.

  19. What’s wrong with merry go rounds? My kids are still babies so I haven’t paid much attention to play grounds in awhile. Have they really become rare? How sad!

  20. Kudos to Bree. I just wish that all these posts were mandatory reading for all the teachers across the country. It may not solve the paranoia issues overnight, but it certainly will make many of them feel pretty dumb. Next to love and fear. Pride is the next great motivator. Sometimes people need to see exactly where their mind frame is at for them to actually realize. Just like clothing, you can think of an outfit in your head that seems to look good. But when you try it on, it doesn’t look as good as you pictured it. Same thing with all these dumb rules, you can think up dozens and dozens of them. But when you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it all looks pretty stupid.

  21. @ Kerry: You should bill them for your time and supplies. Seriously. That’s not your responsibility. That’s what your tax dollars pay for. So that the school can afford school supplies.

    Please post your child’s dumb school’s name. And the principal and teacher’s name as well.

  22. There is a myth in the US that all kids need to go to preschool. In some states they run ads on TV saying that if your child does not go to preschool that they will end up in jail. (The ad has police officers saying this for added emphasis.) This is NOT true.

    Any decent parent with some common sense and the ability to stay home with their child can do better than the above school with the swabs. Without spending thousands of dollars a year, they can read to their own child, teach them to count, teach them the basics of the alphabet and how to tell what color things are. They can take them to climb on rocks in all weather, to play in puddles and mud and do lots of age appropriate activities.

    Of course, if both parents need to work (due to needing money or sanity of mom) the child should be in a loving and safe environment. This place sounds so safe that no learning can take place.

    Another thing – I find it really sad that the traffic sign for a playground is a see-saw, when I only know of two playgrounds in the US that currently have see-saws. (I am sure there are a few more – just not every one like it used to be.)

  23. Hey, staplers are dangerous. I once stapled my two index fingers together and I was in high school (don’t ask). Clearly not a toy for bratty, know-it-all teenagers, although my preschooler handles it just fine.

    We don’t routinely have toothpicks in our house but whenever I make skewers my daughter puts them together. Yes, she handles raw meat with her bare hands and puts it on sharp sticks. Call child services.

  24. Hey Lenore, I just started reading a couple weeks ago, and while I don’t have kids I agree 100%.
    Your statement that “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 and break the occasional bone” reminded me of a fantastic song by Kimya Dawson and some kids from France, calling themselves Antsy Pants. The song is called Henry Kelly, and it can be heard on youtube:

  25. Toothpicks reminds me of something my sister and her SIL had happen. They went out to eat with a 2 yo and a 5 yo. The first place was crowded and the wait was going to be to long so they left to go to another place.

    In the parking lot Sis’s 5 yo nephew started choking. Sis is a social worker and tried in first aid. When nephew stop coughing, she had SIL call 911 and started 1st aid. The rescue got there just as Sis was able to pop out the hard mint candy.

    The medics checked out the boy – then threatened to have Sis and her SIL arrested for child neglect. Sis pulled out her ID and informed them that a 5 yo sniching a mint as they left the restaurant was not neglect, but they were way over stepping their bounds.

    The incident did have a chilling effect. A couple years later my niece was burned when a waiter put the sizzling plate of fajitas in front of the 4 yo. (Note Oldest Niece had cleared a place in at the opposite end of the table.). BIL did first aid, but did not go to the ER. Instead they called a friend, who is a doctor and had him check out the burn. He confirmed that what they were doing was fine.

  26. My daughter had a Fancy Nancy birthday party when she turned 4.
    We made all the food bite size and served on frilly toothpicks. All the kids (some not even 2) loved it and ate things they never would have tried (cherry tomatoes with cheese chunks).

    Who knew they were in DANGER!

  27. well sometimes the child care workers need to protect themselves. My brother who is a group leader at a daycare was recently fired when a child in his care broke his arm. The boss said the mother wanted him gone, so they had no choice etc.

    Turns out mother is friends of my brothers friend, found his phone number and rang him to say that she DID NOT ask for him to be fired and has written a glowing reference for any future work and removed her children from the centre for other problems she had there not because of my brothers ‘failure to provide effective first aid’ (which he did and mother arrived within 7 mins etc)

    My brother knew the boss had it in for him, so has moved on, but accidents do happen and who takes the blame? The child care worker. Not every parent is happy to deal with ‘accidents’

    we must pass on the mantra that accidents happen and its ok and not necessarily someones ‘fault’

  28. @ TGLTT: IMO, that’s the main reason why all these institutions implement all these rules. To cover their asses. Even if it hasn’t happened to them. That sad thing is, there are too many opportunistic people, who will sue at the drop of a dime. It’s these very few people that ruin it for everyone else. Although I can understand where these institutions are coming from in regards to this, I still don’t they need to go to those measures of “no pens allowed”. If they actually sat down, and thought logically, along with their counsel. I’m sure they can come up with better solutions that will protect them, at the same time not take anything from the children. But some officials are lazy, and would rather take the “patch now” method, rather than the work a little harder and longer, so that it’s FIXED in the long run. Again, if everyone takes a step back at this whole thing. It really is all about the adults and little to do with the children.

  29. The part about kids not doing science experiments certainly struck a chord with me. As a school science technician I’ve noticed practical work being increasingly restricted because of safety concerns. In experiments with acids for example the concentrations they recommend now are so dilute they scarcely work. I wonder how long it will be before chemistry for younger kids at secondary school is banned outright.

    Another gripe i have is modern chemistry sets. As a kid I has a fantastic chemistry set that included some quite hazardous chemicals like potassium permanganate that you could do some really impressive experiments with. But nothing like that would ever be sold today. Chemistry sets today have been so watered down because of safety concerns they’ve become boring. No wonder it’s so hard to get kids interested in science.

  30. That last line was perfect. I just found this site and I felt like I was coming home:) Thanks Lenore.

  31. What’s this school’s name?

    “Coddle School Awards” could be a segment on your TV show, Lenore.

    You could highlight the silly rules from their own online-info. and handbook. And … you could have 5 second laughter and response segments from Kids and others when you tell them about the silliness.

  32. Oh, I forgot to add…

    Then you could showcase Gever Tulley’s Tinkering School and others doing Amazing things on their own.

  33. The school must have gotten bad news from their insurance company or a new director. I’m happy to report that at our preschool kids still can go outside in cold weather, though there are limits. Not sure about toothpicks, but I would think that’s okay. They do get to play with baking soda and vinegar. I’m so sorry that this is happening. Where is the joy in learning?

  34. It just makes me laugh out loud and shake my head. After reading your book I realized what a chicken shit i have become as an adult and as a parent. But Qtips and marshmallows are hilarious. My 11month old son was sitting beside me in a restaurant chewing on a plastic straw because he loves to chew and because he figured out how to blow through them. My mother in law said about 7- 10 times ” oh i hate kids with straws in their mouths, it scares me so much, i guess he is sitting down so its ok, oh someone take it away its scaring me so much, oh i just hate it” me and my husband patiently ignored her as we have learned to do. And my kid didn’t die. 🙂

  35. To anyone who asked about seesaws: I know for a fact that there was one in Aurora, MO, in 2004. Information from Google Earth and Street View was not enough to confirm or deny its current existence. I would think it’s in White Park or Baldwin Park, but Oak Park (which is VERY small) is not totally out of the question, though my very clear recollection of a baseball field seems to suggest that it’s one of the other two. The historical (pre-2010) images on Google Earth are too blurry to see much, but the current main playground in Oak Park wasn’t around in 2004 (I can’t tell whether a micro-small one off to the side was around due to its small size), and I can’t seem to see any playground in Baldwin Park in 2010 (which either means they had one but it was destroyed, there isn’t one, or the old equipment has too little contrast with the ground for me to see anything). White Park currently has two playgrounds: the one near the tennis court looks a bit suspicious, the other one doesn’t look like “the one” at all. Both existed in 2004.

  36. To answer a few of the comments –
    Yes, I’ve talked with the school. My daughter only has a couple of months left there – not enough to be worth moving her (again) before kindergarten.
    They know I am against purel and anti-bacterial handsoap, they know I think sticking q-tips through marshamallows is tantamount to child abuse, they know, they know, they know.
    BUT – this is the new America. The other preschools around don’t have science rooms any more. They don’t have merry go rounds, tall slides or monkey bars. They don’t allow kids to hug and kiss because it might be sexual assault (please remember we are talking about 3-5 year olds – what do they know about sex…)
    So, here we are. Fighting an uphill battle. It’s one that everyone needs to be joining – otherwise we are all going to lose out.
    So, as Christian Slater so aptly put it in Pump Up the Volume – let’s rise up in the cafeteria, and stab them with our plastic forks.
    Oh, wait… we can’t because they’ve taken away the plastic forks… no wonder my 5 year old daughter doesn’t know how to eat with silverware…

  37. Seriously, what kind of adults do they expect these kids to grow up to become? Marshmallows and Q-tips. This from the same humanity that had to contend with wild beats for food, to survive in frozen tundras and arid wastes. The same humanity that had to struggle to survive when the Earth upheaved. The same humanity that tamed great swaths of land and managed to turn rivers to irrigate farms. This is it. Evolution is over. Humanity will soon be brains in antiseptic boxes.

  38. I shaeyur sentiment.but schools are not entirely t blame, parents have to inculcate and pactice tough living. We shelter our tots and cannot expect the school to show the rod. Riding cicycle, going to school in a school bus, etc are habits we can star right away with

  39. This comment may not get noticed, but I’m going to try anyway. As much as the news reports on seemingly only the bad, this blog does the same. I love this blog and I love Lenore – don’t get me wrong. But what I’m saying is I would LOVE to hear more testimonies about schools or parents who are doing things RIGHT! It would give me some hope as a woman who is pregnant with my first child. I need hope!

  40. You know, talk about see-saws and merry-go-rounds is missing the point, I think.

    Playground equipment is going in wildly different directions nowadays. In some ways it’s getting safer, but in other ways it’s getting more interesting. I know of merry-go-rounds in NYC (and I never saw one in a playground I went to when I was a child) where you run on them (no sitting) or hang from them a few feet above the ground. (Well, you do if you’re a child, anyway.)

    As far as see-saws, I wonder if they’re not as common not because of safety reasons, but because of different design philosophies. It seems to me that the trend nowadays is to make equipment that’s more open-ended (as much as stationary equipment can be) and that allows for more freedom of movement and creative play, as well as allowing more children to play on it on a time. See-saws take up a lot of space and only a few kids can use them at a time. And to grown-ups they’re “boring” and “predictable” because we all grew up with them.

  41. I have confirmed sightings of both see saws and merry-go-rounds in Tulsa, OK. We have a few local parks where the old equipment was left in place when the new equipment went in.

  42. I can definitely remember being expected to go out and play at recess, as well as after school even though the temperature for most of the winter was well below zero. As kids we didn’t think anything of it; it was play time and nothing was going to get in the way of that. A lot has changed since then. But one thing that hasn’t changed is a parents innate and fierce drive to protect their childeren. A significant part of protecting them is teaching how to deal with dangerous things and situations.
    Of course, we don’t just hand our child a scalpel and say “go be a surgen”. They have to start with Q-tips and work their way up. I agree that we may be taking that dynamic a tad bit too far though.

  43. Toothpicks are DANGEROUS. Have you tried to go thru airport security with one clenched in your teeth? You’ll be flat on the floor spread eagled being patted down by TSA agents in no time flat!

  44. My mom worked in the public schools as a speech therapist, and in the 1980s she told me they got rid of the see-saws in her school district because a kid got banged on the asphalt and it injured her spleen.

    Then in 1995 in Chicago playgrounds, my three- and five-year-old were see-sawing but they’d added old tires under where the see-saw hits the ground to cushion the bump. Seemed like a great solution to me. So what’s the excuse nowadays?

  45. As a Montessori teacher, and now a Montessori mother, I am more and more convinced that these are the children who are going to be the survivors. Also, ending up a french man, and living abroad helps to keep perspective.

  46. I know of two parks in our area with merry go rounds. I once found an old-school park with see saws, a tire swing, and all metal equipment near an apartment complex somehwere -happen to be driving somewhere and pulled over and let the kids play awhile – but I have not found it since! I forget precisely where I saw it, and while I have driven in the general area where I htought I found it several times, it has not materialized for me. Maybe it was all a dream.

  47. The see-saws were phased out when I was a kid precisely because they didn’t have as much play value as their replacements. Instead of one see-saw, the playground now features three heavy-duty fiberglass animals mounted on gigantic steel springs that are anchored to cement blocks buried in the ground. Kids can get on and ride like mad without having to find a partner who weighs about the same and whose legs aren’t too short or too long. They also fall off all the time and yet the animals are still there.

  48. @Laura: Where? I happen to have lived in Tulsa my whole life (17 years) and have only seen either of those two items once… and that was in Aurora, MO, at the park I mentioned in my previous comment.

    Then again, I was not a member of the subculture (a culture within a culture, a group of tightly-knit regional communities whose paths often cross when members move; members typically join another community within the subculture) that was Children (all future references to Children with a capital C refer to the subculture). That subculture and most of its communities began to essentially disappear around 1984 (date chosen on purpose). Notice the definition that I use of subculture… it implies that information is passed from member to member, and it encompasses a very large area (the entire world… or at least much of North America, Europe, and Asia… in this case), with smaller (city-scale) regional communities within. Within those communities were individual subcommunities whose boundaries were blurred. These boundaries usually were roughly a 1-3 mile radius. Information typically spread throughout the community via groups within these subcommunities. The main reason this subculture disappeared is that the definition requires that members are frequently with each other without the influence of non-members. The boundary of this subculture was primarily age-based, but it was very blurry. The top age of Children (the subculture) is estimated to have been as low as 11 or as high as 19; the bottom was between 3 and 5. Any guess at a value in the middle is futile since members entered and left the subculture in their own timings. Ask a child today to play the games that you used to as a kid and he will likely look at you like “what’s that?” (unless he first runs away and says “THAT STRANGER JUST SAID SOMETHING TO ME!!! MOM!!! HELP!!!”). Obviously, much of the information has been lost (during the existence of Children, older members would pass down information to younger members, keeping it alive… for this reason I would have known about that park had the subculture existed). What is the most heinous is that the then-current members of the subculture never got a chance to vote on its demise, and most of the former members (another name for “adults”; most adults who grew up in countries that had regional communities were members of the subculture) didn’t know it was being destroyed until it was too late; the destruction was gradual, much like the spread of information was. In fact, one could say that a virus called Media initiated a Danger Of Strangers (DOS) prompt which caused a botnet of parents to perform a Distributed Denial of Sportiveness (DDoS) attack on the registration page of Children, causing potential new members to be redirected away from the group. Current members were mainly unaffected; the virus simply served to severely curtail the inflow of new members. Due to the rapidly changing nature of the subculture, it was effectively destroyed within a decade. Lenorton Skenazafee has a job cut out for her… and even when the virus has been disinfected, it will be a further ten years before full reestablishment occurs.

  49. i worked at a daycare that had swings and a pool when one of the preschool evaluators came out (they are the ones that count how many seconds the kids wash their hand… as long as it takes to sing abc’s… or if they wet their hands before they take the soap and they have to wash when they first get in the class and then before they eat, after they touch the sand or water basically after they touch anything they even measure the play ground equipment to make sure its not to high off the ground… but this lady said it had been a long time since she had seen a school with swings they’ve been taken out because safety…
    where i work now we aren’t allowed to do anything or have anything we aren’t even allowed to do art projects that go deeper than the kid slapping paint on a piece of paper (it might stunt their creativity if we gave them instructions.
    we are also not allowed to put a child in time out because this company puts it in the same category as tying a child up or locking them in a room they say a child’s movement should never be restricted…. also we are not allowed to tell the parent when there are behavior issues because they might get offended and pull their child out… i also spend all our outside time saying “don’t pick up sticks the ricks the acorn and don’t dig in the dirt” also because if they get dirty then the parent might be upset and pull the kid out… some kids put toys in the toilet and flushed backing the toilet up… the director said that that’s the teachers fault b/c the bathroom needs to be supervised … basically I’d have to leave the other 14 in the middle of whatever activity im doing to stand in the door way and watch one kid go potty because a an almost 4 year old doesn’t know he’s not supposed to flush toys and instead of disciplining the child they blame the teacher. Florida has outrageous ratios for child care… 15:1 for 3 yr olds 20:1 for 4s unless they r VPK then its 10:1… public school ratio kindergarten 10:1 or 18:2

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  51. I chose my son’s Montessori preschool, not because it was Montessori, but because they had their playground on a slope, with an awesome wooden cubby at the top that all the kids were jumping from, a rope swing, and …. DIRT!!!! I loved picking him up and he would be filthy filthy. Smeared dirt everywhere. It was beautiful! One month later they changed it so that friggen soft rubber stuff. Awful.

  52. @Jenny Islander
    Sounds to me that see-saw require children to cooperate and find a balance (pun intended) with each other, which I’d consider to be a good thing.

  53. Speaking of toothpicks, my just turned 2 year old saw my father with a toothpick and despretly wanted one. He told her no because she could poke herself with it. At what age can kids be taught to use a toothpick, not for arts and crafts but for picking teeth?

  54. Wow, this is so sad! My one year old independently (and safely!) uses a tooth pick to stab and eat her lunch meat and cheese at lunch. Sometimes, I even give her two, so she can trade off… she loves it, I get to eat lunch in peace because she’s busily feeding herself, and no one ever gets hurt.

  55. sallyjrw – I’m not saying every toddler is automatically ready to use toothpicks. I think temperment and dexterity have more to do with it than age. If you’re not sure, I would think about how she uses other tools for her mouth (i.e. fork, toothbrush) If she generally puts them only in her mouth and at least attempts to use them correctly, she’s probably ready. The worst that will happen is she’ll do it too hard and poke herself in the mouth. It might hurt, but it probably won’t even bleed, and it certainly won’t damage her. If, on the other hand, she likes to wave things around her eyes, or puts new things in her nose or ears (my little brother did this until he was WAY too old to have any excuse) she might not be ready… But you know her best, so just trust your judgement 🙂

  56. JLM, I worked at a day care about 20 years ago – a large one with about 60 kids. Those swings…I taught so many kids their ADCs and numbers by pushing them on the swings. Sad that places don’t have them now. Maybe all this stuff is why they ended up closing down a few years ago.

    The kids were expected to get dirty. The director told parents when they signed up not to wear their Sunday best because they would be painting, playing with clay and playing in the dirt. The kids needed to be dressed appropriately for the weather, because unless it was over 100 or below 20, they were going outside.

    I saw kids cutting their own hair with scissors (which of course we stopped.) I saw kids get cut and need stitches from thrown rocks. Kids fell off of bikes and scooters. But they all had fun. The only time that any parent complained was when an only child (girl) “adopted” a boy as her “brother.” The complaint? The mom of the white girl did not want her daughter playing with the black boy. The director told the mom that she should find another daycare then, because she was not going to tell the children who they could and could not play with, especially based on race. The girl ended up staying, and the mom moved on closer to the 21st century.

  57. @Peter B: Actually the see-saw was the preferred torture device of jerks who thought it was funny to slam a smaller child’s butt against a hard surface because (like Charlie Brown with Lucy) the kids thought the jerks were going to be nice this time. The ridey critters allowed for pretend races, reenactments of chase scenes from movies, and kids who liked to hang off the one shaped like a shark screaming for help. (The other two animals are Super Toucannn! and Wack-Wack the Duck.)

  58. I cant image mst kids being as slow learners as Charlie Brown. (A great strip by the way, but it would have profited immensely – not in monetary terms, of course – if it had stopped a few years earlier

  59. My partner is a 4th grade teacher, and when her class parents asked what supplies they could donate to help with class parties she suggested toothpicks (since her students have to bring “healthy treats” like cheese, crackers and fruit– not marshmallows!). The class mother was aghast.

    “Toothpicks? Isn’t that dangerous? I can’t imagine my son using toothpicks at school…”

    4th grade. They’re 10.

  60. We too our Girl Scout troop to this little town in our state for an overnight “camp out” (indoors). The building was in the back of a park. We went to the playground and found… dun, dun, dun… a real merry-go-round AND some teeter-totters! OMG, I was SO excited! There were one or two other old school playground toys plus a tall wavy metal slide. One toy was out of commission. The girls had never seen this stuff before! And yes, a couple of them got hurt. Life hurts sometimes. Even the grandmother with us got on those teeter-totters with me, though! It was SO much fun!

    I understand protecting, but… yeah, too much.

  61. @Cheryl: You taught the kids their ADC’s? You should have been fired from that day care center.

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  63. I am a preschool teacher, and this is exactly the problem I have!! Where I work we are required to put bike helmets on the children in the winter if they want to ride on a plastic sled. Now, not a single sled has a rope, so you can’t gather up any speed, and our playground is perfectly flat. So the most a child will go is about 5 feet, depending upon the strength of the pusher. I do not understand this rule, as the children are closer to the ground on a sled, and much slower moving, than when they are standing up running around…. We thankfully are still allowed to use toothpicks, but my boss did question it just this week… and suggest I reconsider, with concern for the “younger children”…. Our poor future….

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